Youngsters check out chess club at library

January 07, 2003

Julie Wilde, a young-adult librarian last year at the east Columbia branch, needed something to occupy neighborhood children who came in to pass the time. She tried board games -- Yahtzee, Life, Scrabble and others -- but looked for something more.

As luck would have it, Scott Doughty, a longtime chess player, worked in the library's circulation department. He offered to start a chess club, and recruited his friend Battsetseg Tsaagan to help. Tsaagan, who is from Mongolia, is a women's international chess master.

The two friends sent out notices, and the Columbia Chess Club met at the library for the first time in June.

The club began with a bang -- a "simultaneous display" in which Doughty and Tsaagan played 40 to 45 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders seated at tables arranged in a square. The experts moved from one child's board to another, playing one move at each board.

"Oh, it was a zoo," Doughty said. "More kids than we had chess sets."

Daniel Negulescu, whose parents are noted players, checkmated Doughty.

"He walked on water with the other kids in the chess club for the remainder of the summer," Doughty said.

The club met once a week until school began, then every other week and later once a month.

"A lot of the kids who have hung in, who didn't just come for the novelty of it, are home-schooled kids," Doughty said. "They're a core."

Two months ago, Doughty was promoted to the reference desk at Glenwood library. He plans to take the chess club with him.

Meetings will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on alternate Thursdays, beginning in March.

Information: 410-313-5577.

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