Richmond speed chess tournament commended for inclusivity

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Chess pieces clicked and clacked at the Hilltop Mall on Saturday as players young and old came together for a speed-chess tournament to celebrate the 40th National Chess Day.

“Chess players don’t care who they play,” said TC Ball, Director of the West Coast Chess Alliance (WCCA), a Richmond-based nonprofit whose work Ball describes as “chess advocacy” for scholastic and community enrichment.

October 9 was declared National Chess Day by president Gerald Ford in 1976. This is the fourth time Ball has organized an event at the Hilltop Mall to celebrate it.

Brian Doyle, a United States Chess Federation-recognized director hired to moderate the tournament, said that many chess events are less diverse than those that Ball organizes.

“They’re more out to make money, which is okay too, but I really admire what TC is doing out here in Richmond,” Doyle said.

The players at Hilltop Mall may have been diverse, but chess still has a ways to go, said Jessica Lauser, a nationally distinguished chess player, who pointed out that only a few of the registered competitors at the tournament were female.

But chess is egalitarian in other ways, said Lauser, who is legally blind. She says she can still play chess competitively—even though she can’t drive.

On October 25, the Richmond City Council is expected to sign a proclamation for National Chess Month. Ball plans to announce the Richmond Chess Initiative, a plan to expand chess workshops and outreach in the community, at the meeting.

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