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20120309-Sharyland-ISD-Chess-Champs-002MISSION — Two Sharyland Independent School District students have qualified for national chess competitions.

Anthony Van Wagoner, a seventh-grader at Sharyland North Junior High (SNJH), and Katherine Mata, a sixth-grader at Shary Elementary, placed first in their divisions at a recent state chess tournament.

Now they are looking at competing in nationals.

Anthony said he started playing chess after watching his older brother play. He said he wanted to be like his older brother. Anthony won all seven of his games at the state tournament.

Katherine said her dad convinced her to start playing.

Her mother, Gloria, said that now her daughter beats her dad.

Both students said that even though they do not practice every day, they get a lot of help when they practice with others, from their chess coach, participating in meets and by playing computer games such as Chess Master.

Anthony said he was happy and proud of himself for his achievement.

“I never knew I would do it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Katherine said she was shocked when she discovered she placed so high.

“I didn’t expect that I was going to get first place,” she said.

They are both looking forward to going to nationals. According to district policy, they will need to raise funds to compete.

The national competition for Katherine will be held in Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN. Anthony, if he’s able to earn enough money through fund raising, will be going to Town and Country in San Diego, CA.

Both said they have learned lessons from competing.

Katherine said she learned to defend her pieces and then attack. Anthony agreed with her adding he learned not to be too aggressive.

Gloria Mata said she is proud of her daughter and is happy that Katherine is competing is a sport like this that uses her mind.

Anthony’s mother, Mari Liza, is impressed with her son’s abilities, partly because she has no idea how to play the game herself. She added that she is proud of him because it is a difficult game and it’s nice to see how much he enjoys the game.

“Hopefully they are learning things that can help them with a career down the road,” she said of the strategic game.

Both students said they plant to continue playing chess.

“I shall be an old man playing chess,” said Anthony.

Sharyland High School’s chess team won first place at the state tournament. The chess team at Shary Elementary also won a first place trophy in the Elementary JV division. B.L. Gray Junior High’s Knights won a third place team trophy in the JV division.

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