Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chess Queen: Ellen Wanek, Chess Coach


Chess queen: Ellen Wanek became a chess coach by accident
10:48 PM, Feb. 4, 2011
Written by
janet ortegon
Sheboygan Press staff

Ellen Wanek and students. Image from article.
Ellen Wanek doesn't look like someone who would slay your king or capture your bishop. With her bright blue eyes and wide smile she looks like she might invite you over for tea or ask about your family.

Instead, she lovingly says things like, "Do you know the difference between a draw and stalemate?"

Wanek, 59, is the new chess coach at Sheboygan Christian School, a school already known for its skilled chess players and commitment to the game.

But the gig happened by accident.

A longtime devotee of chess, Wanek took a call last spring from parent Kim Werth, whose children were involved in the school's club. Their coach was stepping down and the club was in need of new leadership.

Werth said she called Wanek out of the blue and she had a sales pitch all ready. She didn't need it.

"Right away, she was just like, 'Yes, I'd love to, thank you so much for asking!'" Werth said. "I was like, 'Really?'"


Wanek took over the club, and as she helped the 26 members prepare for today's big tournament, she has emphasized the power of the game to help them develop their thinking skills, their strategic planning and problem-solving.

"There is such a multitude of blessings and benefits scholastically and personally," Wanek said. "Really, every parent would have their child in chess if they understood that. I even hate to say 'play' or 'game' because it's more academic."

For instance, studies show that chess results in higher IQ scores and strengthens a child's language and math skills, memory, critical thinking, demonstrated concentration and logical thinking, Wanek said.

"That was the turning point for me — the calmly thinking through the consequences of your actions," she said. "I thought, man, how many young lives would be changed today if they'd been able to calmly think through consequences of their actions?"

Of course, all those mental benefits don't mean chess isn't fun. At practice this week, Xavier Lee focused on the board in front of him and tried to figure out what his opponent, Tommy Eggebeen, was going to do next.

Rest of article.

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