Game of Chess Provides Life Plays for HCDE Special Schools Students

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May 31, 2019 by HCDE Communications

Chess players are constantly strategizing, making choices including how to get out of a fork: choosing the least impactful bad option. For students with intellectual, developmental and behavioral disorders at Harris County Department of Education’s Academic and Behavior School East and West, chess lessons are life lessons.

“One of the things we teach is you never lose, you learn,” said coach James Hudson from PerfectPlay, an instructional nonprofit chess organization. “You calculate your mistakes and move on in chess. If you win, you shake hands because you could have just as easily lost. It’s an honor to play the game.”

Students met for the third annual chess tournament this May after receiving yearlong instruction from Hudson, teachers and administrators at both schools. As a first, AB School West won the competition over two-time winning rival AB School East.

Principal Victor Keys says he introduced chess to his students several years ago after seeing the positive effects of the hobby.

Besides the obvious benefits of building math skills reinforcement and critical thinking, chess can build confidence, pride, discipline, respect and patience, said HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr., a longtime chess player who makes a practice out of playing the top chess player at the tournament.

This year that player was Michael Carley, 14, an avid player diagnosed with a mild form of autism spectrum disorder. Mother Brandy Carley said her son’s temper flared and stress rose when he tried sports like football and baseball.


Coach Hudson says Carley’s love for the game is obvious. He plays up to 10 matches with focus without hesitation.

“He loves chess,” Hudson said. “It’s like any other thing we do. If we’re good at it, we have to like it.”

View photos from the event: (password is hcde1889)

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