Every Tuesday and Thursday, sometimes as early as 12:10, a line begins forming outside a room at Edwards Elementary. Anxious students duck in and out, checking the board for their name and if they are part of group one or two. Phrases like, “Did you sign up?” and “You’re in the second group,” echo through the hallway. Excitement is palpable as students weave in and out with lunch in hand. Excitement brought because of the opportunity to play chess.
To most people, Arnabh Swamy looks like a typical 5th grader, focusing on schoolwork and friends, with one eye toward the future and middle school. Yet Swamy started this chess club at Edwards Elementary mostly by accident.
“This actually started because I wanted to play a chess match against my teacher,” said Swamy.
“It took a while for Ms. Lynch to get a moment to play, and in that time other kids started to get interested in playing chess.”
One chess match grew into two, and then to four, and now 70 students filter through one room for the opportunity to play. Initially, a club for 5th graders, now 3rd and 4th graders are able to participate. As a result, two time blocks have been created. One from 12:20-12:40 and the other from 12:40-1:00. At most, the club can have up to 54 people at a time in each time block.
“We used to meet in the conference room,” adds Swamy, “and after more people joined we asked if we could have a bigger room.”
Preparation for Chess Club operates much like a well-oiled machine, making it difficult to remember it was created by fifth-graders. Assisting Swamy in organizing the club is fellow 5th grader, Gwen Burrell. She says after Swamy’s idea came about, she created some posters to get the word out, and the rest is history. The duo spend about 90 minutes preparing for Chess Club, matching opponents and also splitting participants into two separate groups. While chess is being played, Burrell is the one who runs everything.
“I play chess but Gwen makes sure that everything is organized,” said Swamy.
“I’m good at taking charge,” added Burrell.
Swamy has been playing chess for a little over 5 years, a game he learned to play from his father. While he enjoys the game, what he likes best is that it’s a strategy game.
“Playing other people and trying out new moves is my favorite part,” admits Swamy. “If I see other people making a move, I try to learn from that and use it when I am playing.”
With such a well-organized club, it’s hard to imagine what could be next. Swamy and Burrell admit they have several students who would like greater instruction on how to play chess. While that isn’t something they are able to offer now, they are hopeful in the future it’s something that could be added.
In the meantime, Swamy encourages any student interested in any club to just give it a try. “Sometimes if you just don’t want to join you should try to do it your own way,” he adds. “Play on your own until you get more comfortable and want to play with other people.”