Putting Wise County in check; Library offers community chess lessons

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, June 22, 2016
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Lessons in Patience

LESSONS IN PATIENCE – Instructor Tim Trow (center) works with (from left) Elizabeth Highlander, Kino Sanders, Jorge Padron and Vanessa Jacquez between matches. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

At 7 years old, Dylan Duran sat somewhere near the median age of participants in the Decatur Public Library’s chess club Monday evening session.

He and about 20 other elementary-age students watched closely as instructor Tim Trow demonstrated an evasive move on a practice board. Then they settled into their own games.

Duran’s mother, Lindsay, said her son has been playing chess recreationally for about a year. The normally-hyperactive Dylan is quiet and reflective during a chess match, she said.

HEAD GAMES – A student concentrates during a match Monday evening. Messenger photo by Joe Duty


“He’s in the gifted and talented program, but this helps him block everything out,” she said. “It’s kind of his quiet place.”

Trow said he starts most beginner chess lessons teaching students the squares on the board, designated by their rank (horizontal) and file (vertical) coordinates.

“Last time, what I taught them to start was the names of every square,” Trow said. “Pretty soon they get that algebraic location. Pretty soon, when we get to puzzles, I can say, ‘just tell me what the move is.’ They might say, ‘rook to H-8,’ and that’s the answer. They have to learn the talk.”

But the game also offers greater life lessons, he added. Trow requires every student to shake hands before and after each match.

“The thing they learn very quickly is they have to focus,” he said. “There are strategies, and every move that they make has a consequence.”

While the club offers free weekly chess instruction for beginners, assistant instructor Jeffrey Keller said he hopes it will bring chess players from around the county together.

“We’ll probably try to roll it over into an actual chess club,” he said. “Right now a lot of it is about teaching, but it would be great for them to come and have a place to play the rest of the year.”

Keller said the program started with Young Elementary teacher Tammy Rainey recruiting Trow to teach chess to students. It proved popular, inspiring more than 50 kids to participate and requiring the use of two rooms at the school. After that, Keller said the goal was to bring the game to even more people.

“We kept it going into the next semester,” Keller said. “None of us wanted to see it go away over the summer, so we talked to the library about getting it started here for the community.

Rank and File

RANK AND FILE – A young chess player gears up for another match Monday night. The library’s free community program started at Young Elementary but moved off-campus for the summer. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“This is something to give kids an opportunity to come out and play against multiple people instead of just one opponent,” he said. “We’re trying to open things up for kids. Decatur needs more stuff for them.”

While the library’s community program hasn’t eclipsed the school’s, Keller said he’s seen a few of his old students at the summer sessions, and Monday’s turnout should inspire the library to order more boards and pieces. Eventually, he’d like to see the library hold a chess tournament.

“It’s just a very fun game,” he said. “It’s a lot of strategy. It’s a lot of thinking ahead. There have been several colleges that have done studies on it, and your mathematics skills and memory really benefit from learning how to play.

“It’s something good you can do for yourself.”

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