The winning Seward Sharks team was composed of sixth graders Tiger Worku, Marshall Urban and Nelson Munene and fifth grader Noah Muller. They competed in the K-6 intermediate-level division for players with a federation rating of less than 1,000,
Their division drew 35 schools and 238 individual players, one of several divisions in a tournament that drew 2,200 competitors. The Seward players previously won two state-level tournaments earlier this year.
One reason that the 850-student school has built a competitive team is numbers – 50 students played chess this year, according to Pete Munene, a parent who coordinates the school’s chess program. That includes 15 girls who participate in an effort led by teacher Jodi Stee to boost participation by girls.
Tradition also helps. “The school has a long tradition of playing from the 90s,” Munene said.
There’s also a corps of instructors who strengthen the competitors by bringing varied playing styles, Munene said. They include teacher Bill garner, parent Tim Couture and Don Hooker Sr. Parents also help with expenses and attend tournaments.
Players Urban and Munene placed highest at sixth and seventh overall. Also competing were Seward students Soren Kung and Malcolm Munene in the K-5 and K-3 sections respectively.
The school’s players spend two to three hours per week at the school on chess, and another five or six outside school developing their skills, Munene said. They’ve been to close to a dozen all-day tournaments this year at which they typically play five matches each. Munene said the school’s top players competed well enough in fall and winter play to make a bid for national competition.
(Photo: Players Noah Muller, Marshall Urban, Tiger Worku and Nelson Munene, and advisor Pete Munene.)