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Four students qualify for national chess tournament

Jackson Hole Classical Academy (JHCA) held its first scholastic chess tournament on May 7 that qualified four Wyoming students to participate at the national tournament this summer. It drew 38 participants from five schools in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade, 25 of which were from JHCA. It was also the first scholastic chess tournament in Wyoming in five years.

“This tournament was huge by Wyoming standards,” said Jay Stallings, a K-6th grade chess coach who teaches virtually from Los Angeles to JHCA students. “I went back in, in preparation for this, this chapter we're having and looked at the different tournaments that scholastic tournaments that had been held in Wyoming over the last 20 years and they were few and far between. Usually when they were held, they had more kids from Colorado than they did from Wyoming, and I couldn't find any of them that had over eight kids from Wyoming that were represented at one of the tournaments.”

Stallings said they teach chess to students not only to introduce them to the game, but also how to use it to apply problem-solving skills outside of the game.

“We can work to simplify each different part of the game, each component of it and that’s something I talk to them a lot about is that’s what we do in life is that we try to find ways to break down all the challenges that life presents us,” he explained. “And when there’s an obstacle, when something comes in our way, know that there’s a solution and that finding that solution can be a fun thing.”

Four students from Jackson and Cody will be participating in theU.S. Chess Federation’s National Invitationals in Rancho Mirage, California from Jul. 30 to Aug. 2, according to Stallings. To qualify, the four students and two alternates had to be nominated by Brian Walker, president of the Wyoming Chess Association. They are:

High School: Will Aepli, 12th grade, from Jackson Hole Community School, (alternate is Dustin Nichols, 12th grade, from Cody High School)

Middle School: Luke Gentile, 7th grade (alt: Bill Robinson, 8th grade) from Jackson Hole Classical Academy

Elementary School: Gus Brooks Mitha, 4th grade, (alt: Gabe Gentile, 4th grade) from Jackson Hole Classical Academy

Wyoming's Top Girl is Tilly Brooks Mitha, 2nd grade (alt: Honor Reichel, 5th grade) from Jackson Hole Classical Academy.

JHCA will also be holding aweeklong chess camp from Jun. 20-24, where those who will attend nationals will sharpen their skills. The event is also open to all interested K-12th chess players.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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