New chess sets coming to every high school in Rutherford County

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — There’s a lot of silence and thinking when it comes to the game of chess, but teacher Joshua Burns enjoys watching his students concentrate and formulate their next moves.

“They look at the moves,” he said. “They study the games, the gambits. If I do this, you do this. What’s next?”

For the last five years, he’s been the chess sponsor for the middle and high school teams at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro.

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“They will start in the sixth grade,” said Burns. “We have a tremendous amount of young players this year…sixth grade, seventh, and eighth.”

He knows just how powerful this game can be for his students.

“They use these tools of forethought and practice, and they discuss chess as if it were a sport in any other context,” said Burns.

However, not every high school in Rutherford County has the opportunity to provide chess to their students.

“So just one small move can make all the difference, and that’s what I hope we do,” said Rob Mitchell.

Mitchell is the property assessor for Rutherford County and has found a way to change that.

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Thanks to a grant from Camping World, he was able to purchase chess gear for every high school in the county.

“Studies have shown that children that are involved in chess have better conflict resolution skills; they score higher on verbal and reading,” he said. “Their mathematic equity is higher and their critical reasoning ability is also higher.”

Knowing the game’s importance, Mitchell is also working with the governor’s office to secure grants that would support implementing chess into existing teacher lesson plans in schools across Tennessee.

“Why should a child in Rutherford County have a benefit to lifting themselves up and having success more than a child in Shelby County or more than a child in Cocke County?” he said.

It’s a game filled with precision and strategy, something Burns hopes other students will soon have the privilege to experience.

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“It’s interesting and fun to watch that process grow,” he said.

Mitchell is also launching a new chess competition where one student from each high school in Rutherford County will compete in the “Tournament of High School Chess Champions.”

The competition is scheduled for this spring.

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