ARLETA : Pupils Make Their Move in Chess Study

While their friends might be using computers to knock off the villains of "Doom," "Mortal Kombat" and the other hot video games, students at an elementary school in Arleta are digitally going after kings, queens and knights.

But these Arleta pupils are not playing some new medieval-age reality game.

They are learning chess.

Intel Corp. and the American Chess Foundation have teamed up to establish chess classes in six cities across the country, including Beachy Avenue Elementary.

Intel, which earlier set up a similar class at Valerio Street Elementary in Van Nuys, has donated about $500,000 to a national Chess-in-the-Schools program.

Hal Milner, a chess master and father of one of Beachy's teachers, will instruct third- and fourth-graders at Beachy in chess moves and strategies.

In addition, the students will be able to e-mail Maurice Ashley--an internationally known chess player--in his living room in Brooklyn to ask advice.

Ashley said that elementary school children take naturally to the heady pursuit.

"This is intellectual karate," Ashley said.

"You don't have to excite the kids about chess."

According to studies commissioned by the American Chess Foundation, children in New York city schools who participated in the Chess-in-the-Schools program improved both their reading and math test scores.

"It teaches them a lot of skills: logic, pattern recognition, cognitive skills, discipline, concentration and causality," said Greg Welch, Intel's program manager.

The teacher of the Arleta class, Michelle Milner, said that her students will be involved in a similar study.

"Psychologists, using my class and another as a control group, are going to test reading comprehension now and at the end of the school year," she said.

The youngsters have been taught the fundamentals of chess by Milner's father, who came to the class at least once a week during the last semester.

In the meantime, Michelle Milner has been incorporating chess into the curriculum in activities ranging from spelling quizzes on the names of chess pieces to reading about people who play the game.

Principal Richard Lioy said he recently challenged one of the students to a game. He got beat, but he was far from upset.

"I was really happy with it," Lioy said.

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