WEST ENGLEWOOD — Members of Earle STEM Academy's chess team took home three trophies from the school's first-ever appearance in the largest chess competition in the world.
The elementary students, including some as young as third grade, competed in Nashville this weekend for the U.S. Chess Federation's Super Nationals Tournament. The tournament is held every four years.
Earle students won one team trophy and two individual trophies, according to their coach, Joseph Ocol.
Taahir Levi, a third grader, bested 60 competitors to receive the award for being the "Top Player" rated under 600 — a rating that measures the strength of a player — in the National Blitz Chess category for K-3.
"It was an awesome achievement for him," Ocol said, calling him a "Blitz Chess King."
Team captain Tamya Fultz, whom Ocol nicknamed the "Chess Queen of the South" bested 358 competitors in her competitive section to win a 20th place trophy. She won five games, drew one and lost one, landing her in the Top 35 Winners in the Super Nationals, Ocol said.
Overall as a team, Earle STEM Academy beat 39 other schools to grab a trophy for 21st place, defending their spot in the Top 25 Team Winners of the Super Nationals, Ocol said.
Ocol said he was thankful for the help of Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) who pitched in to get the team out to Nashville. Before becoming an alderman, Lopez worked as a skycap for Southwest Airlines for 12 years. He used that connection to secure 10 round-trip tickets for the team. The ticket donation was valued at $4,000.
Ocol thanked him for his support and said the team would not have made it if it weren't for Lopez and Southwest Airlines helping out.
To show their appreciation, the team is dedicating three trophies to Lopez and the community.
Earle took third place overall in the South Conference Playoffs in March.
In April 2016, Ocol's all-girls chess team took home a national championship trophy in an all-girls tournament in Chicago. The team competed against 64 schools from across the country and was one of only two African-American teams.
That win was the first national championship team trophy for the school.
The team has gained national acclaim for its success. Some players got the chance to greet and shake hands with President Barack Obama when he was in Chicago in October.