19 schools, over 120 kids participate in county-wide chess tournament in Stratford

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Stratford was the epicentre for young chess enthusiasts in Perth County Tuesday as the city hosted this year’s edition of the Perth County Elementary Chess Tournament.

More than 120 students from 19 county schools from both school boards gathered at the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans Hall to test their skills during the event, which has taken place in the community for more than 40 years.

The tension and concentration in participants were palpable as students in two categories – intermediate (grades 7 and 8) and Junior (grades 4, 5 and 6) – played each other for a spot in the podium.

The tournament, supported by the Optimist Club of Stratford and the Stratford Knights of Columbus, offers children the opportunity to feel the thrill of competition while allowing them to further develop their skills, said Warren Wray, co-chair and organizer of the event.

“It gives the kids that aren’t necessarily sports-minded a chance to shine in whatever they are gifted at, and some people are really good at chess, so this gives them an outlet to compete and show how good they are,” he said.

But not everything is about the competition either.

The event itself is a testament of the value organizers, volunteers and some school teachers see in promoting the sport and the benefits it can bring to young people, said Wray, who has played chess since he was a kid.

“In the beginning it’s about just moving the pieces and having fun, but as kids get older, strategy becomes more important and that’s a skill that will help them out down the road in other areas besides chess,” he said.

Despite experiencing a small dip in participation in recent tournaments, and the more than four decades the event has been running, Wray said he’s confident the love for chess is still present in the community.

He also predicted the tournament will continue to take place for many years to come.

“This year, we have even more schools participating that in the previous two years. The interest in chess kind of plateaued, but it has gone up again, so I think it is a tournament that will continue to carry on,” he said.





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