San Fernando Chess Team Places 12th in Nation


The chess team from San Fernando Junior High School finished 12th in a three-day national tournament in Utah against nearly 500 competitors from 28 states.

Two other California teams, also from ethnic minority neighborhoods in the Los Angeles Unified School District, were among the top 10 contestants in the 1990 National Junior High School Chess Championship, which ended late Sunday.

“I’m ecstatic,” said San Fernando Junior High School Principal Maria Reza. “These are the pluses of working with young people, seeing them excel.”

The team from San Fernando--a largely Latino, blue-collar city--was started in the fall of 1988 by English teacher Steve Hughes with only three regular players. Now nearly 80 members play chess daily during lunch at the school.


This year the San Fernando team raised about $4,000 selling candy bars to buy equipment and pay travel expenses to the national tournament, school officials said.

A team from Stephen M. White Junior High School in Carson finished in seventh place with 17 points and a team from David Griffith Junior High School in East Los Angeles finished ninth with 14.5 points. Teams earned one point for a win and half a point for a tie.

Carson team member Reginald Fayssoux finished 13th in individual scoring, the only California competitor to finish among the top 25 players.

This year’s competition, which was held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, drew 114 teams, said Robert Tanner, national tournament director for the U.S. Chess Federation, which held the event. The overall team winner was from the Dalton School, a private school in New York City, he said.

“This is a very tough competition,” said Jim Jordan, a spokesman for the U.S. Chess Federation.

The chess federation has embarked on a national campaign urging students to “Push pawns, not drugs,” Jordan said.