Checkmate: School Chess Club Scores Big With Inner City Kids

When the lunch bell rings, instead of heading out to the playground, some kids at Lowell Elementary head to the school's library instead.

"It's a game of thinking," 5th Grader Robert Blanco said.

Dozens of 4th through 6th graders at Lowell elementary spend their lunchtime playing chess.

"It's just really cool to learn. When you learn it, you'll have fun, it's fun to play," Blanco said.

It all started because of a loud lunchtime.

"The students were noisy, they were getting up out of their seats, they were throwing food," Tim Dorais, Lowell Intervention Teacher, said.

So they took the students more prone to that behavior and taught them the game of chess.

"They I think are surprised themselves at how important this has become for them," Dorais said.

"I like how all the players look and all the ways you can go with the king and the queen," Brian Cupian, who just learned to play chess this year, said.

Robert Blanco says checkmating his opponent is fun.

But it's not all about winning and losing.

In chess, everyone's a winner, especially when it comes to Robert's grades.

"I'm getting higher grades and higher and higher. Every time I get a C, then I come to chess and I get my next weekly progress report and I get a B," he said.

In a poverty-stricken neighborhood like Lowell, chess is an unlikely game to find kids playing.

But they are.

"I just want to play chess forever. It's so good to play chess with all these different players," Francisco Cornejo said.

Because the chess club has been so successful at Lowell and is helping kids with math and communication skills, the school has now incorporated the game into its curriculum.

Teachers were trained over the summer and now spend about 20 minutes a day teaching chess to their second through sixth grade students.