By Martin Couch
Bryant Middle School science teacher Greg[more] Wertenberger is also the sponsor of the chess club that has seen a subsequent increase in participants this year.
“We have about 50 students who participate on a regular basis on Friday afternoons in our library during eighth period,” Wertenberger said. “Any student can be involved in the chess club. We have our big meeting on Friday, but we also have a smaller group on Thursdays after school and that is open to anybody. It’s a good way to get in an activity.”
Boys and girls who are members of the club are predominately sixth graders.
“They are really turning out more and one of the reasons is that sixth graders don’t have a lot of clubs at that level and it’s a popular spot for them to come,” he said. “We have had some really good performances, too.”
In a region tournament put on by the Dawson Co-op in Arkadelphia at Henderson State University, Kaito Martin, a sixth grader then, won first place out of 60 other competitors. In the fall semester at another regional at Lisa Academy in Sherwood, Hayden Henson, a seventh grader, won first place for the Fall Tournament put on by the Chess for Arkansas Schools association.
“As a team, we haven’t scored quite as high in tournaments, because we haven’t had a full number of players to go,” Wertenberger said. “We did come in second as a team at the Dawson Co-op.”
Wertenberger was asked by the school principal Sue Reeves to be the sponsor of the chess club two years ago. He hasn’t regretted it at all.
“I know how the pieces set up and how they move, but I don’t know how to teach strategy,” he said. “They know way more than I do about strategy and they teach each other. I just coordinate their place to meet and get the supplies. They take care of the rest and there are a couple who are really good. They all have fun.”
There is currently not a high school chess club and this middle school club is part of the Gifted and Talented activities brought about by Lynn Harrison, the coordinator of GT at Bryant.
“It is designed to give them another way to let out their creativity and critical thinking,” Wertenberger said. “We don’t have any more tournaments scheduled, but there are Saturday events in Little Rock that our kids participate in. We have Fridays for them and it’s something different and fun, and they come out in pretty big numbers.”