Coach Ted Komada motivates his chess team in preparation for the SuperNationals of chess, this week in Nashville, Tenn. Credit: Laurel Morales/Fronteras

Playing chess at Killip Elementary in Flagstaff, Ariz. is a big deal, and Ted Komada, who started teaching 14 years ago, coaches the chess team.

Dozens of these students who play chess after school are getting ready to head out to Nashville, Tennessee to compete with about 5,000 other young people at the SuperNationals of chess. The competition happens every four years and the last time the Killip Elementary team went, they placed a team at third in the nation.

Komada says chess gives him, and his students, control. The school has the highest number of kids from low-income families in Flagstaff. Just two months ago, a young man was shot just down the street during chess practice.

The after school activity allows for students to have a safe place to come after school, while also training their brain.

“You decide whether you want to attack queen side, king side, attack with a knight or a bishop,” Komada says. “I love chess because it makes me feel powerful because I’m in control. I mean there’s not too many things in life that you have complete control over. Chess is one of them.”