Young chess players to compete in state championships on campus

Sixty-four squares per board, 150 boards and about 300 intently focused elementary students will fill the union’s Lenhart Grand Ballroom during the 2008 Ohio Elementary Chess Championships on Saturday (March 8). This is the first time the tournament will be held in northwest Ohio.

The tournament is one of two annual events sanctioned by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) in which Ohio chess titles are awarded for elementary students.  Almost 1,000 participants and family members are expected to attend.

“I believe chess is a very good educational tool for developing young minds,” said Beth Yingling, president of Bowling Green’s Montessori Chess Booster Club, which is organizing the event.

In addition to state titles, a scholarship will be awarded to the individual student champion in each of the five playing sections.

Students in kindergarten through sixth grade from around the state will be competing in five rounds of play. Participants may compete individually or as part of a team.

Yingling said it is amazing to see young children have such strong concentration. She described the atmosphere as quiet, intense and fun. “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s really about learning good sportsmanship, working hard and knowing that you did your best,” she said.

According to the Bowling Green Montessori School chess coach, Jim Van Vorhis, chess at the elementary level is a new phenomenon. He said that while high school chess has been around for 50 years, elementary-level chess has only peaked in popularity within the last decade.

Van Vorhis went on to say many people underestimate children in this age group and think only high school and junior high students are able to play chess.

To keep the environment conducive to the necessary concentration, family members will not be allowed in the ballroom during the tournament. After completing a round, students will exit the ballroom and spend time with their families in 208 Union, the event headquarters and family waiting room.

Elementary students interested in entering the tournament must register before Thursday (March 6). Current USCF membership is required for sections other than novice. The tournament flier and registration form are available at, or by contacting Yingling at 419-350-3918.

The primary tournament sponsors are BGSU's Office of Student Affairs and the Sky Insurance Co. 

March 3, 2008