Story and photos by Sue Bowers

Anyone visiting the Creswell High School library before school or during lunch this year will likely see as many as two dozen heads bent over chess boards.

The game has taken off this year as a preferred free-time activity at CHS. Strategies are being plotted and traps set as the enthusiastic players work to beat their opponent to the declaration, “Checkmate.”

For those more serious about the game, the CHS Chess Club meets after school on Mondays. There, the students use clocks for their games, learn proper chess notation and share strategy ideas. Advisor Sue Bowers, Distance Learning and Aspire Coordinator at the school, encourages their progress, while admitting that many of them know more about the finer points of the game than she does.

Eight players have joined this year’s competitive Chess Team, which is now midway through its Midwestern Chess League season. League matches are played each Wednesday at Lane Community College, with nine local high schools participating this year.

The top five CHS players, senior Shawn Miller, freshman Caleb Frasier, sophomore Danny Gonzalez, junior Seth Crist, and sophomore Rebecca Bowers make up Creswell’s varsity squad.

Freshman Haley Cartmill and sophomores Colby Hanson and Vivian Vanover, all first-year players, compete at the JV level.

Team wins have been elusive so far, but the young players continue to improve and look forward to each week’s match.

Both Bowers and CHS Librarian Diana Shumate have enjoyed seeing the surge in chess interest at CHS this year. They agree with many chess enthusiasts about the benefits of offering chess programs in schools.

Playing chess teaches important skills such as thinking ahead, weighing options, analyzing concretely, thinking abstractly, and juggling multiple considerations simultaneously. Chess also teaches sportsmanship: how to win graciously and not give up when encountering defeat.

Chess may be called the “sport of kings,” but at CHS this year it’s also a sport of Bulldogs.