When you think of chess champions, the first thought that goes through your head probably isn’t junior-high-school kids in Brooklyn. But the borough’s I.S. 318 can boast that it has the highest-ranked student chess team in the nation, with several players that would make Bobby Fischer break a sweat—including Rochelle Ballantyne, an eighth grader who could become the first female African-American chess master. Documentarian Katie Dellamaggiore tracks these underage winners through a series of highs and lows as they defend their title. If the film occasionally bumps up against the limitations of its Spellbound-like template, its refusal to ignore the social issues outside of the classroom proves it’s more than simply a novelty human-interest story with impressive knight moves.
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