Lincoln Chess Team Wins Championship
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.
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