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JEFF RISHER - Metzger Elementary School students smile during Friday's Chess for Success state championsips.More than 500 competitors and their supporters flooded the Portland Expo Center this weekend for the Chess for Success 49th Annual State Chess Tournament.

But it was Metzger Elementary School that took home the championship.

Metzger Elementary was one of six elementary school chess teams to score a 4.0 score, near perfect according to Metzger coach Jeff Risher.

“The highest score you can get is 5.0,” he said.

Along with Metzger, two Beaverton schools, two Portland schools and Hillsboro’s Jackson Elementary scored 4.0 results to share the first place victory.

“We won three and tied two,” he said. “We never lost, which is cool.”

This is the sixth year in a row that Metzger’s chess team has qualified for the state tournament and its first win, said Risher, the school’s physical education teacher. The team has never scored higher than fourth place at the competition.

JEFF RISHER - Students at Metzger hold up their first place trophy at the 2016 Chess for Success state tournament in Portland.Risher, who played on his elementary school chess team as a boy, said that chess can do wonders for kids’ performance in school.

“Chess helped me focus as a student,” he sad. “I struggled but when I learned to play, it helped me focus in the classroom, work through problems and helped my critical thinking skills. Being able to bring that experience to kids is great.”

The Metzger chess club is quite popular, Risher said. More than 50 students play on the team, and more are welcome.

“We don’t put pressure on kids who want to just play for fun,” he said. “It can be a fun, social game, too. On Tuesday we have kids who want to play in tournaments and travel, and on Thursdays we just have fun, hang out, learn how to play a little better and not feel the pressure of tournament play. I think that contributes to the popularity. The kids have different options.”

That love of the game was evident on Friday, Risher said.

“In that final round, our top kid was playing the highest ranked kids at the tournament,” Risher said. “It was a tough match, but after the game the kids stuck around and played three more games with each other. They were helping each other and laughing and having fun even though first place on the line. That’s what it’s about: Kids coming together and having a good time with a game that they love.”

Nine of the team’s players are headed to the Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation's state championships on April 30 in Seaside.

By Geoff Pursinger
Assistant Editor
The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood
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