The next generation of chess masters making moves in Las Vegas

The next generation of chess masters making moves in Las Vegas
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 7:24 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Across cultures and generations, the game of chess is a universal language. “Chess is a fight. We are warriors of the mind,” said Pierre, a 60-year-old chess player.

“My favorite move is by moving my queen to a place where it’s open,” said Nash, a five-year-old player.

It’s a game where ability trumps age and experience. “You never know with kids how good they are,” said Pierre. “So you have to treat every single game as if you’re playing the best players in the world.”

With their boards set and a lot of confidence in their play, the next generation of chess masters is prepared to face any opponent.

“When I walk into the classroom, I’m like, ‘Okay, you got this, you’re ready for the game,’” said eight-year-old Alessandra.

“I have a board in front of me, my opponent’s in front of me, there’s a timer next to me. I enter chess mode,” said nine-year-old player Jonathan.

“I’m the champion person,” said Nash. “Every time I play chess, I beat them.”

The player pool is getting younger as chess has quickly captured the attention of children and teens, including in Southern Nevada.

Bridgeopolis in Las Vegas introduced chess tournaments to their schedule a year ago, starting with only five players. Now, they have 250 players, and half of them are children.

The Knight School, which collaborates with CCSD to organize after-school chess clubs, has experienced a similar surge in the game’s popularity.

“When I first started off, we had about 50, 60 kids citywide that were involved with the program. Within the last year, we’ve grown to about 150 kids,” said Kenneth Chapman, a chess coach at The Knight School.

Perceptions of the game are changing, too. From beginners to teens competing on the world stage, the consensus among many kids is the same: Chess is cool. It’s a phrase that was rare to hear in generations past.

“Back in those days, I would say that chess was more like nerdy than anything else,” said Pierre.

“Chess for the longest time had the reputation of only being for smart people, but in reality, it makes you smart,” said Chapman.

Proven to boost academic performance, chess provides exercise for a developing mind.

“They get the ability to be more critical in their thinking, to plan ahead, to take responsibility for their own actions,” said Chapman.

Kate, a 13-year-old player, highlighted the importance of focus, “You need to focus. You need to just block out everything else and just see what you have going.”

These are all skills acquired through chess that young players can apply in the classroom and beyond.

“School, tests, very useful then. When other people are like, ‘Oh no, how do I do this math?’ I can just tune that out,” said Kate.

“It has helped me even with my career,” said Pierre, “because one of the things about chess is you have to notice all the little subtleties and all the things that are happening, and as a software engineer, that’s the same thing when you chase a problem in a piece of software, you need to look at all the details and catch everything.”

Through wins, losses and draws, young chess players learn that dignity and respect are more valuable than their queen.

This talented new set of players is making big moves in the chess game at any age.