Chess at VOCS
CHECK AND CHECKMATE! KCSOS’s Valley Oaks Charter School chess club is a force to be reckoned with
Valley Oaks Charter School’s chess coach and parent of two young players likened the game to life itself.
“Chess teaches us how to think analytically,” said coach Jeremy Treadwell. “It teaches us to organize our thoughts and implement them into a series of actions, how to look ahead and predict outcomes, and how to live with the consequences of our choices.”
As a competitive chess player and member of the Bakersfield Chess Club, Treadwell understands the value provided by chess and wanted to pass that onto his own children and other young players. He formed Valley Oaks’ team two years ago.
“Socially, chess teaches children good sportsmanship, how to behave around others during competition, and how to lose and win with grace,” Treadwell said. “It’s about mutual respect.”
To that end, every game begins with a handshake, a gesture that sets the competition into motion. As the players’ hands retreat back to their respective sides of the board, it’s game on. One by one, each player moves his or her 16 tiny pieces about the chessboard as a digital clock ticks away. There is one goal in mind: checkmating the opposing King.
Valley Oaks has racked up plenty of hardware in the past two years including three team trophies at the most recent countywide tournament that was held on its home turf, Dec. 10. The team earned first place in the K-8 U700 and K-12 open divisions and third place in the K-3 U350 section, adding to its roughly 40 team trophies in the past two years.
In fact, since its inception, the Valley Oaks chess team has won more trophies and competitions than any other local school, though some very stiff competition can be found across the board from the likes of American, Independence, Morningside, Thorner, and Rosedale Middle School.
“There are definitely some very strong teams out there that keep us on our toes,” Treadwell said.
The chess season culminates each year with the Kern County Chess Championships, which will be held this season at Rosedale Middle School on April 29, 2017.
The more advanced players also compete in the Super States, a meet that brings together all the top players in Southern California. Valley Oaks team captain Michelle Harvath and last year’s captain Angel Perez are sure to be in the mix.
“These two players have improved to the point where the local tournaments won’t be a challenge for them much longer,” Treadwell said. “It’s really exciting to see all these kids progress.”
Last year, Valley Oaks sent a team to compete in the junior varsity division at Super States. The team finished first in the school category.
Treadwell attributes the team’s success to the support his players get from their peers and their own parents. As homeschoolers, Valley Oaks parents are accustomed to working with and educating their children every day. This gives increased oversight at home, leading to increased study and chess practice habits, Treadwell explained.
“We are a tight-knit bunch, which leads to the kids feeling very accepted, confident, and supportive of each other,” Treadwell said. “Our club would not be what it is without the incredible and highly devoted parents. We are a team.”