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A. L. Lotts club looking for a checkmate in tournament

A. L. Lotts chess team members are sharpening their mental skills in preparation for the March tournament at Farragut Intermediate School.

Chuck Noon has been coaching the A. L. Lotts chess club since 1999. The kids are taught to think ahead while avoiding obvious mistakes, or "blunders."

"At this level, the kid who can think ahead one move can avoid a blunder," Noon said.

"The kid who avoids the blunder usually wins the match. A game is usually won by the kid who avoids mistakes, rather than by the kid who makes special moves. You can make thirty special moves and make one blunder and lose the game."

The UT math and computer professor, his wife, Missy, and "a host of parent volunteers, instruct chess neophytes and refine the skills of young chess whizzes.

They are currently honing skills for a competition in March.

Approximately 65 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are divided up according to interest and ability levels: "Beginners" receive basic instruction; "Recreational" students get a mixture of play and teaching; "Competitive" students practice by playing, and get tips from the Noons on new strategies to use when they go to tournaments.

Noon, who said he is not a chess expert himself, helped start the chess club with his oldest son who is now an eighth-grader.

"When he was in about first-or second-grade he learned to play chess, but there were no groups to play chess. I agreed to help him form a group to play chess."

The father-son duo put out fliers at Lotts, and expected to accumulate a group of only eight to 10 children.

"We got ninety kids who wanted to be in Chess Club," said Noon.

"A.L. Lotts has about a thousand kids," he said. "It you think about it, its probably got two hundred kids per grade. We tend to get about twenty to twenty-five kids per grade (in Chess Club). One out of ten kids in grades that are eligible are in Chess Club. It turns out to be more popular than youd imagine.

"In elementary school its cool to play chess."

One regional tournament for the Tennessee Scholastic Chess Association take place in March. The state is divided into four regions: northeast, southeast, central and west.

Students from each division compete on the same day. The Lotts club plans to be at Farragut Intermediate School for a team contest March 4.

"Its remarkable," Noon said of the first time he took his son to a tournament. Its kind of like watching a bunch of people take the S-A-T test.

For more information about the chess club meetings, call the school at 865-539-8611.


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