Village School Students Win Chess Tourney

Village School third-grader Mason Rufeh and fourth-grader Ben Shaheen proved they had all the right moves on Oct. 30, when each finished first in a chess tournament in Westwood. Both boys were undefeated at their grade level during the day-long competition.

Students from 14 elementary schools participated, including Saint Paul, Westwood Charter, Canyon Charter, Village, John Thomas Dye, Brawerman, Curtis, El Marino Language, Seven Arrows, Citizens of the World, New West, Mayfield, Turning Point and Brentwood.

Village School students Ben Shaheen (left) and Mason Rufeh took first place in a Westside chess tournament.
Village School students Ben Shaheen (left) and Mason Rufeh took first place in a Westside chess tournament.

The tournament is organized and held twice a year by Women’s FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) Master, Ivona Jezerska.

“We have the tournaments as an extension of the work I do teaching chess/critical thinking at Saint Paul as part of their curriculum during the school day, and in other after-school enrichment programs on the Westside,” said Jezierska, who started playing chess when she was 11 in her native Poland. At age 14, she moved from her family’s hometown of Cieszyn to Warsaw to represent a Polish chess club, Polonia Warszawa. In 1980, Jezierska immigrated to the U.S. and became a member of the U.S. chess team, which played in Greece in 1984 and in Dubai in 1986. She was a top contender in several U.S. women’s chess championships. In the late 1990’s, Jezierska developed “Chess for Success,” a comprehensive chess learning program to improve academic skills and self-esteem for Southern California children.

In addition to after-school classes and private lessons, each summer Jezierska holds a chess camp that involves intensive playing, practice tournaments, and problem solving. Beginners learn all the basics and advanced players move to the next level.

“I played chess every day in my local chess club and loved going to tournaments to test my skills with chess players from other places,” Jezierska said. “In the tournaments I direct, kids are grouped by grade, and trophies are awarded. A good time is had by all—especially by me. I’ve loved chess all of my life and never tire of teaching it to eager students.”

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