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Trey Boothe stared at the chess pieces in front of him and waited for Hunter Eanes to make his move. Both boys are 8 and already talking about “creating a strategy” and translating those thinking skills to tasks like school work and video games.

“You’re learning about a lot of fun stuff,” Trey said. “It helps you focus.” He plays chess nights and weekends with his dad, and in the gentlemen’s club at school. Saturday, his mom, Jessica, took him to Great Mills High School to participate in a tournament hosted Saturday by the Maryland Educational Chess Association.

For information about the Maryland Educational Chess Association, visit www.mecachess.org or call 240-718-4657.

About 80 school-aged students, some as young as kindergarten, played. The chess association offers a chance for people, as young as 4 and as seasoned as senior citizens, to learn the game Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons at 46940 Shangri-La Drive in Lexington Park, just outside of Gate 2 of Patuxent River Naval Air Station. In the meantime, their website offers a daily chess challenge to keep skills sharp.

Gary Stewart, executive director and a club founder, said it’s a nonprofit supporting existing chess clubs, helping enthusiasts start new ones and introducing chess to churches and schools. He’d like to see chess introduced as part of school curricula, especially up to third grade because, he said, it enhances math skills. Chess also helps kids learn patience, develop analytical skills and connect with others. “I love it because of the things it can do for youngsters,” he said. “They light up.”

Dakota McKneely, 9, said he has made friends and has gotten smarter by playing chess. “It interacts with my mind,” he said, rotating his hands through the airspace surrounding his head. He wants to play a chess master and earn trophies, which “make you know how good you are at something.”

He loves that he can draw on his math skills, his favorite subject. “It helps me solve problems, Dakota said. “You have to have certain plans; you have to have over 100 plans,” he said, his eyes growing wider and his gestures bigger. “I think it will make me the smartest person in the world.”

nclark@somdnews.com