Phelps makes perfect moves in chess

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 Winning every chess match she played this season was a memorable accomplishment for Pleasant Grove Elementary School fourth grade student Molly Phelps.

“It’s pretty neat,” said the 10 year-old daughter of Joe and Jessica Phelps. “I play the very best I know how in every match.”

Her fastest match was 11 minutes and her longest was nearly an hour with 53 total moves. Her King was checked a few times but never taken in checkmate.

“The season went by so fast,” she smiled. “I really didn’t want it to end.”

Molly was introduced to chess two years ago by her father and immediately bonded with it.

After teaching her how each game piece can be moved, Joe moved on to chess tricks.

“That’s how you win in chess,” Molly said. “As a player, you have to set up traps and tricks that you hope can capture the other players’ pieces.”

“Plus, it’s just a fun game,” she added.

Before each match, Molly studies the game board, plans her traps and imagines where she is going to place her pieces.

As the game proceeds, she adjusts her moves accordingly and admits the contest can get stressful when two players with similar strategies are competing in mental warfare.

Chess requires protecting one’s game pieces while capturing the opponents and ultimately putting the other players King in checkmate. The hard part is the opposing player is attempting to do the exact same thing.

Molly considers a chess piece that can only be moved in two directions as the most valuable.

“When you lose a rook, that’s bad,” Molly said. “That piece can do more damage than a knight or bishop.”

She believes pawns are the bravest pieces. They form the front line and are usually among the first to be captured.

During her final match of the season, she thought about being undefeated but did not let it distract her.

“I was pretty happy and excited,” Molly said. “They gave me a medal for winning every match I played.”

Molly participated in 2013 summer chess camp and practices playing an hour every day. She also likes checkers and Connect 4, games which gravitate toward thinking skills.

She has used chess strategies in curricular areas such as MAP testing.

“It’s helped me in my classes,” she said. “I think things through better now that I’m into chess. Mom and Dad are real proud of me,” she beamed.

PGES parent volunteer Joe Phelps and his wife, Jessica, have two chess playing children, Molly and Connor.

“They both decided to play the first year and were a little lukewarm at first but last summer Molly attended Dennis Minnis' chess camp at Maryville Elementary and it really sparked her interest,” Phelps noted, “She started asking me to go over chess games and teach her tactics and strategies every day. She really improved quickly and this year's results are the product of all that hard work! I am very proud of her work ethic.”

The Phelps have also noticed a dramatic improvement in Molly’s grades and test scores since she started taking chess so seriously.

“Molly and I have begun going to US Chess Federation sanctioned tournaments in Louisville to keep her (and my) skills sharp during the summer,” Phelps said.

Bullitt County Public Schools has over 13,200 students in grades kindergarten through 12. There are 25 school facilities, a certified staff of over 900 and a classified staff of over 800 working to make the district the leader in educational excellence.