WIMAUMA — After a summer break, the Wimauma Elementary state champion chess club is back at the boards again.
This year, the sixth-grade former teammates moved on to Shields Middle School, where school officials plan to start a team to continue the students' momentum.
At Wimauma Elementary, principal Roy Moral, who created the chess club more than a year ago, didn't waste any time in the new school year.
"I'm playing right now against a second-grader who is kicking my butt," Moral said when contacted by phone. So far this year, there are 25 members from kindergarten to fifth grade in the Wimauma chess club, but many students have not yet returned from up north, where their parents pick summer crops.
Moral started the Wimauma chess club at the end of the 2006-2007 school year shortly after taking over as the principal, having guided a team at Palm River Elementary to the regional championship.
At Wimauma, he began with first-graders, some of whom knew chess moves from a teacher demonstrating coordinates on a plane. The excitement spread. Children taught siblings and classmates on the playground. Soon the club grew to 40 students. They began to place well in local and regional tournaments.
Local groups helped out with grants. The Redlands Christian Migrant Association bought handheld electronic chess sets for children migrating north with their parents.
A grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City helped pay tournament fees. For April's state tournament in Orlando, Allstate Construction and the Hillsborough Education Foundation sponsored the team.
The then-fifth-graders from the Wimauma team brought back the first-place trophy, while the younger students came in seventh out of 26 teams.
Moral said he has offered to help out the students who moved up to Shields, in addition to the time he puts in with the after-school club at Wimauma.
An October tournament awaits, and then after that, if the students are ready, the national championship is held in December, he said.
"We'll take a look at how they're doing, and if they're ready, we're taking them," he said.
Saundra Amrhein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 661-2441.