You may have seen them on TVNZ’s Breakfast with John Campbell – three bright siblings from Hillsborough, breaking barriers in the chess scene.
The Po’e-Tofaeono children are the first competitors of Pasifika descent (Samoan and Niuean) to win at the national level, and qualify for the National Interschool Championships (NICC) held in Australia.
This achievement was a great feat for Tyleah (11), Hunter (10) and Grayson (8), considering they only learnt the game a year ago. Youngest sibling, Grayson, says he only joined the Chess Club at Hillsborough Primary for the free biscuits, but it was not long before he began to show signs of brilliance. He then went on to teach his older brother and sister the game at home, and they too excelled at the strategic game.
Chess Club coach, Wayne McDougall, volunteers at the school, and after discovering their natural skill on the chess board, he began entering the siblings into competitions. They went on to secure top placings at the Auckland Regionals, Power Champions Tournament and then nationals in Christchurch, which automatically qualified them for the NICC in Melbourne.
Parents, Zelda and Masina Po’e-Tofaeono, were surprised at their interest in chess, but were blown away when they began winning tournaments. They were most proud of the mental strength and resilience they displayed during competitions, especially when the pressure was on.
Zelda believes there is a lot of excellence out there, but families may lack the resources or support to take their children further. She hopes their story will help inspire others to try new things.
“This whole experience was definitely an eye opener. If this is what our children can achieve with the best support and guidance, imagine the possibilities there are for other kids to succeed at the highest level.”
(Chess extraordinaires Hunter (10), Tyleah (11) and Grayson (8))