Lin­coln Chess Team Wins Cham­pi­onship

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

LIN­COLN — Lin­coln’s chess team has grown from a club with 12 mem­bers four years ago to win­ning the 2018 state cham­pi­onship for kinder­garten-eighth grade.

And in about a week, the Lin­coln team will head to its na­tional tour­na­ment in Nashville, Tenn., for kinder­garten-sixth grades.

The K-8 Arkansas State Scholas­tic Chess Cham­pi­onship was held April 19 at Spring­dale School of In­no­va­tion. Un­like sports such as foot­ball and bas­ket­ball, the state chess tour­na­ment is not sep­a­rated by divi­sion ac­cord­ing to stu­dent en­roll­ment.

All schools com­pete against each other, re­gard­less of size. Arkansas has two state cham­pi­ons, one for K-8th grades and an­other for 9th-12th grades.

Lin­coln won the state cham­pi­onship for the younger grades. Don Roberts from Lit­tle Rock came in sec­ond place and Spring­dale School of In­no­va­tion fin­ished third.

Ryan Billings­ley, who coaches Lin­coln’s team, said the top three scores from a team are used to de­ter­mine a school’s over­all score in the state tour­na­ment.

Two Lin­coln stu­dents, Chik­ing Vang and Jace Birkes, tied for third place in the state tour­na­ment. Lin­coln had five more stu­dents who tied for sev­enth in the state: Chi­long Vang, Jus­tus Thas, Luis Calvillo, Kaleb Roy and Ty Burks.

Along with the state cham­pi­onship, the Chess team has racked up other tro­phies this year and in past years.

On April 14, Lin­coln play­ers com­peted in the 2018 Chess Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons at North­west Arkansas Ed­u­ca­tion Co­op­er­a­tive in Farm­ing­ton.

Lin­coln had stu­dents place in all age di­vi­sions.

Chi­long Vang won the sev­enth-12th-grade divi­sion and Thao came in fourth place. Lin­coln al­most swept the fifth-sixth-grade divi­sion. Sawyer Copeland came in first place; Calvillo, sec­ond place; and Nathan Lee came in fourth place. For the youngest divi­sion, sec­ond-fourth grades, Caleb Vita fin­ished fourth.

An­other stu­dent, sev­en­th­grader El­iz­a­beth Bryant, fin­ished in sec­ond place at the Arkansas girls state chess cham­pi­onship. She will be first al­ter­nate for the na­tional tour­na­ment.

Lin­coln has de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion among other schools for the strength of its chess pro­gram and Billings­ley said he con­tin­ues to be sur­prised when he hears peo­ple talk­ing about Lin­coln’s chess team.

“It’s so ex­cit­ing to hear be­cause they de­serve it,” Billings­ley said. “I like for peo­ple to know about them.”

Billings­ley said he at­tributes the team’s suc­cess to love of the game.

“Like most things, if you re­ally love it, you’ll ded­i­cate your time to it,” he said, not­ing his stu­dents meet af­ter school on Mon­days, play in his class­room dur­ing lunch pe­riod and meet be­fore school at times to prac­tice or play each other.

“I’ve told them if your goal is to be a good com­peti­tor, once a week is not good enough, no mat­ter what you’re com­pet­ing in,” Billings­ley said.

Mem­bers of the chess team eas­ily ex­plain why they par­tic­i­pate.

Bryant has been a mem­ber of the chess club since fifth grade and she de­scribes it as a “good time-killer.”

She elab­o­rates that when she’s com­pet­ing in a chess match, she’s so fo­cused she doesn’t think about the time.

Colton Crain­shaw, a six­th­grader at Lin­coln Mid­dle School, says play­ing chess has helped him in many other ar­eas of his life. For one, he said it’s helped him when he gets an­gry.

“I’ve learned to take my time and fo­cus on one thing,” Colton said. “It’s helped me fo­cus on read­ing a book and do­ing work in class, play­ing bas­ket­ball and foot­ball.”

It’s es­pe­cially helped him with be­ing able to talk to peo­ple he doesn’t know, he said.

“When you play chess you have to shake a per­son’s hand and tell them your name,” Colton said.

Sixth-grader Luis Calvillo said the game is just fun.

“I was re­ally bad at chess when I first started. I ded­i­cated my­self to learn­ing how to do it,” Luis said.

Lin­coln will take 17 stu­dents to the na­tional tour­na­ment this month. The sev­enth-graders are too old for this tour­na­ment, so Billings­ley took them to an­other na­tional tour­na­ment in De­cem­ber in Or­lando, Fla., for kinder­garten-12th grades.

Th­ese stu­dents fin­ished in 19th place out of 31 teams.


Lin­coln’s chess team holds up their state cham­pi­onship tro­phy, won April 19 in the state tour­na­ment in Spring­dale for kinder­garten-12th grade. Coaches are Ryan Billings­ley, Yvette Townsend and Becca McAfee.


This photo pro­vided by BiLD Ar­chi­tects of Fayetteville shows a con­cert draw­ing of a new com­mer­cial build­ing on Main Street in Farm­ing­ton. Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ap­proved the large scale de­vel­op­ment plan for the de­vel­op­ment, which in­cludes the of­fice...





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