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Cannon School builds chess club one piece at a time


By Jonathan E. Coleman
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Fabio Hurtado knows how to build strong chess programs. For nearly a decade, he has coached teams in south Florida to four state titles and two national championships.

Now he’s looking to build a new program in his first year at Cannon School.

“We really just got serious about it when we decided we wanted to play in states,” he said. 

When the state competition came to Charlotte in early March, his young team finished third out of 12 teams.

As for how his team will compete in future competitions, Hurtado doesn’t have to look far. 

While some of the older chess club members split their time between the club of other sports teams, Hurtado works with a small group of younger players to help hone their skills.

“Nothing is hidden in chess,” he said. “You see the same board as your opponent. I believe it all comes down to seeing, being disciplined.”

Brothers Reid and Logan Herrera, of Harrisburg, are in fifth and eighth grade respectively, and have been playing chess as long as either can remember. 
They work with Hurtado to understand strategy and improve themselves as chess players.

“For me, it’s a mental problem,” said Logan about why he enjoys the game. “It matters how much you study, not how much you train (physically). It’s a mental challenge.”

To help train his team, Hurtado issues “homework,” that has each student consider different chess scenarios and figure out which move would be best in the given situation. The team also practices regularly, facing each other in different chess games that test their understanding of the game and quick thinking.

“I like the strategy and how fast the game progresses until you hit the end game,” said Reid. “The end game is my favorite part.”

Reid, who finished in 12th place in the state competition, plans to compete in the Super National Chess Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. in April. The Super National tournament — which combines national championships for elementary, middle and high school players — happens every four years, and is viewed as the top competition for young players. 

“In states, there’s about 500 players,” Hurtado said. “In nationals, it’s more like 3,000. This year is Super Nationals, so there will be about 10,000 players — the best in the world.”

And while Hurtado said he would enjoy seeing Herrera play well, he knows there’s much more to chess than winning.

“Chess is not the end,” he said. “It’s the means.

“As you play chess, you get to know yourself better because you play your strengths on the board. You grow as a chess player in skill almost as you grow in self-awareness.”

• Contact editor Jonathan E. Coleman: 704-789-9105.

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