October 3, 2004 — At 10 years old, Ivana Santos’ chess skills have already taken her places.
The Paredes Elementary School fifth-grader traveled to Portland, Ore., last year for a tournament and was invited this year by the U.S. Chess Federation to represent the country at the 2004 World Youth Championship in Greece.
Family influence has played a part in her success, she said.
“I was playing chess when I was in second grade because my brother Ivan (15 years old) started chess before I did and he said that it was fun,” Ivana said. “He’s the one that taught me.”
Ivana still plays chess with Ivan and their 9-year-old younger brother. The competition has helped her improve her skills, said Remy Ferrari, a chess coach at Paredes.
“She’s a very good player; she’s one of our best and she comes from a family of chess players,” Ferrari said. “I think that adds a lot to the skill level. They can play together and practice at home. It motivates them.”
Paredes Principal Jay Harris was also proud of Ivana’s accomplishments.
“It’s an honor that has no words to describe,” Harris said. “For a child from Brownsville to just be in something like that is tremendous.”
The World Youth Championship runs from Nov. 3-14 in Heraklio on the island of Crete in Greece. Ivana is among 28 elementary, middle and high school students from the United States invited to attend the competition organized by the Greek Chess Federation.
Brushing up on her chess skills is just one way Ivana is preparing for her trip. She is also reading up on the country to know some of its history and culture before she arrives.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Ivana said, adding that she doesn’t know much about the country, “but they discovered a lot of stuff there in ancient Greece.”
Ivana’s family still must raise funds to pay for the trip. Ivana and her parents each need to purchase $1200 plane tickets to Greece and pay a $420 application fee to participate in the tournament.
“I asked my mom and my father,” Ivana said. “They told me they were going to do fund raising.”
Ferrari said the Texas Chess Association has offered to contribute $1,000 to the cause, and the school has helped the family with letters to request donation.
Other options are still being considered.
“The financial need is basically for the stay,” he said. “They are going to spend two weeks in a hotel over there and they have other needs.”
The family asks donations be sent to the IBC account 900486620.
Ferrari said chess is something that children enjoy and can learn from.
“From the kids perspective it’s just something fun to do,” Ferrari said. “From our school perspective it’s something that brings out a lot of skills that our kids may not know they have within them.”
By KEVIN GARCIA
The Brownsville Herald