PARK SLOPE — While other kids were off sunning themselves on trips to Florida during spring break, members of P.S./M.S. 282's chess team were becoming champions.
The team's traveling squad spent the school vacation in classrooms honing their skills during four intense 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. days, poring over past games to understand mistakes and studying new strategies.
The dedication paid off this past weekend, when P.S./M.S. 282's Royal Panthers chess team won a national championship at the United States Chess Federation's "supernationals" tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
The Royal Panthers, who started each round with a team huddle and a group roar, placed first overall in the competition for "under 900" teams, referring to the team's ability level. The team also competed in four other categories and took home trophies in each one.
"It feels so amazing — we worked so hard," said mom Kimtoya Williams, chairwoman of the
chess team parents.
All students at P.S./M.S. 282, even pre-K kids, get chess instruction as part of the school's regular curriculum. Team members practice after school at least twice a week and spend many Saturdays at all-day chess tournaments.
Three P.S./M.S. 282 students at the USCF tournament triumphed as individuals, including fourth-grader Marcus Scott, who tied for the national championship in the "under 900" category for individual players. Marcus won every match he played and left the tournament with a perfect score.
Marcus' mom, Wendy Karner, said her son loves chess and that his goal is to be a chess "grandmaster" by the time he's 11 years old.
"We're really proud of Marcus, but we're also proud of the commitment of P.S./M.S. 282 and the team," Karner said. "There was a great feeling of camaraderie that made the tournament fun for everybody."
The school's 58-member team is open to all students from kindergarten through eighth grade, and about 35 members travel to tournaments around the city, state and country.
The USCF holds national tournaments annually and a "supernational" competition once every four years, allowing elementary, middle and high-school teams to compete at the same time. This year more than 5,000 young people competed.