Ka Pai Kaiti Kings Chess Club building young champions

By Talisa Kupenga

A chess club in one of Gisborne's poorest suburbs is taking off drawing in young minds of all backgrounds to battle out on the board. Ka Pai Kaiti King's chess club, run by Noble Keelan, is building up young chess champions

A battle of kings and queens driven by young minds.

Ka Pai Kaiti Kings Manager Noble Keelan says "we've gone from about 12 kids, three and a half years ago to about 35 on average a week. We started to train them up to take them to tournaments because none of them had ever seen a tournament."

The kids, between the ages of five-years and 16-years-old, come from all over Gisborne once a week bringing a food bank donation to attend.

Keelan says "we haven't got as many riff raff kids as I'd like to call them like we use to have at the beginning, we used to have quite a few of them and it was a place for them to just come and be safe a couple of hours of the week has sort of grown into this."

Some members have already secured top slots at tournaments, others are building their arsenal to compete.

Georgina Moeke says "I like that we have more people so that everyone can get better. Even if they lose they have more of an advantage than the person who beat them because the person that beat them hardly learnt anything."

Ethan Diack says "it’s strategic and it has a nice little addiction to it."

Sean Molloy says "I just kept playing and I started improving and I wanted to see myself get better.”

Keelan also teaches chess at schools and says kids “just flock to it”.

“I don't know how to explain it. They want to play and as long as they want to play I want to be there for them you know."

Noble Keelan co-founded Gisborne's Eastern Knights Chess Club with chess champion the late Genesis Pōtini, the pair commemorated in The Dark Horse film. Pōtini's son Nopera, Noble's namesake, has just started attending Ka Pai Kaiti Kings.

Keelan says "if he's anything like his father and he's trained by me he's going to be good."

Upcoming tournaments include the Primary and intermediate competitions.