PLAQUEMINE - MSA-West sixth grader Ty Robinson took home top honors at the Louisiana Scholastic Chess League Holiday Tournament Dec. 14, winning all of his matches and coming in first place.

Robinson helped to lead MSA's middle school chess team to fourth place in their first ever team competition, finishing half a point behind Metairie Academy.

Starting this year, MSA has added scholastic chess classes to its catalogue, offering the opportunity to both middle and high school students.

Participating students spend time every day studying chess theory, solving puzzles, and preparing for competitions.

The top students from the middle and high school divisions have an opportunity to join the school's team and compete against other area schools.

In January, team members will travel to New Orleans and Baton Rouge to compete in league matches.

"Some of our players only learned to play this year and we're already winning against established schools," team captain Robinson said. "If we keep working hard, I think we'll have a successful season."

The program started last year as an extracurricular club, but was added as a course in response to the activity's popularity. Chess teacher Scott Stephenson says of the program,

"Studying chess is highly motivating, and it teaches students the value of concentration and focus," chess teacher Scott Stephenson said. "It shows kids the connection between hard work and success."

A substantial body of research has shown the study of chess to help students to think critically and creatively, to apply math skills and logic and to solve problems and learn to work with others.

"It's really fun, and it's helped me focus and think more, not just about chess but about everything else too," sixth-grader Logan Webb said. "It's probably one of the best things that's happened to me."