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Game of chess growing at Southwick school

SOUTHWICK – More than seven years ago Jose “Joe” Linares wanted to start a chess club for high school students in the Pioneer Valley.

“I found that there was very little interest in the area,” said Linares. “I found that you’ve got to start earlier.”

Linares, a part of the Western Massachusetts Scholastic Chess League, reached out to the school district in Southwick in the fall of 2018 to see if they’d be interested in having the league get established in their school system. Linares had already started a league at the Roberta G. Doering Middle School in Agawam, where he’s a chess coach.

Chess club instructor Jose “Joe” Linares (r) is teaching the students about different moves in the game of chess. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

Once he got in touch with Powder Mill School Principal Erin Carrier, Linares was then able to start a chess league at Powder Mill for fifth and sixth grade students, which began with over 20 students.

The first class was on December 6, 2018, and now the chess club at Powder Mill School takes place every Thursday from 2:45 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. Linares also has the assistance of Micah Winston, who runs similar chess clubs for other schools in the local area.

“What we’re trying to do is get chess moving because it’s such a great thing,” said Linares.

Linares receives free chess sets from the Massachusetts Chess Association and teaches the kids about different tactics in chess and how to make your opponent make a mistake and waste a move.

The hope for Linares is to have some of these kids continue to get better at chess and one day defeat him, who’s been playing chess since the age of four-years-old.

“My secret goal is to be at a real tournament and have one of those kids opposite of me,” said Linares.

Students are seen playing chess at Powder Mill School on Thursday afternoon. (Photo by Greg Fitzpatrick)

At the most recent chess class at Powder Mill last Thursday, The Westfield News saw 12 students taking part in the after-school chess program and learned about the progression these kids have accomplished since December 6.

“Most of them came in knowing nothing and now they know quite a bit,” said Gloria Williams, a school adjustment counselor at Powder Mill School and assists Linares with the program.

Williams sees this as a great avenue for young kids who just don’t have a passion for playing sports or taking part in other activities.

“It’s a great outlet for kids,” said Williams. “A lot of these kids are just not interested in sports, it’s somewhere where they can socialize.”

While Linares very much enjoys spending an hour each week in a classroom with the kids at Powder Mill, he wants to bring the Southwick and Agawam students together. Linares wants to hold a “Chess Fest” in March that would feature the kids from Powder Mill School and the Roberta G. Doering school. Noting that he’s already reached out to all the parents through email and has only received a couple of responses, he’s hoping it can come to a reality. Linares doesn’t see the event as a competition between the two schools, but rather an opportunity to grow the game of chess in local schools.

“We’re just trying to get together to get kids to establish connections and play chess,” said Linares.

If any parents are interested in having their child take part in the chess club or the “Chess Fest”, contact Linares at [email protected].

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