TODAY

TODAY   |  April 04, 2013

Arizona students learn confidence through chess

Teacher Ted Komada started a chess club nine years ago at Killip Elementary School in Flagstaff, Ariz., hoping to help students build confidence. The team has now won five consecutive state championships. NBC’s Willie Geist reports.

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>>> in flagstaff, arizona, students are moonlighting with queens and kings. the school's chess team has won five consecutive state championships and this weekend, they're headed to tennessee for the nationals.

>> if chess is a game that requires strategy and patience, then you're looking at a group of kids who move their bishops, kings and queens like royalty.

>> i always like to play --

>> five time state champions, these students are headed to the olympics of chess this weekend. the u.s. chess super nationals in nashville.

>> the queen came out here --

>> reporter: ted started the club nine years ago, many of the students are from low-income families.

>> upwards of 90% of these families are --

>> life is better when i play chess .

>> he says he wanted to help students build self-confidence by increasing their problem solving and critical thinking skill.

>> attention to focus, thinking ahead.

>> a club that started out with two kids. now has about 100 on the team that practices nearly every day and will use those skills to go up against the best players in the country.

>> for those families to be able to get the opportunity to travel to commit themselves to something like the game of chess . they wouldn't otherwise be getting these.

>> he is also the music teacher , moonlights teaching the kids chess . a lot of these kids have never been on an airplane before and this weekend they'll be in nashville, tennessee, competing against the best in the country.

>> just great. and it is such a good education. chess is the game that really opens the mind.

>> pathways get opened up.

>> we'll be rooting for you