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Checkmate

Tournament raises funds for youth chess league

Posted: December 14, 2008 7:47 p.m.
Updated: December 15, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Ten-year-old Akshay Trisal thinks about his next move during the chess-a-thon fundraiser Saturday at the Lighthouse Learning Center. The event raised funds to provide new chess sets, lesson books, clocks, pencils, stickers, carrying cases and more for CYCL students.

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Dozens of child chess players darted their hands into plastic buckets filled with ice water and fished around for the correct chess piece, while others played bughouse and blitz chess.

These activities made up just a portion of the first ever Chess-a-thon held by the California Youth Chess League Saturday at the Lighthouse Learning Center.

This chess marathon, which lasted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., was held to raise money for the CYCL.

Director Jay Stallings notes it is very important the community's youth be allowed to continue learning and enjoying chess.

"As a non-profit organization, our main interest is in providing quality activity for our youth," Stallings said.
This fundraising chess marathon, which began with free breakfast and ended with a pasta dinner, included a variety of different chess events, including a bughouse tournament, a chess piece set-up relay and blitz simuls, in which one advanced student played against several others.

These events kept the chess students, who ranged from the youngest of toddlers to teenagers, engrossed in chess for several hours.

"Half a dozen kids stayed for the full twelve hours," noted Stallings.

"It also helped to motivate my own students. The activities were very helpful and kept the kids thinking analytically," said Kevin Bulone, another chess coach.

The entire event began weeks in advance. Students were given the opportunity to collect pledges from donors, with the final donation depending on how many hours they stayed at the Chess-a-thon.

All interested were invited to attend without an admission fee. By the end of Saturday night, nearly $10,000 had been contributed to CYCL.

The organization plans to use this money to continue offering after-school instruction, evening class trainings and furnishing Chess Kits, consisting of chess sets, software, books and a carrying case to young patients at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"Coach Jay really reaches out to the community with chess. This fundraiser allows CYCL to donate chess sets and offer chess programs for kids," said Cameron Totten, father of a student at the Chess-a-thon.

Many of the students seemed to enjoy themselves. Six-year-old Max Totten, playing chess on a giant set with his father, said that "chess is one of those thinking sports, and it makes you try different things because not everything works every time."

Other parents emphasized the importance of having fun in chess and how the Chess-a-thon provided that experience.

"He's having a lot of fun, which is always very important," said Lourdes Ebrard, mother of twelve-year-old Jean-Claude, who said that he "likes the puzzle-solving part of chess."

Many others praised chess for its ability to improve the life skills of their children.

"Chess has helped my son focus and concentrate, both in school and in life. He's become a strategic-thinker through chess," Ebrard said.

The idea for a Chess-a-thon came into being about ten years ago, but Director Stallings never found a way to combine all the activities into one event or the resources to run it.

This year, however, with the help of volunteers and donations from local businesses, Stallings was able to put together a highly successful event.

"The Chess-A-Thon engaged the kids much more than I had ever expected," said Stallings. "It gave all the families an opportunity to see how fun, exciting and challenging chess could be."

Throughout the even, Stallings handed out awards for the schools and individuals who raised the most money.

Although the event fell short of the $20,000 goal originally set, Stallings hopes it remains a goal in future years. He also hopes the event will become an annual one.

The Chess-a-thon's Web site is www.chessathon.org.

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