Chess Club Beats The Odds And Their Opponents

Posted at 9:57 PM, Mar 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-23 23:47:36-04

As she checkmates a peer with a smile, it  may look like Maplewood High junior Precious Fisher has been playing the game her whole life.

In reality she sat behind her first chess board six months ago. And she's still getting used to competing.

"When I get nervous I start making the wrong moves so I try and calm down and breathe and its all good," she said.

Her chess club at Maplewood High School formed last Spring. Maplewood sophomore Nideya Morris says it stemmed from the kids' love of checkers during an after-school program sponsored by the Martha O'Bryan Center.

"We started off with the chess club and then Mr. Armin took the responsibility and actually made us into a team!" Morris said.

They're up to 10 players and the team's progress is nothing short of remarkable.

"In the scope of one scholastic year they have learned the game from scratch, almost all of them, and as a team have come home with three first place trophies and a tie for third at regionals," said Chess Coach Armin Begtrup.

The game teaches the teenagers patience, strategy and critical thinking. But many on the team live below the poverty line. Some are even considered homeless. And their coach says it teaches them something even more important.

"What it's allowed them to do is show that they are just as capable and have that innate ability to shine when given the opportunity," Begtrup said.

But don't call these kids underdogs.

"I consider us as elite players, we're the best of the best!" said senior Thomas Broughton.

"Even if we were underdogs every movie has proven the underdogs always win," Morris said.

The team was one of four that qualified for state at the regional competition against 66 other teams, alongside Montgomery Bell Academy, Brentwood Academy and Ravenwood High in Brentwood.

And they say they plan to take home first place next weekend.

"We'll still have fun and be our normal selves, we wont be too uptight about it," said Morris.

They're warning those in the chess world to learn a new name.

"Shout go out to Maplewood!" Broughton said.

Just in time for the biggest chess competition in Tennessee.