For the past few weeks, 19 Sacandaga students have been gathering in the library every Wednesday to learn about and play chess.
Grade 8 student Zach Calderon, who has very active in local chess tournaments for several years, leads the sessions with a large chess board in front of the makeshift classroom. Today, the lesson is about gaining the advantage right from the start by controlling the center of the board.
"This will give you the most room for later," Zach said, pointing to the board with the center pawn moved out two places and the knight already out in front. "Once you gain this control, you just move your pieces up."
Several of the students in the group are already strong players.
"It's really fun for them; I think they're paying attention to me but I don't want to talk for too long because they really want to play," Zach said.
Today, Zach's father, Herman, himself an accomplished area chess player and coach as well as the social worker at Giffen Memorial Elementary School in Albany, is helping out in his son's session.
Michele Calderon, Zach's mom, has helped coordinate the program at Sacandaga. She said flyers were sent home with all children in grades 1-5 and she was surprised at the number of students interested in playing chess. She hopes other schools may also develop interest in a chess club.
She said Zach is writing a book for beginning chess players that uses a puzzle-style method to show readers how best to play the game.
Zach plays regularly with the Schenectady Chess Club (part of the Eastern New York Chess Association), during open chess sessions at the Muddy Cup in Schenectady and occasionally travels to play under the US Chess Federation.
Below are a few of the scenes from today's