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Strategy, skill and patience

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PUYALLUP, Wash. - Tiffany Yazzie enjoys chess because it's fun and
challenging but also because it helps her basketball game. "You set up the
people where they should move ... especially the guard and defense," said
the 11-year-old who's been playing chess for two years now. Yazzie is one
of more than 30 students at Chief Leschi School who takes part in
after-school chess. "I like to play with people who are more advanced so I
can learn from them. I watch their moves."

Instructor Will McDaniels, or Mr. McD. as his students and staff know him,
has been offering the class through the Century 21 program for three years.
He's taught his six children how to play and is now coaching his
grandchildren and students at Chief Leschi. He's intrigued with the game
and sold on its value. "Chess causes thinking, teaches sportsmanship and
planning. It causes kids to read and is a great way to interact with kids
in school and at home," said McDaniels who's been playing chess for more
than 40 years.

Once a week students from third grade on up grab a snack, do homework and
then pull out their chess pieces. First there's a brief overview of the
previous week and then it's on to strategy, mate methods, learning to
control the center, piece values and other ways to develop good chess
techniques.

Fatima Salaam thinks the game is fun. "It's calm and relaxing. There are a
lot of rules. Some are easy and some are hard and you have to remember
them. It takes someone who's devoted and won't quit," said the sixth
grader.

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Kids set up their chess pieces at desks or sprawl out on the floor of
McDaniels' classroom to play. The atmosphere is reflective as students
study their rooks, pawns and knights and try to out move their opponent. "I
teach through repetition and they learn through play. Lecture is boring for
most so I let them play and try to correct mistakes as they happen,"
explained McDaniels.

The benefits of chess in education are well known. In one Texas study
elementary students who played chess showed twice the improvement of
non-chess players in reading and math on assessment tests. And, in a New
York City Schools' Chess Program it was found that "chess dramatically
improved the ability to think rationally, increased cognitive skills and
improved communication skills and aptitude in recognizing patterns."

McDaniels has noticed that at Chief Leschi as well. While studies have yet
to be done at the school he's convinced that chess develops students both
inside and outside the classroom. "The things that make a good player are
similar to the aspects that make a good student: The willingness to learn,
patience, the ability to change and to study," said McDaniels. "For parents
who play chess with their children the one-on-one time is invaluable."