Chess clubs raising money to compete on state and national levels

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Jeseamy Muentes

The Minor Threats Chess Club traveled in 2013 to tournaments throughout the city and state, and as far away as Nashville — for the Chess SuperNationals in April.

Now, Minor Threats and the Philadelphia Chess Society, which include Paul Robeson Elementary Chess Club and Blair Bishops Chess Club, are raising money to participate in even more competitions this year.

The Philadelphia Chess Society is working to raise $20,000 to get 40 students to the Pennsylvania State Scholastic Chess Championships in Carlisle, Pa.; the Junior High National Chess Championships in Atlanta, and the Elementary National Chess Championships in Dallas.

Minor Threats founder and coach Jason Bui has created a page on the crowdfunding site, which allows people to donate online, as well as leave messages for the students.

“It’s amazing the messages and [donations] that are left from complete strangers,” Bui said.

Bui and the Philadelphia Chess Society have also started to sell key chains, shirts, and stickers, and have held bake sales to raise money.

Winners at these competitions receive a trophy and can receive recognition in either an individual or club category. In the K-6 division, Minor Threats brought home a team trophy, winning second place as a club at state championships in March.

“Some other clubs, they fool around,” said chess captain Tahvon Hughes, a 5th grader at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary in West Philadelphia.

“I want to go to Dallas because we’re serious, and we want to represent our city and our school.”

Named for the late 1980s band Minor Threat, the club comprises students from different schools, ages 7 to 13, in grades 3 through 7. They practice one hour every Tuesday in the Kingsessing Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, with Bui making a point to go over the pros and cons of every move the players make.

“It helps me in math,” Hughes said. “And it helps you slow down when you do things in life and think.”

Besides their weekly practices, the club also goes to bi-weekly Saturday tournaments throughout the city.

Through these competitions, Bui said, the students "get exposure to things and people they would not get otherwise.”

“There have been a lot of firsts for the kids [in Minor Threats], first time getting out of the city or first time out of state,” Bui said.

Besides the chance to play against the best in their age group in the country, Bui said that the traveling also allows the chess club to gain new perspective on the world.

“Their lives are different after these big events,” he said.

Jeseamy Muentes is an intern at the Notebook.