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Continued: Burnsville chess program has all the right moves

  • Article by: ERIN AD and AMP;#XAD;LER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 12, 2014 - 6:58 PM

For Ribnick, a pas­sion for chess be­gan when he was 11 years old and his dad taught him to play. He later took a chess class and was “in­ject­ed with the chess drug,” he said.

For him, the hours spent in juni­or high chess club were a­mong the most mean­ing­ful in his life, and they al­lowed him to build strong friend­ships. Now, he hopes his stu­dents have the same ex­peri­ence.

The bene­fits of chess

In ad­di­tion to be­ing a coach, Ribnick is also an ad­vo­cate for all of the pos­i­tive things chess can bring to kids’ lives. “I’m 100 percent con­vinced that every stu­dent that’s in it has benefited,” he said.

The game teach­es kids prob­lem-solvi­ng skills of all kinds, im­proves grades in school and builds con­cen­tra­tion, he said. Ribnick said he’s seen stu­dents with at­ten­tion is­sues “sit there for hours, es­pe­cial­ly if they want to win, play­ing chess.”

Per­haps most im­por­tant­ly, they be­come “com­plete­ly com­mit­ted to what their brain can do, and it’s amaz­ing,” he said.

Eighth-grader Victor Sanchez, a play­er for two years, said that play­ing chess has helped his con­cen­tra­tion. “Now, I can ac­tu­al­ly sit down and study for a test,” he said.

Seventh-grader Pratik Nehete said he plays for fun. Nehete was paired up against a mas­ter chess play­er at the state tour­na­ment and tied. “To draw some­bod­y with that much more skill than me was kind of amaz­ing,” he said.

Jen­na Lichty, an eighth-grader who has played since kin­der­gar­ten, said she plays for “the men­tal brain en­er­gy” the game re­quires. She’s one of a hand­ful of girls on the team, a trend that holds true at high­er lev­els of chess across the coun­try and in­ter­na­tion­al­ly, Ribnick said.

A long-term goal is to be rat­ed high­er than her broth­er, but that’s not the rea­son she plays. “Any­one can join,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be for the smart peo­ple. It’s for all ages, and it’s a nev­er-end­ing sport.”

Erin Ad­ler • 952-746-3283

  • related content

  • Seventh graders Collin Ridgeway, left, and Josh Holtzleiter worked with teacher and chess instructor Brian Ribnick, center, on their endgames at Metcalf Junior High in Burnsville. The Burnsville chess program has existed for decades and become an integral part of the district’s identity.

  • Seventh-grader Zander Burton practiced with the Metcalf chess team, which recently won another state championship and will play in the national championship tournament in Atlanta this month.

  • Seventh-grader Pratik Nehete practiced last week. The district begins its focus on chess in the elementary schools, every one of which has an after-school chess club.

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