City College wins city high school tournament In chess, 'this team is the best'

March 28, 1996|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

Early yesterday afternoon, City College chess team star Donte Everett was confident that City would roll past public and private schools to win the first citywide high school chess tournament. And City did, 12-0.

"I like being the best at everything," said Donte, a 17-year-old junior. "And this team is the best."

Some 28 students from six public city high schools and Friends, the only private school, competed in the three-hour, double-elimination tournament in the City College library.

Friends School captured second place and Patterson High School was third.

In yesterday's second round, the tension was evident as City began playing Friends in the first meeting of the teams. City had beaten Douglass High School in the first round.

City players wrinkled their foreheads and studied the moves of their private school foes before beating them in every game.

With standouts like Donte, City has developed a reputation as a chess powerhouse in recent years, winning two statewide championships in three years.

"The truth is, I love going into a room filled with people who think, 'Hey, this black kid doesn't know anything,' and beating them," said Donte, who finished first in his category in 1994 at the national high school chess tournament.

Donte, the only varsity basketball player on City's chess team, is the second-ranked high school chess player in the state.

He said playing chess helps his basketball game.

This past season he averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds a game, he said.

"It helps me think better on the floor in a pressure situation because I'm used to playing chess under the pressure of the clock, too," Donte said.

For seven years, the lanky, 6-foot-2 player has honed his chess skills at A & W Shoe Repair on Liberty Heights Avenue in West Baltimore, where novices compete with masters and grandmasters.

Less trash-talking and cheering are heard at high school matches than at the shoeshine shop, but the winning moves are the same, Donte said.

For City team member Maurice Frazier, chess occupies much of the day, from near daily after-school practices to nightly chess games on his home computer.

"My mother takes the batteries out [of the computer] when she wants me to go to sleep," said Maurice, a 15-year-old sophomore.

A month ago, City's team placed third in statewide competition.

If funding can be arranged, the team plans to compete April 26-28 in the U.S. Chess Federation's National High School Chess Championship in Princeton, N.J.

The citywide championship "is really good because there really aren't enough tournaments around for [high school] students," said Martin Lefstein, after watching his son Benjamin, a City College team member, promote a pawn to a queen to defeat a Patterson player.

City's chess record is mostly due to the dedication of the students, said Steven Alpern, a city schools curriculum specialist who coordinated yesterday's tournament and promotes chess playing in schools.

The Abell Foundation funds Baltimore City's school chess teams, paying for foam chess boards, transportation and other costs.

Mr. Alpern said City has a faculty sponsor but no coach to really challenge the team.

"Chess teaches discipline, confidence things that are transferable to the workplace, to life," he said. "Donte needs more competition. As good as he is, with a little work he could be tremendous."

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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