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Chess in Richmond

About 100 players to compete at Richmond chess festival, as more kids take up game

on October 5, 2022

On a Sunday afternoon in late September, TC Ball entered Richmond’s Multicultural Bookstore with a cart full of kings, queens, bishops, rooks, knights, and pawns and boards to start the first of several chess classes for children.

“Cool people play chess,” said Ball, 69, founder and director of the West Coast Chess Alliance in Richmond, as he prepared to start the class. 

He fell in love with chess about 40 years ago when he was at college, and then 13 years ago established the WCCA, to promote chess and make it an important part of the Richmond community.

On Saturday, the WCCA and the Berkeley Chess School will celebrate National Chess Day with a Chess Festival from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., at CoBiz Richmond. Ball expects 100 players in the tournament, which would be more than double the number in the last festival, which was in May.

“We are expecting a big crowd,” he said.

Chess in Richmond
TC Ball sets up the chessboard at Richmond’s Multicultural Bookstore. (Najim Rahim)

That’s partly because children are becoming more interested in chess, Ball said. Last year, WCCA’s six instructors taught about 400 kids how to play and this year, that number is closer to 800, thanks to school and after-school programs in the West Contra Costa Unified District School.

“We are going to be in about 12 schools,” Ball said. 

One of the reasons why young people are so interested in chess is the 2020 Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit,” Ball said. The series is about Beth Harmon, an orphan with a surprising talent for chess, who overcomes obstacles as she tries to become the world’s greatest chess player.

That popular series did more for chess than Ball could imagined. He said it showed parents the benefits of children playing chess, that it teaches skills that can positively impact a child’s academic life.

Ball also provides weekly instruction on Saturday afternoons at the Multicultural Bookstore, 260 Broadway. Parents can bring their kids to the bookstore to learn the game between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Chess in Richmond
Jessica Trevena watches as her son, Kamal, gets a chess lesson from TC Ball. (Najim Rahim)

Jessica Trevena and her husband play chess almost weekly. This summer, they noticed that their 3-year-old son, Kamal, had developed a particular interest in the game and insisted on playing with his parents. So Trevena took Kamal to the Multicultural Bookstore for a Saturday lesson.

 “I’m not a chess teacher, so I’m just so excited that they are able to work with my son and help him learn a little bit,” Trevena said.

Jesse Carrizales, who is 12 years old and in seventh grade, got interested in chess two years ago. His mother, Lydia Trujillo, found Ball through Google and reached out to him to teach her then 10-year-old son.

Jesse, who lives in Solano County, now is teaching his peers in a chess club and assisting his teacher with chess instruction at school. He also is preparing for Saturday’s tournament. Jesse plays to win and says his strategy involves using all the pieces for a checkmate. 

With the school district partnership, the WCCA hopes to expand the game, so that chess is as widespread as youth sports.

“We are working with West Contra Costa School District to create a chess league in Richmond, where the school teams play with each other,” Ball said. “Like we have soccer, baseball, and basketball leagues, we want to do the same thing with the chess league.”

Spectators are welcome to attend Saturday’s festival, which is free, at CoBiz Richmond, 1503 Macdonald Ave.

Chess in Richmond
TC Ball instructs 3-year-old Kamal Trevena. (Najim Rahim)

1 Comment

  1. Ken S on October 5, 2022 at 9:01 am

    Excellent Article and we are so fortunate to have mentors like Mr. Ball. I pray for continued success and growth as thi only helps our community to become stronger.

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