You could hear a pin drop: Chess challenge qualifier draws 53 students

Chris Felix says it's the only time you'll ever walk in on 50 kids in one room and be able to hear a pin drop.

Felix, tournament director of the Nova Scotia Provincial Chess Challenge, says the atmosphere was positive but intense Sunday at the Rosaria Center at Mount Saint Vincent University, where the open tourney was taking place.

There was "absolute quiet" as students from Grades 1 through 12 tried out for the Canadian Chess Challenge.

"It's tense in some ways," said Felix, who used to take part in the tournament as a student.

The challenge has been an annual event for almost 30 years, he said.

Chess on the rise

Participation numbers peaked about 12 years ago, but Felix said they've begun to climb again in the last several years, with more than 30 participants in every Nova Scotia Scholastic Chess Association event this season except one.

"Chess is making a comeback in the province," he said.

He says chess has equal appeal for the students and their parents.

"From parents' perspective, they love chess because it's teaching the kids logical thinking, it's helping them with concentration, patience, going from A to B of detailing a problem and coming up with a solution," he said.

"The kids love it because it's a sport. You're meeting new players, you're competing with somebody and you're playing a game on a board, so you're having fun but you're also learning."

Not likely to win nationally

The 53 students in the chess tournament play grade against grade, with the 12 winners invited to the national tournament. Felix said Ontario and Quebec are the usual winners (Nova Scotia has placed fifth), but the trip is a fun event that helps the kids form new, sometimes lifelong, friendships.

Felix said there are still events in Nova Scotia this season and anybody interested can make contact with the Nova Scotia Scholastic Chess Association.