Chess is a longtime tradition at Clear Creek Elementary School, but a regional championship is a new experience.

Fifth-grade teacher Noel Taylor, the tireless sponsor of the after-school chess group, said this is the first year the team has benefited from experienced players on his team and it is paying off.

At a regional chess event that incorporates parts of Texas and Oklahoma, the Clear Creek students won first place in a fifth- and sixth-grade above 600 points category.

Clear Creek chess players also won an under 600 points category for the same age group and a second place in a beginners kindergarten through third-grade division.

To win in the above 600 points category, Taylor said, is special.

“We’ve been able to get hold of some kids who stayed and they are playing at a high level,” he said. “These three did it on their own against teams of five and six players.”

Very honestly, said the fifth-grade teacher, the students are surpassing the teacher in their level of skill.

In addition to the three team trophies, the Clear Creek team came home with seven individual trophies.

They plan to compete at state competition this weekend in McAllen. Cheryl Tyson is Taylor’s co-sponsor for the after-school club.

Fifth-graders Vincent Nautu and Eduardo Buendia and fourth-grader Daniel Torres made up the first-place above 600 points chess team.

“It’s pretty cool,” Nautu said. “We practiced and practiced. We got better and we finally won it. We think (the next level) is going to be hard with competition from all over the state.”

Taylor praised his students’ dedication. They practice after school and attend multiple tournaments. Parents pay a price, too, waiting after school and in some cases driving their children to the tournaments.

“It’s an interesting game,” Torres said. “You have to think strategically and solve problems.”

“Chess is like football to us,” Nautu said. “It’s a fun activity and we dedicate a lot of time to it. Tournaments get nervous, like Survivor. You don’t know what the competitors will be like.”

“At first it’s scary, but it gets fun when you win,” said fourth-grader Rashad Brown, who won a third-place individual trophy at regionals. “It’s fun because I like it. I’ve played since kindergarten and now I can play the good people.”

“It’s peaceful for me,” said fifth-grader Ayla Holden. “I do it when I’m all happy. I thought (the regional chess event) was great. I really improved.”

The kindergarten to third grade under 300 points second-place team includes Alexander Angulo, Jonathan Ansorena, David Pantle, Marcos Rivera, Markus Hass, Graidon Landry, Damion Lopez-Turrey and Braedyn Wisser.

The fifth- and sixth-grade under 600 points championship team includes Thomas Hunt, Logan Dowell, Rashad Brown, Logan Hughes, Sean McCrane, Ayla Holden, Bryce Daniels, Logan Wisser, Jayson Johnson, Hunter Courson, Sarah Rivera, Koby Miller, Noah Vasquez and A’dena Brown.

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