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Kids compete in Optimist chess tournament

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Kids from elementary to high school spent about three hours at the Nelson County Public Library Saturday afternoon competing in the fifth annual Bardstown Optimist Club Groundhog Day Chess Tournament.

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The event saw three rounds, lasting about an hour each. Participants were paired using a computer-based selection system and competed against others in their grade division. Seven schools were represented Saturday.

Roland Williams said the tournament is just one of many ways the Bardstown Optimist Club is reaching out to kids. Chess, he said, encourages them to think analytically while also sharing critiques on how each player can improve their game.

For Lexi Coulter, president of the Bardstown High School Chess Club, the game became a serious hobby a few years back when she needed something to do after school.

Coulter, then a student at Bluegrass Christian Academy, joined an after-school program where chess was one of the few activities offered.

“I played chess for about two years every single day after school for two hours,” Coulter said.

And she stuck with it.

Coulter went on to place first in the high school division Saturday, her second time participating in the local tournament.

Fellow chess club member Juan Quintana, who became serious about chess this past year, took second place.

While Coulter and Quintana have the advantage of being part of a chess club, the luxury is something that has disappeared in many schools over the years.

Tournament Director Daniel Martin had sponsored a club at Bloomfield Middle School for about 14 years, averaging around 70 members. Stephanie Clayton of the Optimist Club had also sponsored a chess club at Cox’s Creek Elementary while a teacher there, and many of the clubs competed in tournaments like the one held Saturday.

Most of those clubs, however, have ceased to exist. But Optimist Club members and local chess enthusiasts hope to change that in the future by offering a monthly community chess club for children and adults.

“Based on parent requests for more events, we will be having open chess meetings for any student or adult on the third Tuesday of the month for the next three months,” Martin said in an email announcing Saturday’s participation.

The monthly meetings will take place at the main branch of the Nelson County Public Library, with meetings scheduled Feb. 21, March 21 and April 18 at 6:30 p.m.

Anyone interested in joining a monthly community chess club is encouraged to contact Martin at dmartin210@gmail.com or Stephanie Clayton at steff3940@yahoo.com.

Full results for Saturday’s tournament are as follows:

• Elementary (K-3rd Division)

First place - Aiden Ballard (St. Joseph)

Second place - Kameryn Head (Nelson County Baptist)

• Elementary (4th-5th Division)

First place - John Yocum (Cox’s Creek Elementary)

Second place - Luke Greer (Bardstown Elementary)

Third place (tie) - Caden Head (Nelson County Baptist)

Third place (tie) - Nicholas Giardina (St. Joseph)

• Middle School

First place - Ethan Ballard (St. Joseph)

Second place - Connor Henson (Bardstown Middle)

• High School

First place - Lexi Coulter (Bardstown High School)

Second place - Juan Quintana (Bardstown High School)

Third place (tie) - Emily Nalley (Thomas Nelson High School)

Third place (tie) - Isaac Crume (Bardstown High School)