Find Your Passion: Making Every Move Count

Robert Maxwell An economics and finance major, Maxwell was one of 14 UA students who taught chess to 50 children at Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary and Middle Schools during the fall semester. (Samantha Hernandez)

By Deirdra Drinkard

University of Alabama student Robert Maxwell is no stranger to the game of chess.

The royal game of strategy was something Maxwell became interested in at a young age.

“My dad taught me to play chess, and we still play each other whenever I go back home,” Maxwell says. “I enjoy chess because of the type of competition it offers.”

The opponents playing chess are on an equal playing field, Maxwell says. Unlike football or basketball, size does not matter in playing chess; it is all in the strategy.

“In chess, both players play on a level field and whoever has the best plan and the best execution wins,” Maxwell says. “There is no better feeling than having a plan and setting it into motion and seeing it succeed. It's an awesome way to grow as a competitor and as a player.”

His love for the game continued over the years, but not until his senior year of college did Maxwell have the opportunity to share his passion.

Robert MaxwellMaxwell learned the game of strategy from his dad. (Samantha Hernandez)

Through the Center of Ethics & Social Responsibility initiative Every Move Counts, Maxwell, a senior majoring in economics and finance from Huntsville, was able to share his knowledge of chess with Tuscaloosa Magnet School children.

“Chess is a great way for kids to relax and have fun--and they really do have fun--but still be doing something very beneficial and educational,” Maxwell says. “The Every Move Counts class gave me the opportunity to get involved, and as soon as I heard about it I jumped right on it.”

As part of the class, Maxwell worked with three seventh graders at Tuscaloosa Magnet School for a 45-minute session of chess each week. Maxwell was one of 14 UA students who taught chess to 50 children at Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary and Middle Schools as part of Every Move Counts during the fall 2010 semester.

“I was expecting to teach some students the basics of the game, and I thought it may give me a better understanding of how to teach chess and a feel for how much the kids enjoyed it,” Maxwell says.

With the guidance of the in-class portion of the Every Move Counts program, Maxwell was prepared to teach the basics of chess and assist the TMS students in bettering their chess skills.

“We began going over ‘end games’ and learning how to force check mate with different groups of pieces,” Maxwell says. “Eventually they learned openings and tactics so they could play complete games.”

Maxwell said it wasn’t only the children who were taught.

“I've actually learned a lot about the game through the class as well,” Maxwell says.

He says the children truly enjoyed playing chess, and they were good at it.

“The kids are a lot better than you would think, and they legitimately love playing chess,” Maxwell says. “I think adults can view chess as difficult and boring, but I was amazed at the level of excitement and anticipation every day when we got the board out.”

Robert MaxwellUA student Robert Maxwell squares off against Jayden Prince, a Tuscaloosa Magnet School student. (Samantha Hernandez)

Maxwell shared his enthusiasm and passion for chess, and it rubbed off on the TMS students he worked with each week.

“My kids even started playing outside the class,” Maxwell says. “I never knew the game had such a universal appeal, though. The hardest part is making them stop playing before they miss the bus.”

Like the children, Maxwell was not ready for the service-learning class to end, so he signed up to take the class again this semester.

“It has been unbelievable to watch the progression my students have had since day one, and I really want to continue to watch their transformation into chess players.”

Whether moving a pawn or placing a king in check, Maxwell instilled in the children the idea that every move does, indeed, count.

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Deirdra Drinkard is a December 2010 graduate of The University of Alabama College of Communications & Information Sciences. She worked as an intern in the UA Office of Media Relations for the 2010 summer and fall semesters.

This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.