Archive for Friday, April 3, 1992

YOUNG MASTERS

April 3, 1992

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An occasional game of chess with his son led Kyle Thompson to venture into the world of club building specifically organizing and sponsoring the Lawrence Junior Chess Club.

Thompson, a former Maryland junior chess champion and Kansas co-champion, said he first played chess as a youth during his sophomore year at Shawnee Mission North High School.

As a high school junior, he became Kansas City high school co-champion, and the following year, he earned the title Kansas City junior champion.

In college, Thompson recalled, "I played more than I should have."

The effort, however, earned him the title of Maryland junior champion in about 1970, and in 1974 after returning to Kansas, he claimed this state's co-championship.

IN '76, THOUGH, Thompson stopped playing chess. Working for the Kansas City Star as a carrier, he explained, he was unable to participate in chess tournaments, most of which are held on weekends, so he gave up the game.

When son Cassidy, now 7 and a student at Cordley School, got old enough, though, Thompson said, "I showed him some moves and he got interested.

His son's interest rekindled Thompson's own, and subsequently, the two visited a Kansas City chess club where Cassidy expressed an interest in playing others.

That's when Thompson got the idea for a junior club, which he launched last year.

AMONG THOSE who come in addition to Cassidy are 12-year-old Luke Shulenburger, 10-year-old Alan Weil.

Luke said he learned of the club through an ad in the Journal-World and decided to check it out. His family had had a chess set for a long time, he said, "but had never done much with it."

Since he joined the chess club, Luke said, he discovered he enjoys figuring out strategies for capturing opponents' pieces and winning games.

The Deerfield School sixth-grader also recently placed first in geometry and second in problem-solving for his grade level at the Kansas Association of Teachers of Mathematics' statewide math contest for students in grades four through eight.

Alan said he learned about the chess club directly from Thompson, his brother's soccer coach.

"WE USED TO play a little at my house," he said. "Now we play a lot more often."

One of the best players in his family now, Alan said he liked all the choices a player has in chess.

Thompson said a dozen or fewer youth, and quite a few parents, usually show up for club meetings, which are from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays in the Lawrence Public Library gallery room. Their ages range from 6 to 14, and most have played some with family or friends.

With an eye toward compatible skill levels, Thompson started all of them at the beginning level of instruction, using the book "Comprehensive Chess Course" as his text.

TO GIVE THEM experience in competition, he holds tournaments the first Thursday of each month.

Next fall, a new beginners course will be launched along with an intermediate course, which this year's beginners will ready for.

To polish his own skills, Thompson said he'd been playing chess via his computer. He's rated at the "expert" level.

"It's an interesting application" of the computer, he said. "You can create a community . . . from around the country."

With the local youth, he's been creating another chess community and he noted the effort hadn't been as easy as he initially thought it would be.

"It's hard to teach what you know," he explained. "I know all this stuff but since I didn't play for 15 years, I don't know how I know it."

CHESS, HE added, is "a difficult interest" for children and a lot different from more physically active pastimes like soccer.

He added, however, that he found working with the young players satisfying, particularly watching them discover new moves.

The club's meeting schedule will probably be altered this summer, when members are out of school and involved in other outdoor sports, Thompson said, but anyone interested in joining the group can call him at 841-5073, or come to the library on a Thursday evening.

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