Killip Chess Team
needs $5,000 for students to attend national chess competition in
Killip Elementary student concentrates on what the next move
should be during a practice session at Killip March 21. Students
practice chess skills and strategy to prepare to compete at
the Super Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee. To qualify for
the national competition, students go through several rounds
of ranking and practice four days a week to learn how to compete
against one another and other competitors. Photos/Ryan Williams
FLAGSTAFF, AZ About thirty-five students from Killip
Elementary Chess Team in Flagstaff have qualified to go to Super
Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee May 11-15. The only thing holding
some of the students back from being able to go is money.
Five thousand participants are expected at the tournament in
Nashville, which occurs once every four years. The last time Killip
could afford to send a team to the competition, the students placed
third in the nation.
By spring break, Ted Komada, who runs the chess program at Killip,
was about $5,000 short of what he needs to bring all the kids who
qualified to nationals, which comes to about seven students at $775
each, which includes a $50 registration fee.
Komada has set up a gofundme account at https://www.gofundme.com/KillipChesstoNashville
where people can donate any amount to the team they would like to.
He said the chess team usually raises their own funds for most tournaments
and they do not rely on people walking up and handing over money.
However, the expense of sending kids this year proved difficult,
but also made him realize how community oriented the Sunnyside neighborhood
People can also donate by using the Arizona tax credit for schools
in any amount, though the tax credit is $200 for an individual or
$400 for a couple. The donation can be earmarked for Killip chess
or in the name of a particular student on the memo line of the check,
or if people donate online, in the description field.
"It was a little rough to say we're in this situation and we're
going to have to do [ask for money]," Komada said. "But the response
through the tax credit and GoFundMe account has been excellent.
Not just getting the money and being able to send more kids with
it, but the affirmation and a reflection of how we stand in the
community, the support that has come out. That was good stuff."
To qualify, students go through several rounds of rankings.
Komada assesses how committed to the program students are: do they
come to the meetings and practices? Students work Monday
Thursday after school to learn how to compete against each other
and other competitors.
Komada also looks at student's chess ratings, which is a number
they get at tournaments that pairs them based on the strength of
"Once you get a rating, your goal is to try and raise that number
as high as you can," Komada said.
While that number is not always accurate, especially for the
newer players because it takes a while for new players sometimes
to get comfortable in a tournament setting, Komada said it is still
one of the ways he evaluates players.
He also internally ranks the students on their ability against
each other basically, if he puts two students together to
play, who does he think will win against each other. Students also
get points for tournament experience.
"I work my way down the list, and they work their way up the
list," Komada said. "It's a constant battle because they all want
to go. I won't be able to send them all. And I also say, not all
of them are ready. There's a group of players who, as much as they
are working for it, this is their first year, they joined a few
months ago, they're just not ready to go to a national tournament."
In the years Komada has spent teaching the kids to play chess,
and even in his own play, he has realized there is a big differences
between playing chess and moving pieces on the board. Most people
"There's a step to take before you're a chess player," Komada
That is what he tries to teach the kids. At its peak ,the chess
team had about 100 kids practicing every day. Now they have about
50-60. Komada's goal for the program is to serve as many kids as
possible. And the competitive chess team does pretty well in tournaments.
"We struggled for a long time with this notion of, do we play
chess and have fun because we want to hang out after school or are
we going to be a competitive chess team and go out there and try
and find some hardware," Komada said.
Komada said he and the others coaches who run the program went
back and forth on that question because if they pushed the students,
then are the kids really getting what they came to the program for.
"But with the capacity and ability for a big chunk of us to
be competitive and be good," Komada said. "What we finally settled
on is we find our fun in the work it takes to become a better player.
It is out of that drive that we're all, the coaches and the kids,
driven to improve."
Komada said there is more than one way to teach chess. He said
there is a notion that teaching the openings and having the kids
memorize where to put the pieces and how to move them is one way.
But that limits the kids to 10 or 15 moves, and then the memorization
does not help anymore.
"The other side of the coin is, forget the memorization of all
of this stuff and play these concepts: don't lose your piece, don't
give away more points than you are getting," Komada said. "So they
learn this set of concepts to apply to the board. We teach kids
to think from the very first move of the game."
The concept involves the kids thinking about and calculating
multiple moves ahead in the game, which includes seeing the whole
board and evaluating what each move gets a player in terms of the
whole game, instead of just one move.
"If I had a way of teaching kids to go farther in their calculations,
we'd be a better chess team," Komada said. "It's a really hard thing
Komada encourages people to follow Killip Chess on Facebook.
"Whether people donate or not, we're proud of who we are and
what we do," Komada said. "We want to share. We're constantly posting
updates and tournaments and the event itself. It is good to have
people following along."
He shares with kids on the trip, that while they know the Arizona
students who play chess, they do not know most of the other teams.
"But [I tell the kids], back home you've got thousands of people
watching every single day just waiting for that next little bit
to come in," Komada said. "That's a good connection to home and
family for those who can and can't go."