People of all ages invited to play in noncompetitive chess tournament on Saturday

COURTESY PHOTO: DAVE LADUCA - Woodburn School District students have learned to play chess and will be among the participants in a noncompetitive chess tournament at the Woodburn Public Library this Saturday.
The public is invited to participate in a noncompetitive chess tournament at the Woodburn Public Library at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The tournament is advertised as being for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, but organizer David LaDuca said people of all ages are invited to join, including kids outside the Woodburn School District and adults.

Adults who don't want to play chess but want to participate in the tournament can also volunteer as referees who will prevent participants from making illegal plays, LaDuca said.

LaDuca, an English teacher at Chemeketa Community College, helped start chess clubs at his son's elementary and middle schools.

Since he teaches at night, he's a regular volunteer at his son's school during the daytime. The idea for a chess club came about because LaDuca witnessed kids attempting to play checkers at his son's elementary school.

"The real seed was, the kids would come in and set up the checkerboard and flick their checkers," LaDuca said, saying that the kids were trying to knock each other's checker pieces off the board. "I was like, do you guys know how to play checkers?"

So, LaDuca began by teaching some of the kids the right way to play checkers. From there, he told the kids that if they won a certain number of checkers games, they'd automatically be on the chess team.

That piqued the kids' interests, and soon enough a group was meeting to play chess.COURTESY PHOTO: DAVE LADUCA - Students at French Prairie Middle School gather in the school library before classes start to play chess. The growing popularity of chess at the school has been part of the reason the library is hosting a chess tournament this weekend.

Now that his son is a middle-schooler at French Prairie, LaDuca has formed a group there, too. The students meet in the morning, in the window of time after breakfast has been served and before school begins.

"I have up to 16 kids playing chess at a time," LaDuca said. "It's very popular."

For LaDuca, chess is representative of the good qualities he wants to instill in students.

"It's a metaphor for all the good things," he said. "For studying hard, for making wise choices. It's a great metaphor for doing your best for competition and treating other people — different grades, boys or girls — just treating them as an equal."

This is the third tournament organized by the chess club at the library. The upcoming tournament is noncompetitive and won't eliminate players. The participants will play rounds of chess round-robin style with different attendees, but there won't be any tournament winners.

LaDuca said his motto with the kids is "Don't get bitter, get better," a saying that's in line with the noncompetitive but challenging nature of the tournaments.

There will be prizes, though, distributed through a raffle. That includes a raffle for chess sets, which children can enter if they don't have a chess set at home.

LaDuca said anyone willing to donate a used but complete chess set can bring one to the tournament to be raffled off.

The tournament will take place on the second floor of the library from 2-4 p.m. An adult must be present with participating children younger than 10.

The Woodburn Public Library is located at 280 Garfield St. in downtown Woodburn.

Julia Comnes can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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