The school’s conquering heroes — its chess players — were blowing off steam. On Sunday, in Minneapolis, they became the first middle school team to win the United States Chess Federation’s national high school championship. The team, mostly eighth graders, beat out top high schools like Stuyvesant in Manhattan and Thomas Jefferson in Alexandria, Va.
The victory burnishes what is already a legend in the chess world. At I.S. 318, more than 60 percent of the students come from families with incomes below the federal poverty level. Yet each stairwell landing bristles with four-foot chess trophies, and the school celebrities are people like James A. Black Jr. A 13-year-old with twinkly eyes and curly eyelashes, James is not a football hero or a valedictorian, but a certified chess master who gently corrects his teachers on the fine points of strategy.