Young chess masters receive Bronx day accolades

Young chess masters receive Bronx day accolades
Deputy Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden (r) learned how to play chess from the students of Roslyn Yalow Charter School on Monday, April 30.
Community News Group/Sarah Valenzuela

Monday, April 30 was officially declared ‘Yalow Tigers Chess Champions Day’ in the borough.

The day, named for the students from the Roslyn Yalow Charter School in Mount Eden, added to the school’s list of achievements in 2018.

The two-year-old institution for primary school children presents a unique educational curriculum.

Students at the school study chess at least once a week throughout the school year.

Though most of the students were introduced to the game after enrolling at the school, they claimed the title of 2018 New York State Scholastic Chess Champions in two of the divisions at the tournament.

“When I play chess, it makes me happy and it’s part of my life,” said 6-year-old Keyla Acevedo-Hernandez.

The kindergartener bested four of her six competitors during the two-day tournament.

“I get a little better everytime, even if I lose,” she continued. “But I wasn’t nervous, I was excited.”

Keyla was one of 25 students from Roslyn Yalow Charter School that travelled to Saratoga, NY with the support of parents and school administrators, for the competition, which was held in March.

Roslyn Yalow CEO, Alec Diacou, said the purpose behind including chess in the school’s curriculum was to motivate kids to come to school.

More than that, Diacou said the game helps teach critical thinking, focus, and how to be competitors in life.

While the basics of chess examine vertical and horizontal patterns, the game also teaches self preservation, added the Chess director at the school, Jerald Times.

The win, though catching the attention of many in the community, also captured the attention of the office of the borough president.

And deputy borough president, Marricka Scott-McFadden, visited the school on Monday to deliver the proclamation, congratulate the youngsters and learn the game from the masters, themselves.

“I was astonished when I first heard what they accomplished,” exclaimed the deputy borough president. “I’m happy I don’t have to play against them.”

The students even gave her a copy of a guide book called, ‘How to Beat Your Kids at Chess.’

“There are not enough words to describe how we feel about our scholars,” said Letta Belle, principal of the school.

“These scholars defied the odds and socioeconomic stereotypes against students from urban communities like ours,” she added, speaking to the number of competitors the students beat out, who were from some of the top private schools in the city and the state.

More than a month after the competition, parents still beamed with excitement at the accomplishment that most of the students simply regarded as just another day and just another game of chess.

“When they won, we were so happy,” delighted Andres Acevedo, Keyla’s father, who had the pleasure of travelling to watch her and her classmates compete in Saratoga. “I’m so proud of them and Keyla.”

The school raised $15,000 to take the students and their parents to the New York State championship.

Next year, however, the school plans to raise double that amount to give the ‘Yalow Tigers’ the chance to checkmate their competitors at the next National Chess Championship, according to Diacou.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at

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