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Children learn chess in Lombard

By Sarah A. Meisch

Thu Jul 26, 2007, 03:40 PM CDT

Chess. Perhaps thinking of the age-old game brings to mind images of old men playing against each other in a park or a teenage genius playing his way around the world. Most likely, it doesn’t bring to mind a vision of young children eagerly playing each other.

But this week in Lombard, that’s exactly what it meant during the Lombard Park District’s Chess Camp.

On Tuesday, five children gathered around a table at the Sunset Knoll Recreation Center, one watching while four played in teams of two, moving the over-sized plastic pieces on a vinyl chess board without waiting for their instructor to tell them what to do. This was the second day of the week-long camp, and all of them knew some basics.

“Most of them know the rules of chess but are not very strong players,” said Ilya Korzhenevich, the instructor. “They find out very quickly there are kids who play better.”

But that didn’t seem to matter to the children, whose ages range from 6 to 11. They all agreed upon on what the best part of the camp was.“I get to play other kids and challenge them,” said 11-year-old Matt Ebeling of Villa Park. “Adults give you a lot of challenges and kids are maybe easier.”Matt said his aunt taught him how to play four or five years ago. This was his first year attending the camp. Kristina Marzullo, 9, of Lombard, said she usually plays against her dad, but had taught a friend how to play.“I just like to play against people,” Kristina said.She said her classmates don’t really know that she likes to play chess. “It’s something that doesn’t come up,” she said. But various studies have found that playing chess improves children’s academic skills, according to a handout from Korzhenevich.“Logic improves,” he said. “Concentration improves, self-discipline.”Tina Willer brought her 6-year-old son, Markus, from Willow Springs to take part in the camp. He learned the game last summer, she said. “It teaches him to think ahead,” Willer said. “It’s not electronic. It’s interacting with other people.”She said he compares it to a battle. “He really enjoys it,” she said.And it gives them something to share.“My mom is learning from me,” Markus said.