TWIN FALLS — Every move is calculated. Every thought is at least three steps ahead. These are just the beginning steps to mastering chess.
Behdad Ebadeh Ahwazi challenges Peter Clark to a game of chess. Clark, a math teacher at Robert Stuart Middle School, has an ongoing rivalry with Ebadeh Ahwazi, the eighth-grade president of the school’s chess club.
They sit down for their 15th game. So far Ebadeh Ahwazi has won two games.
“People think of chess players as nerds with thick-rimmed glasses,” Clark pauses. “I guess we can’t dispute that cause we are both wearing thick-rimmed glasses.”
The two start their game. To the untrained eye, it looks like an even game: blow for blow, piece for piece. Clark smirks and uses this as a moment to teach.
“In higher level play even losing a pawn is crucial,” he said as he takes a pawn.
Ebadeh Ahwazi looks at the board, his king isn’t immediately threatened, but he admits defeat.
Ebadeh Ahwazi isn’t discouraged by the loss; he uses it as inspiration. He plays with everyone. He reads books on it. He plays a chess app.
It’s more than a game, it’s his lifestyle.
At noon Saturday, Robert Stuart Middle School is hosting its second chess tournament. The chess tournament is open to all skill levels.
Every Thursday at Robert Stuart, upwards of 20 students attend the club meetings — including homeschooled students and students from Robert Stuart, South Hills and Vera C. O’Leary middle schools.
The club started last year when Clark wanted to give students a place to learn the game.
Clark started playing chess at 8 and in played in tournaments in junior high.
“You guys can be as good as you want to be,” he said. “It depends on how much time you put into it.”
Ebadeh Ahwazi’s advice for anyone wanting to get into the sport is simple: “You need to take time and study it so you know what you’re walking into.”
The club is full of burgeoning prodigies. Darren Su, a fifth-grader at Sawtooth, walks around the club asking every person if they want to play a game.
Su doesn’t hesitate to ask an adult to play him in a game. He’s even quicker to announce when his opponent has made a bad move.
Eighth-grader Lincoln Whitney recently beat DeWayne Derryberry, one of the top chess players in Idaho.
“Every game is different than the last,” Whitney said. “It’s a fair game.”
Chess is a chance for students to think in a different way, said Lindsay Clark, Peter Clark’s wife and partner in overseeing the chess club.
Lindsay Clark, who oversees the homeschool group, said they’ve built this club from the ground up so kids can learn to play.
“The best thing about chess is that anyone can play,” she said.