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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