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The hallways of Thomas Stone High School recently were clogged with parents, friends, siblings and teachers — some huddled around iPads and tablets watching YouTube videos, others hunkered in camping chairs, tearing into McDonald’s Happy Meals.

Dads showed up with binoculars around their necks while others relied on their camera lenses to zoom in on the action that was unfolding in the cafeteria where no parents were allowed.

Behind the glass walls that separate the cafeteria from the corridors, the annual Charles County Public Schools winter chess tournament was unfolding.

Open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the tournament attracted close to 200 players, the largest participation yet, said Mary Seremet, a gifted education resource teacher who helps organize the event along with tournament director Felix Cummings, executive director of Tri-County Chess Corner, and other gifted education teachers.

Seeing students and their parents as excited for chess with the enthusiasm usually reserved for sporting events, organizers get revved up too and delight in knowing students are — well, thinking.

“Chess is a game of strategy and a game of sportsmanship and skill,” Seremet said. “It promotes critical thinking.”

Seremet also likes that chess isn’t a “winner takes all” game.

“You can learn just as much from losing games as you can from winning,” she said.

Cummings and his wife, Hattie, a gifted education teacher, brought chess to the county schools in 1999, Hattie said.

In 2000, the first tournament was held with 56 kids playing.

The tournament has only grown since, with chess clubs popping up in schools and parents introducing the game to children at home.

The Davis family of Waldorf got a chess set for Christmas, in part because parents Sean and April Davis saw that their son, Miles, 5, seemed to have an analytical way of thinking.

Sean figured Miles might like chess, he could show the boy a couple of moves. Maybe older brothers, Sean, 21, and Nehemiah, 17, could join in, too.

Miles took to chess like a duck to water, his parents said.

“He paid attention and started to pay more attention,” Sean Davis said, adding that Miles would play every day if he could.

Two months later, Miles was taking part in his first tournament and was the youngest player at the event.

“So far I beat everyone I played,” Miles said about why he liked the game.

“He’s playing his game today,” Hattie Cummings said. “He’s holding his own.”

Miles’ winning streak continues as he placed first, along with first grader Timothy Martinez, in the kindergarten through second-grade division.

Chess is more than a game, Felix Cummings said.

It is a way to teach children and teens that for every action, there is a reaction.

“Chess is about planning your next move,” he said. “For every move that they do, there is a consequence. They start planning two, three, four moves ahead before even making their first move.”

It also helps when it comes to sportsmanship.

Players are taught to respect each other. They shake hands before and after a game, and if a player is serious about his game, he is learning from his opponent, storing knowledge, moves and strategies for use in future matches, Cummings said.

“You can see them thinking,” said Maryann Bourassa, content specialist for gifted education with the school system, as she watched students studying their boards and pieces. “You can see the concentration.”

Kathy Stapleson, a gifted education teacher, talked to a group of mothers while her grandson Matthew Green, 8, played in the tournament.

“I told him each time you play a new person you’re learning something new,” Stapleson said.

Meggan Barker, whose son Ben was in the tournament, said she was impressed that her 8-year-old knew how to do something she didn’t know how to do.

She said it’s cool to sit and watch the students think without having a video game in their hands.

Winter chess tournament winners announced

Charles County Public Schools held its annual winter chess tournament Feb. 22 at Thomas Stone High School. More than 175 students participated in the event, which is the largest turnout in recent years. The tournament is sponsored by the school system’s gifted education and instruction departments and is open to any student in grades kindergarten through 12.

The tournament follows a Swiss-style format in which each student plays four games. Students competed in five grade-level divisions, and trophies were awarded to first- and second-place winners. Third-place winners received medals for placing, and all participants received a certificate for their performance. Felix Cummings served as the tournament director.

The following students were winners in their division:

Grades kindergarten through second:

•Timothy Martinez, first place, first grade, William B. Wade Elementary School;

•Miles Davis, first place, kindergarten, William A. Diggs Elementary School;

•Jace Darvill, third place, second grade, Wade;

•Joseph Diana, third place, second grade, Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School;

•Emily Matundan, third place, second grade, J.C. Parks Elementary School;

•Ihshan Kazim, third place, second grade, Eva Turner Elementary School;

•Alan Sebastian, third place, second grade, Wade;

•Manav Soni, third place, first grade, Wade; and

•Tarun Veeramarchnani, third place, second grade, Wade.

Grades three and four:

•Arya Forohar, first place, fourth grade, Mary H. Matula Elementary School;

•Jason Shaffer, first place, fourth grade, Mitchell;

•Caleb Jenkins, second place, third grade, Parks;

•Dwayne Isaacs, second place, fourth grade, Parks;

•Sholom Murphy, second place, third grade, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer Elementary School;

•Natalie Green, third place, third grade, Wade;

•Solomon Griggs, third place, fourth grade, Diggs;

•Rodney Harrison, third place, fourth grade, Matula;

•Daniel Huttig, third place, fourth grade, Diggs;

•Brett Michael, third place, fourth grade, Matula;

•Nathan Michael, third place, third grade, Matula;

•Maci Mulloy, third place, fourth grade, Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School;

•James Olmsted, third place, third grade, Dr. James Craik Elementary School; and

•Jackson Osborn, third place, fourth grade, Diggs.

Grades five and six:

•Bradley Brown, first place, sixth grade, Theodore G. Davis Middle School;

•John Glassman, first place, fifth grade, Matula;

•Christopher Rand-Crawford, first place, sixth grade, John Hanson Middle School;

•Kristof Lile, second place, sixth grade, Matthew Henson Middle School;

•Eric Fotang, third place, sixth grade, Milton M. Somers Middle School;

•Francis Franch, third place, fifth grade, Arthur Middleton Elementary School;

•Alyssa Gerhart, third place, fifth grade, Wade;

•Payton Green, third place, sixth grade, Davis;

•Collin Jenkins, third place, fifth grade, Parks;

•Brandon Luton, third place, sixth grade, Somers;

•Mathew Padath, third place, sixth grade, Benjamin Stoddert Middle School;

•Ebin Sebastian, third place, fifth grade, Wade;

•Brenden Thompson, third place, sixth grade, Henson; and

•Daniel West, third place, fifth grade, Middleton.

Grades seven and eight:

•Kyle Noah Batchelor, first place, eighth grade, Piccowaxen Middle School;

•James Tabourne, second place, seventh grade, Stoddert;

•Ethan Allshouse, third place, seventh grade, Somers;

•Paulo Bonilla, third place, seventh grade, Davis;

•Gabriel Dizon, third place, eighth grade, Mattawoman Middle School;

•Jarrett Mulloy, third place, seventh grade, Piccowaxen; and

•Joshua Sokol, third place, seventh grade, Stoddert.

Grades nine through 12:

•Franklin Olmsted, first place, sophomore, Maurice J. McDonough High School;

•Michael Tritt, second place, senior, Westlake High School; and

•Steven Jones, third place, senior, North Point High School.