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March 27th, 2011

Detroit Chess gets Visit by Alexandra Kosteniuk

Hello everybody!
I had a great time yesterday in Detroit at the Thinker’s Chess Challenge Final. I met more than 200 kids, analyzed chess games with them, gave a lecture, answered questions, signed books, distributed prizes to the winners. Everyone had a great time. Read the article that just came out in the Detroit Free Press.

Students put their chess skills to the test at Detroit competition

Russian chess master Alexandra Kosteniuk offers advice to Deniro Irving, 13, of Detroit during the Thinkers Chess Challenge on Saturday in Detroit. Students also competed, and some will go on to national tournaments. / ROB WIDDIS/Special to the Free Press

Nolan Bryant, 9, made a bold chess move. His opponent, Autumn Trader, 7, was caught.

“Do you declare checkmate?” a monitor said to Nolan.

Nolan had used his 35th move to block Autumn’s king with his rook for the win.

“He said he saw” the opening, said Autumn. “I said, ‘Oh, boy. I’m done.’ ”

Autumn and Nolan, both students at Washington Parks Academy in Redford Township, were among hundreds of children who participated in the Thinkers Chess Challenge on Saturday at UAW Ford headquarters in downtown Detroit. Players were split by grade or rating in the competition, the last in a series of five.

Row after row of chairs held students with furrowed brows, hands on foreheads and pencils scribbling moves. Some of the players will go on to national tournaments.

“This is kind of a prep tournament for them,” said Tom Nelson of We Play Chess, a company that helps run tournaments, including the one in Detroit.

National tournaments are nothing new for the chess team at Washington Parks. Many of the students play.

“At our school, playing chess is cool,” said Kierrah Roberts, 13, of Detroit. She started playing with her grandmother, a former Detroit Public Schools counselor and chess coach, in fifth grade. Kierrah said her math has improved and she has become more deliberate.

“If you take time in life and slow down, you make the right decision,” she said.

Parents and coaches paced outside the tournament hall, fighting the urge to peek on the players’ progress.

“It’s hard to resist,” said Robert Sutton, 60, of Redford Township. His daughter Nicole Sutton, 14, also a student at Washington Parks, was competing.

In another room, less experienced players learned from their mistakes as Russian chess master Alexandra Kosteniuk analyzed students’ games.

She followed Mehmed Udalag’s play list. Why that move?, she said of the Flint boy’s start — a pawn, mid-board, moved two spaces.

Mehmed, 7, thought it over. “Because it controls the center.”

She showed him vulnerabilities as Justin Song, 5, of Canton looked on. Both started playing about a year ago.

Still hours before the competition was over, Sohan Yadav, 10, of Northville was having a snack and thinking about winning a trophy. His strategy?

“I don’t know. I just make it up as I go along.”


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