Alexis, 12, 7th grade – one of the highest rated members of the I.S. 318 team. A thoughtful player, he sees chess, and entrance to one to New York City’s top-tier public high schools, as the first steps on the road to a promising career that will allow him to support his immigrant parents. But getting into a great school is based on the result of a single exam, and Alexis has difficulty performing under pressure.
Justus, 11, 6th grade – a rising star in the scholastic chess world. When he joins the team, he is already a master who has been selected to sit on the United States Chess Federation’s esteemed All-American team—one of the highest national honors attainable by a young chess player. Justus struggles with the unwanted attention his immense talent commands, as well as the sky-high expectations it raises.
Patrick, 11, 7th grade – a weak player for whom chess is more than a game; it’s a way to overcome ADHD and learn focus, concentration and patience. Although he has difficulty with some of the more complex strategies, he displays endurance and commitment that promise to lead him not just to a higher rating, but to newfound confidence in his strengths—in both chess and life.
Pobo, 12, 7th grade – a charismatic student and natural politician. Pobo emerges as a big brother figure and leader to the other chess team members. Dubbing himself "Pobama," the ambitious 12-year-old mounts a successful campaign to become president of the school.
Rochelle, 13, 8th grade – a girl in a world dominated by boys. Not satisfied with being one of the best at her school, she has her sights set on becoming the first African-American female master in the history of chess. Her goal requires that she strike a careful—and difficult—balance between her demanding academic routine and grueling chess practice schedule.
Elizabeth Vicary, coach/chess teacher – a chess champion and the guiding force behind I.S. 318’s blue-ribbon chess team, Elizabeth Vicary has helped hundreds of kids go from not knowing how to move the pieces on the board to winning national titles. When she arrived at the school, the chess team was only 10 members strong and had never competed in a tournament. By the end of her first year, it had won a national title.
John Galvin, assistant principal/coach – now in his 17th year at I.S. 318, John Galvin is a veteran educator and dedicated chess coach. He’s tough—but supportive—and his high expectations have resulted in a culture of success that pervades I.S. 318. When the financial crisis begins to impact the school, he mounts a community-wide campaign to push against funding cuts and employs budgetary wizardry to save the programs that make I.S. 318 great.
Fred Rubino, Principal – in Principal Rubino’s 25 years at I.S. 318 he’s witnessed how high-quality afterschool programs can turn a school around, and it’s made him a fierce defender of the school’s innovative activities. Deeply committed to his students, he faces budget cuts with dogged determination to keep I.S. 318’s programs intact, and ensure every student has access to the resources they need to excel. Rubino, who was made Superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 14 in 2012, passed away suddenly in April that same year.