Students versus teachers in timeless hobby

Mar. 12—NEWFANE — About a year ago, student Brody Jesz, now 13 and in seventh grade, approached Jillian Long, a teacher at Newfane Middle School, about creating a chess club.

"He asked me for my help, so I said, 'Get me a list of 10 kids who want to do it,' " Long said. "He came back with 12."

Named the Newfane Royal Blues, the club meets every other week in Long's classroom between 2:20 and 3:05 p.m. on Fridays.

"Brody is a sweet kid, but a little reserved," Long said. "So I was surprised when he wanted help in making a chess club."

Brody said that he just wanted a place to play. For the past two or three years, he'd been challenging other players around the world to matches on, but Brody wanted more. He wanted a physical place to go play.

Kevin Vincent taught chess for years at the YMCA. After Covid — and the shutdown — the program was cancelled, which he felt was a shame.

"It is international and it is timeless," he said of the game. "I tell the kids that (chess) notation is the same all around the world, so you can play someone in India and they'd know what you're talking about if they know chess notation."

Now Vincent teaches the students at Newfane Middle School, including his granddaughter Jordyn Phillips, 11 years old and in the sixth grade.

In room 207, the excitement was high during Friday's matchup because a special exhibition was in progress. Students versus teachers. Who was going to win in this classic matchup?

"At chess tournaments, it's silent. No one speaks," Vincent said. "But this is an exhibition and they're excited."

Principal Keith Crombie faced off with Jordyn, taking some time to look at a cheat sheet on how each piece moved. On the other side of the room, Tom Burns, seventh grade social studies teacher, was fighting for his life against Brody.

"I've been a teacher here for 31 years and still haven't mastered the game of chess," Burns said.

Vincent said that the main thing for him is that other schools take on a chess club. It's something that will follow the students throughout their lives, he said. Once they develop a chess brain, that stays with you.

"It's not left behind in school," Vincent said. "You'll use it after you graduate."

Vincent, of course, pulverized this reporter while talking about how chess helps with math, that problem solving is inherent in the game an,d even in his former life as a maintenance man, his boss would ask him to take a look at the orders for the day. To see if Vincent's analysis of the situation was the same as his own figuring. That comes from playing chess, too, he said.

In the end, Jordyn destroyed the principal, who said he'd admit the defeat at morning announcements of Monday. Burns pulled through though, coming up finally when he exchanged his pawn for a queen, and eventually bested the founder of the club.

Vincent said he told all the kids as they developed, that sportsmanship was the other name of the game.

"You'll lose more than you win, but you'll learn more from losing than winning," he said.