Hora Hora Primary School's chess club has only been running for about five months yet the students already have two tournament wins under their belts and now a ticket to nationals in Christchurch.
At the Chess Power regional tournament held at Whangārei Intermediate School on September 10, the school's junior chess team placed first; the rookie team placed third; and students Tyson Waru, Tiana George and Olive Lehmkuhl were the top three competitors and have been invited to compete at the national chess competition in Christchurch next month.
Teacher Joseph Tobin, who started the club because he wanted to get some kind of lunchtime activity going, said the kids were "pretty pumped" and he was "ecstatic" and "surprised".
"It's pretty amazing. It definitely shows the depth of the kids interest as well as their commitment to it. Particularly those kids who came in the top three positions, they're up there training two hours a week, every week."
In June, Tobin took eight students - including a few who hadn't played before the club was established - to their first tournament and walked away with the top team award. Two students placed second and third.
After that competition the number of kids attending chess club went from about 10 to 20.
"The interest and the level of competitiveness has definitely spiked. They're starting to want to test their skills against me, which is really cool.
"I try to play the top three kids a couple of times a week. One has [won] but they all should be able to beat me now because I'm rubbish," Tobin said.
Chess club runs during the lunch break on Thursdays, which is when the competition team attends, and Fridays, which is when those who have never played can head along.
He said the players heading to nationals had been training during those times.
"We're looking at specific strategy. Everything I'd shown them before was entry level and now we're just looking at things that are a little bit more intermediate. I'm trying to keep the interest up rather than drilling them hard.
"I'm focusing on giving them some tuition, and then next term after we get back from nationals I'll be running a fun tournament for everybody else that didn't get a chance to go."
Tobin said he was "incredibly proud" of his students.
"It's not just a fluke, they are trying so hard for this," he said.