Parrott senior leads chess club in first tourney
At the end of four rounds and a tie break, Mitchell Wheelis (sixth grade) placed first, Meade Evans (eighth grade) placed second and Max Begelman (eighth grade) placed third. Photo by Amy Davis / Special to Neuse News
“OK, “ senior Alex Wheelis told the gaggle of younger boys, “Be sure you’ve paid your entry fee, get some good nutrition, maybe practice a little online and definitely get some sleep.
“See you tomorrow!”
Brief but direct, the Arendell Parrott Academy senior sent his young chess club participants home to prepare for the school’s first chess tournament.
“He’s the master,” one new club member said walking out the library door.
After starting the school’s student chess club in the fall of 2017, Alex Wheelis has become a role model, a coach, and an event organizer for a group of about 20 middle schoolers.
“Our participation has varied, from about 18 students to about 30,” Wheelis explained.
Most are middle school boys. During weekly club periods, the chess players pour into the library, grab the boxes of boards and pieces from behind the librarian’s desk and settle down for a quick game or two.
“Alex is a great mentor because he shows us new moves,” Jayden Beaman said.
Wheelis moves around the library tables, makes suggestions, and encourages his club members to “work out” with the Li Chess online site. Charlie Johnson, a tall junior from Greenville, serves as Alex’s informal vice president.
”He’ll take over next year when I’ve graduated,” Wheelis said of Johnson.
On Jan. 17 , ten club members faced off in the school’s first tournament. For most of the kids, it was their first competitive chess event. Wheelis, however, plays for a New Bern club team at regular events held at Books-a- Million.
At the end of the tournament’s second hour, after four rounds and a tie-breaker, Mitchell Wheelis placed first, with Meade Evans second and Max Begelman third. From entry fees, the club provided gift cards as awards.
“Players adapted to the tournament pressure within a few rounds, kept their head held high even after a loss, and continued to play great chess even in the second hour, “ Wheelis said. “For most players, this was their first tournament, but all enjoyed it and they can’t wait for the next one.”