Chess builds confidence and community in Goshen
Parks & Recreation sponsors three levels of chess play, open to all ages
By Geri Corey
GOSHEN — There’s a new sport in Goshen growing in popularity: chess.
Although the history of chess spans more than 1,500 years, the game has taken on new life in Goshen.
The Goshen Parks and Recreation Chess Program is beginning its winter/spring session on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the Goshen Scotchtown Avenue School cafeteria. Beginner chess is from 6-6:40 p.m. and intermediate chess is from 6:45-7:45 p.m. Adult non-instructional chess is 6-7:45 p.m.
Ed Dubin is coach for the beginner and intermediate players, and Harrison Coleman is coaching the advanced group.
“Our chess program isn’t a children’s program — it’s a community program,” said program organizer Gray Tham. It’s open to all ages.
“Parents, too, can have fun with it,” she said.
Tham noted that many adults haven’t played since their younger years, and the program is a re-awaking of the fun they once had.
“Besides, children love to play their parents,” she said. “So come and learn with them, and have some matches at home.”
The program meets every Tuesday except when school isn’t in session. Tournaments are held each month from February through June, during regular playing times.
Though Gray was raised in Goshen — her parents are Tom and Mary Gray Griffith of Griffith Real Estate — she lived for many years in Australia with her husband, John, and their three children: ten-year-old Max, eight-year-old Sean, and five-year-old Eliza.
While Max was in pre-school, a friend talked to him about chess, so he and mom Googled the rules.
“We virtually learned to play via the Internet,” said Tham.
By the time Max was in first grade, he was playing once a week during lunch period and was already in an official tournament with 75 others kids.
When the Thams moved to Goshen, Max missed not playing chess and he and mom couldn’t find anyone for Max to play or a local chess club, so she did what any mother would do: started a club for Max to meet other players.
“People came. Then more people came,” said Tham.
Through chess, Max’s homesickness eased. He met new people, and he’s improving his skills.
“I love playing and I especially like the tournaments,” he said. “With the rounds, I get to play everyone; and if I win, I get a prize.”
Prizes, like chess sets, chess pins, ribbons or books on chess, are awarded at tournaments. A beginner chess book is available for purchase during the sessions.
Max’s younger brother, Sean, is also an avid player. In fact, he’s equal in skill with his brother. The two are often seen at home huddled over a chessboard, deep in thought.
“I like playing new people, learning new rules, and I like beating people,” said Sean with enthusiasm.
Younger sister Eliza began playing this past fall.
“Kindergarten age in a great time for them to learn,” said Tham. “They especially love to play their parents.”
Noting that her kids love to play her, she quipped: “My kids love playing me, because they beat me!”
Tham said chess has given Max confidence and connection with his new community.
“It’s great that Max brought his passion here,” Tham reflected. “Our program shows people — youngsters and adults — that it’s a fun sport anyone can play.”
Not only have the Thams found people who play, but also they’ve inspired others to learn, which is a good thing for Goshen.
“I just like the sport,” said Max.
The Parks and Recreation’s Chess Program is free, although donations are always welcome to cover costs, like prizes.