Friday, February 29, 2008

Flashback: May 17, 2007


RODOLFO R. ROMAN Special To The Miami Herald

Webber J. Charles, an art teacher at Edison Park Elementary School, seemed an unlikely choice to coach the chess team when it was started two years ago. For starters, he didn't know how to play chess, as he explained to assistant principal Joe Rubio when he was first approached about the position.
But Rubio persisted, so Charles finally said yes and decided it was time to learn how to play chess.
"I love challenges," Charles said. "They motivate me. I bought computer chess games and started to practice on my own and with the kids."
Today Charles is a chess player and champion coach. In Cinderella-like fashion, the Rooks pulled off a stunning victory in state championships, held in March, placing first among teams in the K-5 category. Four players on team finished in the Top 20 at the championships, held at the Sheraton Miami Mart Hotel. In all, more than 1,500 students participated in the championships.
"I was in shock," Rubio says, describing his reaction to the news that the team had won the championship. "We faced schools that have had the chess program for more than 15 years. I knew they would do well."
It was vindication for Rubio, who decided to start a chess team after arriving at Edison Park two years ago. His previous job had been at Paul W. Bell Middle School in the Fontainebleau area, and his experiences there made him believe in the powers of chess.
"I introduced the game" at the middle school, he said, and "all of a sudden, I saw these kids who were hyper calm down.
"They started to do better in school, and their way of thinking changed."
At Edison Park Elementary, 500 NW 67th St., practice takes place several afternoons and some mornings in Charles' classroom. Students play among themselves and sometimes against Rubio and Charles. As they play, they jot down notes to learn from their mistakes.
Among the team's 18 members is 11-year-old Monique Patterson, who started playing at age 4.
"My grandpa taught me, and I learned a lot of different strategies," she said. "I play with him every weekend."
Monique, a fifth-grader, credits the game with making her smart.
"I sometimes [help] do my brothers' sixth-grade homework," she notes.
Jacqueline Cordova, also 11, echoes the sentiment. "The game helps me in math," she says.
Chess helps her in other ways, she notes.
"Id rather be here in school playing chess because theres a lot of violence in my neighborhood," she said.
Charles makes sure his players are ready to play. It's a lesson he says he learned early on, after the team had been beaten badly in its first few tournaments.
"I felt bad when they lost, so I took it upon myself to teach them," he said.
Charles says he asked other chess coaches for advice, read journals and studied harder himself.
His practices are nonstop and feature not only games but also computer training, lectures and brain teasers to keep their minds flexible.
"I tell these guys that we play hard," Charles said.
The championship has not gone unnoticed. The Florida Leadership Council, a privately owned tutoring company in Miami, recently provided the team with T-shirts, new playing boards, clocks and carrying cases for chess boards.
"Our company decided to invest in these kids' enthusiasm," said company CEO Manny Riera. "We wanted to be a part of the team and community."
Charles is proud of his players' accomplishments.
"This is really a success story," he said. "Nobody gave these kids a chance, but now they are respected wherever they go."
Jacqueline says that respect starts at home.
"My parents are proud of me," she said. "I plan to play it all my life if I can.
"At first it was tough because I did illegal moves, but I got used to it. This game makes me think and challenges me, which I like."
For information about the Edison Park Rooks, call Charles at 786-269-4337.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Orchard Villa Gets It Going

I recognized Steve Kirby from the chess teachers meeting in September. He is new to teaching chess and asked me to come by. I had a demo board and teaching guides donated to his school. He has a good group that is really into playing chess. He admittedly is still learning too. He said he learned a lot from the presentation. Orchard Villa is very close to Edison Park. I noticed cameras scanning the school from inside the office. I have not seen that at an elementary school. The principal escorted me to the classroom. Mr. Kirby is the sponsor of the 500 Role Models group. Several students had ties and button down shirts. As I was leaving a couple a student escorted me out. I gave him a chess set I had in my trunk. Soon after several others came running....needless to say my trunk is now empty.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Miami-Dade Chess Teachers Association

Webber Charles (Edison Park), Fabricio Rivas (Milam K-8), Yalili Aguinaga (Eveglades K-8), Isabel Espinoza (Citrus Grove Middle).
These are the folks that will lead the newly formed M-DCTA. The awesome logo is original and was created by Webber. According to Webber," It is a symbol in which our organization can stand behind. We are committed to quality, excellence, and high standards in all our endeavors." The group is in the process of adopting bylaws, incorporating, setting membership fees, creating a letterhead, business cards and all the other details involved in organizing this body.
I have said all along that in order for the chess program to reach new heights, the teachers have to organize and voice their sentiments. There is power in numbers and there will be no support for chess (administratively) unless it comes from the masses. I mean support that merits the need and current participation. There are over 5,000 students learning and playing chess. It will also help in terms of communication and the association can help guide the direction of chess in the county. The art teacher's association recently met with the superintendent which gives them credibility and visibility. I hope all will support this group and participate.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Neighbors 4 Neighbors Visits Edison Park

On May 17, 2007 the Miami Herald's Neighbors section did a feature on Edison Park and its recent success (I will reprint the article Friday). The reporter Rodolfo Roman contacted his colleagues at Neighbors 4 Neighbors CBS 4. The film crew was at the school Friday shooting and interviewing the students. The exact date of the segment was not immediately announced but will air in the very near future. Art/Chess teacher Webber Charles is on a mission. His ideal is to create opportunities for his students to reach their potential. I can't articulate the positive impact his efforts have had on the students as well as the school.
Additionally, Edison Park placed 2nd in the K-8 section of MICA's Grand Prix this past Saturday behind Rockway. Of note as well, Olympia Heights' K-5 team also did well playing up a section. Edison Park spent a week at MICA this summer sharpening their skills.

It is paying off...not to mention all the tournaments they are attending.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flashback: May 5, 2000


Rodelay Medina, varsity kicker on the Miami Jackson High School football team, has become the country's top scholastic chess player.
It's the second year in a row the school has produced the national champion in the United States Chess Federation tournament. This year, 1,395 players from 185 schools competed in North Carolina April 28-30. Jackson's six-man team finished fourth. In 1999, senior Marcel Martinez captured the title.
Medina, 18, learned chess at age 6 from an older friend in Cuba. He came to South Florida in 1995 after his mother, manicurist Lazara Gonzalez, won an immigration lottery. They live in Little Havana.
Medina said he knew three English words when he arrived: pencil, teacher and table.
He enrolled at Miami High School, where his sister, Yamara, 16, still attends classes. Medina switched to Jackson, where chess team coach Mario Martinez has built a respected academic and competitive chess program.
In chess, said Medina, ``you can plan your future; it depends on you. Just like life.''
He also said that chess has dramatically improved his math skills.
Mario Martinez called Medina ``a real dedicated player and true student of the game. He loves competing and doesn't like to lose, but he also likes to teach and share what he's learned and work with the guys'' on the team.
During the tournament, Medina played 28 hours of chess in three days. The final game, which took 3 hours, 50 minutes, left him exhausted.
But he said he knew from the beginning that he would win; his opponent ``made a few mistakes in his opening.''
Medina gives private chess lessons, and recently started teaching the game to youths ages 7 to 17 for the Miami Parks and Recreation Department.
His supervisor, Barbara Wade, calls him the best thing that ever happened to the department. She coordinates the Youth at Risk program for the Miami Love Project.
``We promote leadership with neighborhood role models,'' said Wade, who praised Medina's patience and respectful manner.
Through the summer, Medina will teach chess at nine parks in the city system: 35 kids per park, Wade said.
``He believes he can teach anyone, and that's a great strength to me,'' she said.
Medina is hoping for a college scholarship for the fall. ``I'm waiting for a school where I can play both: football and chess,'' he

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stormont Kings Keeping Pace

Chris Stormont...Bringing It


Steve Violeta, 11, and Vic Song, 7, stare each other down. They contemplate their next move. Goal: To annihilate the other.
The two Pinecrest Elementary students aren't about to duke it out, however.
Instead, Steve, a fifth-grader, goes for the jugular -- on a chess board.
He checkmates Vic, a first-grader, during the school's chess club's third annual chess tournament earlier this month.
About 50 kids at the school, 10250 SW 57th Ave., meet each Thursday for an hour with instructor Chris Stormont to learn the game of kings.
Most people take Saturdays off or spend the day taking care of chores -- mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, washing the car.
Not Stormont.
He has spent every Saturday since 1991 teaching young people how to play chess at the Miami-Dade Kendall library branch.
Stormont, founder of the Stormont Kings Chess Club, has also taught at Temple Beth Am, Village Green Christian School and various Miami-Dade County parks.
He now has classes for chess clubs at Pinecrest and Sunset elementary schools and Kenwood K-8 Center.
In 17 years, he has helped thousands of children learn the difference between a pawn and a rook and how to move a bishop or a knight. He's taught them the touch rule -- you touch a piece, you play it.
But, many parents say, he has really taught the kids so much more:
To think ahead and pay attention.
To follow rules and win, or lose, with decorum.
And, amazingly in many cases, to sit still and quietly for up to hours at a time.
''Chris is a disciplinarian. He's a blessing,'' said Sue Courshon, whose grandson Ben Spiegelman, 7, has been playing for a year.
``They learn cooperation and they learn to use their brains.''
Daniel Mirones has noticed the difference in his son Peter, 7, a first-grader at the Pinecrest club.
''It certainly has improved his focus,'' Mirones said.
``It's helped him develop mental discipline.''
For Kyle Neufeld, 8, chess is the perfect activity because he is more of an introvert and not comfortable in team sports, said his mother, Kelli Neufeld.
''He's always afraid to fail the team. This is more one-on-one,'' said Neufeld, a teacher at Pinecrest who lets Stormont use her classroom for the club.
Stormont is proud of his kids.
He keeps three big blue scrapbooks of photos from the tournaments, with standings and scores.
''I want to remember all the kids and it's good to show them who won,'' he said.
He started playing as kid.
''My father taught me to play at the age of 9 and I have been playing ever since,'' Stormont said.
``My first opportunity to join a chess club was at South Miami Middle. The coach there told me that I had the potential of becoming a strong chess player and he invited me to play in a tournament between South Miami Middle and West Miami Middle.
``I tied for first place, which made me feel very proud.''
He started a chess club in high school and helped run a local chess club before he began his own 17 years ago.
Since then, Stormont, who also gives private lessons, has had thousands of students.
The hardest part is ''getting them to learn how and when to force a win,'' Stormont said.
''My biggest accomplishment is starting the chess club and having it thrive for so long. It has allowed me to positively influence many children through chess. It is very gratifying to see the children progress and gain confidence in the process,'' he added.
``I am especially proud of being able to help many children with disabilities through the game.''
Cathy Carrera said chess has taught her 10-year-old son Zachary, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, to keep trying.
''It stimulates a certain part of the brain. Our neurologist told us about it,'' Carrera said. ``One year, he played twice a week because it was doing him a lot of good.
''It helps his self-esteem. He's very good at it. It is something he can do well and help other kids with,'' Carrera said.
Others, like second-grader Justin Broce, have learned about winning.
Justin, who says his favorite move is ''castling,'' when more than one piece can be moved during a turn, won the tournament earlier this month at Pinecrest.
How did he do it?
''I'm not telling my secret,'' Justin said.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Foreclosure Doctors LLC 305.300.2055

Gil Luna, Javier Gonzalez, Jeffrey Haskel, and Bruci Lopez

The US Amatuer Team South championship was played over the past weekend and the Foreclosure Doctors squeaked by in the last round to come home with the varnished log. Captain Gil Luna says," Bruci did his job, Javier and I were solid and Jeffrey Haskel was awesome." The Miami contingent was down 1/2 a point gong into the last round and needed a win against the Flaming Flamingos. The Falmingos were lead by Corey Acor and Eric Rodriguez. Haskel beat Rodriguez in an awesome attack according to Luna. "He castled and played g4. He used two Knights and aimed his bishop across the diagonal and overwhelmed Eric", said the Captain.

Individual Winners
Board 1: Bruci Lopez (5-0)
Board 2: Eric Rodriguez
Board 3: Jeffrey De Jesus
Board 4: Michael Corello

Team Results

The Foreclosure Doctors
W20 W6 D12 W9 W2
Flaming Flamingos
W13 W7 W3 W4 L1
W21 W15 L2 W12 W7
Foreclosing Your Castle
W14 W10 W8 L2 D6
W16 L8 D14 W20 W12
For more information check site below

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

MICA Holds IM Invitational

By FM Marcel Martinez (reprinted from USFC website w/ permission from the author)

MICA held an IM Invitational (January 2-8) right after the Pan-American Championship, also in Miami. The good news is that the Miami IM Invitational is here to stay! Sponsor and chess player Eric Hecht and organizer IM Blas Lugo are promising to make it happen in the future, at least 3 times a year. This is great for Miami chess, cause it means more GM and IM norm chances for the area.

The January IM invitational counted three IMs: IM Jacek Stopa, IM Blas Lugo and IM Evelio Otero. Jacek Stopa is from Poland, and goes to school at UTD. He had such a great time at the tournament we almost had to induct him into the Miami chess family. IM Blas Lugo had his hands full as player and organizer. IM Evelio Otero from Cuba is a very strong player who has been inactive for a while but is hoping to come back to the mix soon. The seven other players in the event were: FM’s Bruci Lopez and Marcel Martinez as well as locals: Marc Esserman, Eric Rodriguez, Rodelay Medina, Eric Hecht, Gaston Andretta (from Argentina but resides in Miami Beach).

The event was very hard fought and ended up in a three-way tie between IM Blas Lugo (who came out the winner on tiebreak), Harvard graduate Marc Esserman and me, Marcel Martinez. Without a doubt Esserman was the Cinderella story of the event, tying for first from the middle of the chart and achieving his first IM norm. He also did it in an amazing way by winning 6 games, losing two and drawing one. In Blas Lugo and my case, the result was less surprising as we were among the top seeded of the event.

I was a bit disappointed, but not with my result. I thought I had achieved my third and final IM norm. My FIDE rating is 2418 and many people think my IM title is long overdue! Unfortunately, I only played four titled players so I couldn't get the norm despite having a high enough performance rating. Esserman, who earned a norm, had the same score, but because I am an FM, his field included five titled players.

Jacek Stopa scored six points to finish right behind the top finishers. FM Bruci Lopez who just graduated from chess powerhouse UMBC just relocated to Miami , his hometown. Bruci did not have his best performance to date, though he finished with 5 out of 9. Bruci will be one of the Miami Sharks newest acquisitions for the 2008 U.S. Chess League. Evelio Otero scored 4 points but now is determined to change this performance for the next events. Argentinian National Master Gaston Andretta scored 3.5. Eric Rodriguez and former US High School Champion Rodelay Medina each earned 3 points. Rodelay had the flu at the tournament but even so, he won his game against Stopa, which was decided to be the Best Game of the event. Eric Hecht, the sponsor and player achieved 1 point out of 9, which will bring him into the FIDE list.

Having these events right in our neighborhood is great. Even better news is that they will keep happening so keep your eyes open for more news and norms from Miami.

In September 2008, The Miami Beach Convention Center will be the host of the II Miami Chess Open. The 2008 edition will be in South Beach to ensure the players fun while playing for $100,000 in prizes so mark your calendars for September 10 to 14 of 2008.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008 South Regional Results

The 2008 South Regional tournament exceeded expectations ( 560 students) as we continue to learn and strive to improve this premier tournament. The tournament will always be held on the last weekend in January. Authentic assessments (tournaments) are the true measuring stick for students. The competition was fierce especially in the K-3 section where Olympia Heights, University School and Amelia Earhart all scored 16 points. Not to be out done, the K-5 section also had three way tie for first place with 16 points including Flagami, Olympia Heights and Biscayne. Complete results can be seen at or

The TDs above included some the best young players in the United State including former University of Maryland BC FM Bruci Lopez (2476), FAU student Eric Rodriguez (2245), FAU student Brian Goldstein (2091), MDC student Alex Villafuerte (1956), GM Renier Gonzalez (2568), MDC student Gil Luna (2073), FIU student William Kennedy (1717), and Santa Clara teacher Judy Flores. (not pictured..MDC Student Javier Torres (2232) and Greater Miami Chess Association president Ivan Ochoa (2005) .

Lopez (UMBC), Rodriguez (FAU), Goldstein (FAU), Villafuerte (MDC), Gonzalez (MDC), and Torres (MDC) recently participated in the Pan American championship involving the best colleges teams in the country. MDC and UMBC both advance to the final four.


1. Freedom Shores
2. Norwood
3. Amelia Earhart
4. Everglades K-8
5. Pinecrest Ft. Lauderdale
6. Olympia Heights
7. Biscayne
8. Eugenia B. Thomas
9. Reinassance
10. Twin Lakes


1. Olympia Heights
2. University School
3. Amelia Earhart
4. Flagami
5. Freedom Shores
6. Snapper Creek
7. Eugenia B. Thomas
8. Charles Hadley
9. Norwood
10. Everglades K-8


1. Flagami
2. Olympia Heights
3. Bicayne
4. Norwood
5. Mae Walters
6. North Dade Center for Modern Languages
7. Eugenia B. Thomas
8. Oliver Hoover
9. North Beach
10. Rockway Elementary


1. Rockway
2. University School
3. Jose Marti
4. Hialeah
5. Curry
6. Highland Oaks
7. Jane S Roberts
8. Doral
9. Miami Sprngs
10. Ammons


1. Archbishp McCarthy
2. Miami Beach
3. Southwest Senior
4. Suncoast
5. Coral Park
6. Archbishop Curley
7. Ferguson
8. Ronald Reagan
9.Palm Beach Lakes
10. Spanish River