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Young players join chess challenge at Lewis Middle School 

Jonathan Rosales and Dalen Anderson. Photo by Jackie Iddings.

Jonathan Rosales and Dalen Anderson. Photos by Jackie Iddings.

Tournament had 47 entries

–Daniel E. Lewis Middle School in Paso Robles was Saturday’s location for the San Luis Obispo Chess Club’s 2015 Scholastic Fall Fiesta. This chess tournament was one of three annual scholastic tournaments held by the chess club. Tournaments are held once a quarter during the school year at various locations throughout the county. The club also holds one adult tournament during the year.

Whit Donaldson, a teacher at Lewis Middle School, helped organize the tournament and bring it to North County. Donaldson leads the chess club at the school. Students meet in his classroom three times a week on their lunch hour to learn and play the game. “We are very happy to have such a big turnout,” said Donaldson. “Entries started off slow, but quickly rose to 47.” The Lewis Middle School chess club is called “The Checkmates.”

Principal Stuart Hamill stated it has been a long time since the San Luis Obispo Chess Club has held a tournament in North County. “All ages from a first grader through high school are here today,” said Hamill. Michael McCreary, president of the SLO Chess Club, said that he was very pleased about the joint effort that made it possible to hold this tournament in Paso Robles. Schools from all parts of the county were represented. Donaldson also added that bringing the tournament to Paso Robles was a joint effort from the middle school staff, McCreary and the chess club, and Lewis Middle School Superintendent Chris Williams.

The final results of the tournament are available by clicking here.

First grader, Sahithy Saravanan from Santa Barbara played a round with Paso Robles chess veteran 15-year-old Seth Thompson. Saravanan, who has only been competing for a year, tied for third place in the rated-section.

Seth Thomspon and Sahithy Saravanan.

Seth Thomspon and Sahithy Saravanan.

A sign in Donaldson’s classroom window reads: “Test yourself to know yourself to be yourself.” When asked if playing chess helped young people apply this adage to themselves, Donaldson stated, “Undoubtedly. Chess helps them quiet their minds and encourages competitive thought.” Thompson and another player, Jose Ciricuti, confirmed Donaldson’s statement. Thompson, who has been playing for as long as he remembers, took a break from his pizza to state, “I enjoy using my mind. It gives my brain a workout and builds critical thinking and reasoning skills.” Ciricuti, 12 years old from Paso Robles, said, “It gives me something to focus on. When you focus, your grades get better.” Ciricuti has been playing for two and half years.

This was the first tournament for players Jonathan Rosales, age 12 from Templeton, and Dalen Anderson, age 11 from Paso Robles. Both Rosales and Anderson stated they have been playing “for years,” and stated they were doing very well in the tournament.

Scholastic players are assigned to sections that are based on their experience and accumulated points. New and beginning players or United States Chess Federation players with game points below 600 play in the non-rated section. More experienced players and players with a USCF rating above 600 play in the rated section. Players in the non-rated section are welcome to “play-up” to the rated section when they are ready to challenge themselves. Most tournaments consist of five rounds where each student plays in each round. A player earns one point for a win, zero points for a loss, and half a point for a draw. Players are paired with others who have accumulated about the same number of points.

To join the chess club or find a scholastic chess club visit the club’s website at



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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.