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Lacomb School east of Lebanon won a regional chess tournament this past weekend in Monmouth and will be sending its team to the state tournament next month

The 51st annual "Chess for Success" state tournament will be March 9-10 at the Oregon Convention Center. 

Seven middle-schoolers from Lacomb competed at the regional contest, held Feb. 10 at Talmadge Middle School in Monmouth. All seven scored points, with the top five counting toward the team score.

Sixth-grader Cassidy Jones and eighth-graders Aiden Abbott and Tyson Rash each scored 4 points. Sixth-grader Caleb Black added 3.5 and seventh-grader Christine Berg, 2.5. Seventh-grader Dylan Heimbuch scored 2 and eighth-grader Carter Nelson, 1.5.

Coach Brandon Weist, who teaches eighth grade at Lacomb, started the chess club in 2015 and said it's been growing ever since.

"I wanted to give the kids out here another after-school opportunity and chess was something I learned when I was a kid," he said. "My fourth-grade teacher, Robert Keller (Foster Elementary: Sweet Home), taught his students how to play chess. Chess has always had that nerdy reputation, but he made it seem like the coolest."

The memory of Keller, who died in 2008, prompted Weist to go into teaching, and to follow his former mentor into leading a chess club. 

Last year's team, made up of nine eighth-graders, took second place at regionals, losing by just half a point.

"Regardless of the outcome, I'm just happy being around a bunch of kids who are passionate about the game," he said. "In this age of technology and immediate gratification, it is difficult for kids to focus, challenge themselves, and stick with something through the end. Chess requires all of that and I'm very lucky to have about 35 kids sticking around every Monday to play."

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