Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



pictograph divider




by Noel Lyn Smith - The Navajo Times


photo credits: photo 1: Pine Hill 5th grader Mathew Shepherd, 10, is in deep thought before making his move while playing chess against another member of the Pine Hill chess team before an awards banquet at Pine Hill High School May 19. (Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie); photo 2: The Chess Team displays one of its trophies.


Young Pine Hill chess players compete at national championships

Pine Hill 5th grader Mathew Shepherd, 10, is in deep thought before making his move while playing chess against another member of the Pine Hill chess team before an awards banquet at Pine Hill High School May 19. (Times photo - Leigh T. Jimmie)PINE HILL, N.M.- Russian writer Irving Chernev once wrote, "Every chess master was once a beginner." This is true for the Pine Hill chess team.

Twenty-two students competed at the National High School (K-12) Chess Championship in Dallas, Texas April 16-18. They placed 20th in the Unrated Division and 18th in the Under 900 Division.

"There were so many schools that were participating and we did really well," said Jacqueline Martinez, head chess coach.

When they returned, their trophies were displayed at the front desk. The trophies showed that the students could compete at the national level.

"Our kids at Pine Hill match kids anywhere," said John Brooks, Pine Hill Schools activities director.

The idea for a chess club began last spring. This year the club registered with the New Mexico Activities Association.

There are 43 students in the chess club ranging from first to 12th grade.

Some belong to the traveling team while others are regular club members. They practice Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The students learn from each other by helping out with game strategies. New members learn how to write in notation books, use clocks, and make basic chess maneuvers.

During practice, age or grade does not separate players. It is common to have a first grader play against an eighth grader.

Students usually arrive early for practice and will be playing when Martinez arrives. "They're there before me," Martinez said.

They play during lunch and when they have free time with the individual game sets they carry, she said.

Since there are no local schools with chess teams, the team travels far for competitions.

Sandia Preparatory School in Albuquerque is the chess team within Pine Hill's assigned region. The team also traveled to Tohatchi, Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Chandler, Ariz. to play.

While at competition, students are responsible for playing assignments. They find their tables, clocks and must be on the correct side of the table when playing starts.

When a player becomes nervous, Martinez tells them, "They're just kids, they're just like you. They know how to play chess, you know how to play." Then she encourages them to do their best.

After competition, the students will review their game.

"They'll come out and they'll look at their notation sheet," said Martinez. "They'll put out their board and say, 'You know, this is what I did. I should have done this. Next time, you know, I'm going to look for this.'"

The game has taught students critical thinking, independence and teamwork.

The Chess Team displays one of its trophies.Twenty-seven trophies were displayed during the team's May 19 banquet. Certificates were given to players.

"For being a first year program, I was real surprised in how well the students did," Brooks said.

Vernard Martinez Sr. is the father of three players and a chaperon to most events. His children learned to play from their uncle and him.

"It makes the kids think," Martinez said. "We encourage them to think ahead during the game - like three, four moves ahead of themselves."

Colleen Martinez, a third grader, went to Dallas. She said she had fun playing the first day "blitz," which are five-minute games, eliminating as many pieces as possible.

Her favorite piece is the queen, because it can move any direction on the board.

Sixth grader Jerome Martinez said chess improves a person's thinking and he plays during his free time. He also participates in basketball and cross country.

Vernard Martinez Jr., a seventh grader, said chess is fun, makes him think and he likes meeting new people.

"She can get the king and checkmate real fast and it's the most valuable piece on the board," said the younger Vernard about his favorite piece, the queen. He thinks he has played in 10 tournaments this school year.

Ramah, NM Map

Maps by Travel

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Barry and Paul Barry.

Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!