Hilltop tournament to raise funds for chess in schools

Most people look at a chessboard, and all they see are static black and white pieces presided over by players in deepest concentration. But TC Ball sees a learning tool with the potential to change lives.

Ball is the organizer of an upcoming speed chess tournament that will raise funds for a new “Chess in Richmond Schools” program. “I’m trying to use the [tournament] as a catalyst,” said Ball, who works with the West Coast Chess Alliance to bring chess to Richmond through community tournaments and family game nights.

With the funds raised by Saturday’s tournament, the WCCA will move beyond chess advocacy to bringing chess equipment to local elementary schools, Ball said. “The thing is getting [kids] exposed to the game,” he said. “I think just getting the chess sets into the schools and going there and doing some workshops will start getting the kids involved.”

The tournament will be held on National Chess Day at Hilltop Mall. Shoppers will be able to see groups of chess players hunched over game boards, pondering their next moves. Ball said he hopes that hosting a high-profile event in the middle of the mall will boost public awareness.

“Richmond has a very rich history of chess,” he said.

Former Contra Costa College president McKinley Williams previously worked with Ball to engage CCC students in chess.

“The tournaments were very successful and created interest among students who played chess during breaks and after classes,” Williams wrote in an email. For students in the West Contra Costa School District, introducing chess is a “no-brainer,” he wrote.

“The successful chess initiatives back east and in Canada have shown us that the game is easy for kids to learn and is something that remains with them for a lifetime,” he wrote. “It also promotes the development of social skills and teaches respect for your opponents.”

The game also teaches problem solving and critical thinking, Ball added. “In chess, the quality of your game is based on the quality of your decisions,” he said.

Chess may seem out of style among today’s youth, but Ball said people from all different walks of life love the game. “If chess has been played for hundreds and hundreds of years in every country, and captured the human mind, why wouldn’t the kids today embrace it?” he said.

The speed tournament at Hilltop Mall is recommended for experienced players, but all are encouraged to watch the games, Ball said.

National Chess Day Speed Chess Tournament

Saturday, October 12

Hilltop Mall Center Court, 2200 Hilltop Mall Road

Entry Fee: $10

Registration: 11:30-12:30 a.m. (pre-registration recommended)

First round starts at 1 p.m. 

Five-round, non-rated tournament. UCSF rules.

Five-minute games. Two games per opponent. Chess sets provided. Chess clocks not provided. 

For more information and registration, contact: TC Ball (510) 439-6311, thewestcoastchessalliance@gmail.com.

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