St. Ethelreda School chess team wins state title

By Chicago Catholic
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Members of the chess team carry their trophies down the hall as St. Ethelreda School, 8734 S. Paulina St., honored them with a pep rally and indoor ticker tape parade on Dec. 3, 2019, to celebrate the team winning the Illinois State All Grade Chess Championship. (Denise Duriga/Chicago Catholic)

The St. Ethelreda School chess team took home top honors in November at the Illinois State All Grade Chess Championship winning first place overall. Individual players Shakira Luster, 13, Trechelle Williams, 14, and Imani Hill, 14, took home third, fourth and 10th places.

The school, located at 8734 S. Paulina St., celebrated the team with an all-school pep rally on Dec. 3. News of the team’s success caught the attention of local news outlets and Good Morning America.

Eric Luster, father of team member Shakira, has been coaching chess at St. Ethelreda for four years. He also teaches seventh and eighth grade science and math at the school.

As a professional chess player himself, he has plenty of skills to pass on, and friends who are willing to help teach the 50 kindergartners through eighth graders who participate on the school’s chess team.

All that work has garnered tables full of trophies, proudly displayed by the school’s front office. It has also helped members of the team find skills and talents they did not know they had.

The team usually has two practices a week, one for kindergartners through fourth graders and one for fifth through eighth graders. There is a wide variety of skills in both groups, Luster said, but teaching chess is just like teaching a regular school class: You have to tailor the material to reach each player where he or she is.

“We can all be working on openings, for example,” Luster told the Chicago Catholic in May. “But some are learning the basics and some are way ahead of that.”

Good preparation is about one-third playing games, one-third running drills and one-third studying, and some of the best learning can happen during tournaments, when a better player might take the time to explain to someone they’ve just beaten how they could have improved their game.

“That happens a lot with the adult tournaments,” Luster said. “I’m not sure how much it happens with the kids.”


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