June 28, 2016


Quiet concentration


Staff Writer

MEDINA — Fourth-grader Connor Brownsberger’s face went from being scrunched up in deep thought to an ear-to-ear grin after winning the second annual Medina City Schools Chess Tournament Wednesday afternoon.

Eight fourth- and fifth-graders competed for a trophy and a plaque at Ella Canavan Elementary, which will have Connor’s name engraved on it and be hung in his school, also Ella Canavan, for the rest of the school year, said Mike Paffumi, a fourth-grade teacher at Ella Canavan who headed up the tournament.

“I’ll probably look at it every day,” Connor joked about the plaque after the tournament. “I’m excited because I made it this far and it’s my first year in the tournament.”

He added he hopes to do it again next year.

Above, Glenn Scheck and his son, Kane, watch the final round of play during the second annual Medina City Schools Chess Tournament, held Wednesday at Ella Canavan Elementary School in Medina. Scheck, owner of Scheck Brothers Construction, donated 250 chess sets to Medina elementary schools and 50 to Medina middle schools. Below, 10-year-old Connor Brownsberger (right), a fourth-grader at Ella Canavan makes his final move for a checkmate against schoolmate Kevin Menyes, 10, during the tournament. (Andrew Dolph | Staff Photographer)

Besides Connor, the semi-finalists who won out of 40 students competing last week at H.G. Blake Elementary were Justin Thompson, Curt Kolke, Jimmy Korkan and Kevin Menyes from Ella Canavan; Jordan Novak and Ryan Berger from Heritage Elementary; and Kyle Gottschalk from H.G. Blake Elementary.

As Wednesday’s competition heated up, the students’ eyes squinted with concentration as they worked to outplay their opponents.

Some sat up straight, resting their chins on closed fists; others seemed more relaxed, slouching or crossing their arms. The only sounds in the room were the soft thuds as each chess piece hit its intended spot and the inevitable “check.”

There were a few jesters in the mix, cracking a joke here and there, while others remained serious, barely cracking a smile.

Fifth-grader Curt brought his hands to his face, shaking his head as Connor took his queen.

The top 40 students chosen to play in the tournament, eight from each elementary school in the district, were given pins with a checkered chess board emblem on them and the eight semifinalists were given medals, which were donated by Glenn Scheck, owner of Scheck Brothers Construction.

The tournament was suggested to Paffumi by Scheck two years ago, after his son, Kane, played in a chess club tournament at Ella Canavan, said Scheck, who showed up Wednesday to watch the competition.

Scheck said he enjoyed watching his son play and have a lot of enthusiasm for the game, and felt the need to contribute more, so he donated 250 new vinyl chess boards to the five elementary schools and 50 new chess boards to the middle schools.

“You don’t have be in the best shape, you don’t have to be male or female, you just play chess,” Scheck said. “I’m just surprised to see the kids get into it like that.”

Paffumi, who ran the chess club at Ella Canavan, decided, with the help of staff members from the other schools, to put together the tournament, he said.

“It really built a lot of excitement for the chess club … now it’s really funny to see how the kids have really gotten a lot better,” Paffumi said. “The recess kids are always asking if I’m not on duty, ‘can we stay inside and practice?’ It’s really neat to watch how they really love it and get into it.”

Justin, a fifth-grader, said while he does get nervous before every game, he loves everything about it, and approaches it from a defensive position.

“It’s just, find a way to stop whatever they’re trying to do,” Justin said of his strategy.

Connor, who wore his lucky red Ohio State hat, said he doesn’t really rely on a particular strategy, he just goes with the flow of the game.

He added his favorite part of the game is “when you win” the moment “you say checkmate.”

Shofar may be reached at 330-721-4044 or cshofar@ohio.net.