THE CHAMPIONS' GAME by Saul Ramirez
Kirkus Star

THE CHAMPIONS' GAME

Age Range: 12 - 16
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Chess is life, and life is chess in El Paso, Texas, the unpretentious setting for an inspiring, true story.

As told to Seidlitz through hours of interviews, Ramirez’s account is a movie-ready narrative about how he—a scrappy, dauntless Henderson Middle School art teacher—took a dozen students, most from underprivileged or lower-income backgrounds, to the 2015 National Chess Tournament and won. Readers are introduced to 12 Mexican-American and Mexican players who not only choose to learn chess, but are determined to compete. “Mister,” as his students fondly call him, cleverly relates life’s lessons to chess strategies: protect the king (oneself); cherish your queen (practice proper etiquette and good manners); control your center (or emotions and actions); know when to walk away; and don’t judge by appearances. Nuggets of Spanish are intertwined, accurately evoking the border’s Tex-Mex sound; translations are efficiently offered as footnotes. While the kids are the stars, it is Mister’s coaching and preparation that motivate his players; he believes that race and economic status have nothing to do with what a person is capable of accomplishing. It is not smooth sailing all the way, which makes the journey all the more endearing. More than anything, Mister’s account is a love letter to these students, to chess, and to El Paso.

Accessible for all readers, this story is a natural for the big screen: check and mate. (appendix, afterword) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: May 8th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9977402-3-3
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Canter Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2017