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Maclean High chess team during their first away game at Northern Rivers secondary college, in Lismore. L-R Leroy Laurie, Brian Quinlin-Randall, Shane McLeay, Brian Anderson, Ferlin Laurie and Kai Thomsen (kneeling at front). Image: Belinda Cameron.

Students change school’s culture with Chess

Lynne Mowbray |

A group of students at Maclean High are changing the culture of their school, through the introduction of the game of chess.

The new craze which has taken hold is fully supported by both the principal and teachers; who have been spotted occasionally, challenging the students.

Maclean High School teacher/librarian Belinda Cameron said that the new chess culture at the school, began during term one this year.

“The students began coming into the library before school and during lunchtime and started playing chess and loved the game,” Ms Cameron said.
“The players were quite good and so we formed a chess club and decided to join the North Coast Chess competition, through our school.
“We teamed up with Clarence Valley Youth Action (CVYA) to organise a pizza and chess night, which was held in the school library. Around 50 kids turned up for the event,” she said.

Ms Cameron said that the chess team’s first away competition was in Lismore and it fired the boys up to get the whole school involved.

“The school up there had this fantastic outdoor chess set, so as soon as we came home we decided to approach our school executive about acquiring one,” Ms Cameron said.
“They came on board and now we can teach the whole school how to play chess. So these boys have started a whole chess culture at Maclean High School, of kids playing chess at lunchtime.
“We received a $400 grant from McDonalds, which has enabled us to organise team shirts and purchase more boards.
“We’ve also been approached by Maclean Public School to promote the game at their upcoming fete and Palmers Island Public School has asked the boys to coach their students, because there’s a lot of interest in the game there at the moment.
“The boys are really motivated and have even designed their own T-shirt, to help promote the game,” she said.

The student’s passion for the game of chess has had an underlying impact on their lives; which is now enabling them to lead the way and help others.

Year 11 student Kai Thomsen said that his interest in chess has changed his life.

“My friends and I couldn’t get down onto the oval to play football one day, so we went into the library and started playing chess,” Kai said.
“We started getting good at playing it and one day Ms Cameron came in and saw how good we’d become and we decided to start a chess club.
“We had a few comps to find out who our best players were and then played our first away game in Lismore.
“We had heaps of fun and really enjoyed it.
“I reckon that playing chess has really helped me focus.
“Before I started playing chess I was all messed up in class and couldn’t really concentrate.
“I was about to drop out (of school); and then I started playing chess.
“Through playing chess, my brain started to focus and I started to concentrate.
“I had a rethink about it and stayed in school. I’m actually alright at school, now.
“Through playing chess I’ve got heaps more people to hang out with now.
“It makes me feel really proud that I can now go and help teach other people how to play chess and pass on to them what I’ve been taught.
“I can be an influence in someone else’s life.
“Before this, I could never see myself playing chess; I was always into running around doing something active and playing football.
“I’ve found that chess has calmed me down and helped me to focus.
“I never thought I would get into chess. I always thought that it was just something (a game), to muck around with.
“When I told my parents that I had got into a chess club, they couldn’t believe it.
They said, ‘we never thought you would ever get into chess’ – they were pretty proud of me, obviously,” he said.