DETROIT (WWJ) – Some pint-size Detroit chess players are national champions.
“It feels good because we’re the best in the nation…that’s like, a whole championship,” said 9-year-old Eric Hobson, a Chrysler Elementary student and two-year veteran of the Detroit City Chess Club.
The team earned two titles at the National Elementary Championship in Dallas, Texas last weekend. Chrysler Elementary kids captured the K-3 title, and they won the Blitz Round. Students from Detroit’s University Prep Science and Math won the K-6 title.
Beaming with pride, Coach Kevin Fite, who founded the club a dozen years ago, says this is the first time a single team has won two national titles — and it did not come easy.
“It is seven rounds and each round can last up to four hours long…it’s exhausting,” Fite told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Marie Osborne. “So some kids, in second grade (are sitting there) for four hours,” — and the kids must remain silent throughout the game.
He says discipline commitment, hard work, and practice feed into the fun.
“We meet even on vacation,” Fite said. “So even when the kids are out of school, we’re still meeting; so our kids really don’t have a lot of breaks. We practice on Saturdays, on some Sundays we’ll practice.”
For Louis Jackson, a very articulate 9-year-old, winning was a big surprise. “I literally thought that…even though I’m gonna do my best. It was my first nationals, so, I didn’t really know the flow,” he said.
Club members have a demanding schedule, playing several hours a week; and players have to keep their grades up.
“I like everything…because you get to think, and it relaxes your mind, and it helps you in school and everything,” Eric said.
Added 8-year-old third grader, Charisse Woods, “I just felt really proud, because I knew I accomplished something really good.”