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Hundreds of Students Go to the Board with Baltimore Kids Chess League

Top Players from 34 City Schools Heading to Nationals this Month

The king is vulnerable. The time on the game clock is down to a minute. Javier Gomez, a junior at Green Street Academy, slides his queen over 2 squares: check. The king begins to run. Time is ticking. Javier scans the position quickly, looking for the best option. He’s down to ten seconds. Finally, he sees it. He pushes a pawn forward one square: checkmate. 

Like Javier, players in 34 schools across the district are playing fun, intense matches thanks to the Baltimore Kids Chess League, a nonprofit that partners with City Schools to provide students with the opportunity to learn and play chess. More than 600 students a year participate in the league through weekly after-school sessions featuring instruction and competitive matches. The league hosts free citywide tournaments and crowns City-Wide Champions at the team and individual level for every grade. They also train volunteer coaches and furnish the necessary equipment to participating schools. 

For players like Javier, who learned to play five years ago and is now a top player in the league, chess is a growing passion. “I love the game and how creative you can get with it,” says Javier. “Chess is very logical yet complex. It might seem boring at first, but once you learn the basics, it becomes a beautiful and enjoyable game that teaches you important skills for everyday life."

Now, Javier and 20 other top district players from Green Street Academy, Patterson High School and Bard High School Early College are competing at the 2022 National High School Championships in Memphis, TN. 

Beyond top-level competition, the positive impact of chess on students’ academic and personal growth is significant. As Baltimore Kids Chess League Executive Director Christina Heffner says, “Chess teaches situational awareness. There is nobody responsible for successes and failures in chess but the player. It teaches kids how to take ownership for their actions. It helps them slow down to think about each move, and the impact of those moves.” 

Javier agrees, saying “Chess has taught me how to recognize patterns better, patterns in basically anything. This allows me to learn school subjects faster by seeing the pattern in what's being taught. Chess has also taught me to think twice before I make a decision and to map down one or multiple solutions to everyday problems.”

According to Green Street Academy educator and Chess Team Coach Veronica Hopkins, chess is a perfect companion to teaching and learning. “As a teacher, when I play a student, I’m able to use the game in front of us to talk about the student’s individual strengths, areas for growth, and opportunities for improvement,” said Hopkins. “And the excitement, with students sprinting to class to challenge me or each other, has been amazing. It has been beautiful to watch and be a part of.”

The 2022 National High School Championships begin on April 8. We know who we’ll be rooting for: go Bard, Patterson, and Green Street! Any City Schools student can join the chess league! 

The Baltimore Sun recently highlighted the Baltimore Kids Chess League and its amazing impact on students. Check it out here.

To learn more about the Baltimore Kids Chess League, and to get involved, visit