By Ben Rodgers
DE PERE – It’s a game with 64 squares, 32 pieces and an infinite amount of possibilities.
Dating back hundreds of years, chess has been played by kings, queens and founding fathers.
Now a group of local students are inviting others to join in on the fun and camaraderie from the opening move to checkmate.
“The reasons I like seeing the kids playing is the critical thinking skills and it helps calm the kids,” said Bryan Milz, West De Pere Middle School Chess Club advisor. “Everyone meets on a level board. No matter what language you speak, your abilities, everyone gets to play, and they play people of the same ability and they just improve on themselves.”
Milz is also a tournament director for the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation and the event coming up Jan. 25 at West De Pere Middle School.
The tournament starts at 8 a.m., is open to students of all ages and is broken down into two divisions.
The K5 division is for new players, while the K12 division is generally for middle school players looking for stiffer competition.
Milz said the first game is critical, if only to gauge a player’s skill and pair them with similar opponents.
“Once they played, we can figure out ratings and get them playing against kids at the same level,” he said. “The first couple of times it can be a short match, but eventually the system works its way out. The kids all play five rounds, so it’s an all-day thing. Some kids are stronger, and some kids are learning as well.”
The Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation generally holds a few tournaments over the course of winter in the Green Bay area.
The first was held Jan. 11 at Leonardo da Vinci School for Gifted Learners. West De Pere is the second one on Jan. 25, and Baird Elementary School is the final site on March 28.
After being involved in chess clubs for a dozen years, Milz said Red Smith, Edison, Lombardi and Preble are schools with big groups of chess players.
“It gives another opportunity to become connected at school, which is our main goal,” he said.
Milz said about 15 students show up each week for Chess Club at West De Pere Middle School, and the tournaments can see anywhere from 30-70 players.
“It’s just fun watching the kids playing against each other that may not be the most athletic,” he said. “It’s just another opportunity for kids to excel throughout the winter.”
He also said it’s fun to watch the students make friendships from chess.
“Everyone is welcome at it, whatever level you’re at,” Milz said. “It’s a friendly group, kids are enjoying success, when they beat someone it’s showing good sportsmanship and a lot of times those kids go and play against each other in the break room, so it’s a very fun activity.”
The cost to sign up for the West De Pere Middle School tournament is $12 in advance or $17 at the door.
More information on rules, event specifics and registration can be found at wisconsinscholasticchess.org.