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The Champions' Game Paperback – May 9, 2017
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"An inspiring, true story." - Kirkus Reviews (starred 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)
About the Author
Saul Ramirez is the chess coach and art teacher at Henderson Middle School in El Paso, Texas, where he coached his students to win the national chess championships in 2015 and 2016. Ramirez grew up in El Paso's Segundo Barrio, one of the poorest zip codes in the United States, and discovered chess as a child, which became a pathway out of misfortune. Ramirez, like his current students, competed and became a champion in various state and national tournaments. Ramirez graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in May 2010 and started teaching at Henderson Middle School in August of that same year, where he continues to create new paths for the dreams of his students. He lives in El Paso with his wife, Edna, and two children, Saul Jr. and Frida. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
The reader is treated to how purpose was instilled and nurtured in Ramirez’s life during his formative years and how that foundation was built upon and fostered to the next generation. Using the principles of chess and relating it to life Ramirez and his protégés achieve great triumphs. This story reminds me of “Lean on Me” (1989) and “Stand and Deliver” (1988) movies. It should be on the cinematic screen too.