Kings and queens

Winning trophies is part of the fun associated with the Bregy chess team.
Photo provided by Karen O’Hara

When David Barnes joined the F.A. Bregy School chess team three years ago, little did he realize that one day in the near future someone would ask: “How excited are you about going to Tennessee?”

This has nothing to do with a family vacation or a trip to visit Elvis’ home in Graceland. So why is he going, you ask? Well, it’s a pretty big deal. Barnes and his teammates will be in Memphis May 10–15 for a very important chess match — Super Nationals, which takes place once every four years. Bregy, 1700 Bigler St., is one of several teams from across the country that received an invite to participate.

As one can imagine, Barnes is pretty excited about the upcoming journey.

ldquo;It’s going to be a great opportunity to play against other kids. It’s going to be a really good tournament,” he said.

But before they can start thinking about boarding a plane, several team members, including Barnes, will be traveling by bus to Lancaster for a state competition taking place March 10–12. Coach Karen O’Hara, who is an eighth-grade teacher at the school, shares the excitement of her players.

“This is an unbelievable experience for them,” she said. “Some of them have never been away.”

Of course, like most overnight trips, there are travel expenses that the Bregy team is responsible for paying. There is a gofundme page ( set up to help cover the costs. O’Hara, who enjoys playing the game herself, said they are looking to raise about $3,000, which will help pay for lodging and travel.

Chess is extremely popular at Bregy, as some 40 members, ranging from grades second to eighth, gather three mornings a week from 7:45–8:30 to play games. Many of them end up becoming members of the team.

Starsheya Taylor, who is in seventh grade, is one of the first-year team members. Like the others, she started out as a club participant.

“I like it a lot,” Taylor said. “I am just going to states this year. I still have a lot to learn. I am learning a lot of tricks and strategies.”

The Bregy squad has also competed against other teams from the School District of Philadelphia. Bregy finished fifth in the Philadelphia Scholastic Chess Middle School League standings with 15 points — a half point behind Mitchell. Center City-based Masterman claimed top honors with 24 points. They lost to the №4 seed in a recent semifinal match.

Chess is one of the many After School Activities Partnerships programs being offered to Philadelphia students. The mission is to develop high quality after-school activities and resources to empower youth and strengthen communities around the city.

Eighth-grader Tyrone Robby is one of the many who looks forward to playing at school.

“I have fun with all of my friends,” he said.

Like being part of a basketball, baseball or soccer team, the players celebrate after achieving something great. For Taylor, it came after achieving her first checkmate in a school district event, and the whole team congratulated her.

With two more big events still to come, there will very likely be several more memorable stories to share down the road.