Playmates find friends and fun amid checkmates

Youngsters trade chessboard tips, neighborhood news at the library

November 15, 2006|By Kiara Lee | Kiara Lee,sun reporter

Chessboards fill four tables in the small meeting room off the lobby. Kids talk and laugh as players make their next move. Plates of chips and cookies and cups filled with soda are positioned near the edge of the tables.

Who knew the library could be so much fun?

Every Wednesday evening for 90 minutes, a youth chess club meets at the Elkridge library. Kids ages 8 to 17 munch on snacks, catch up on neighborhood news and, of course, play chess. The environment allows them to get away from everyday pressures and interact with people in a relaxed way.

"It's a fun way to meet new people and learn different ways to play chess," said Kayla Britt, 11, who attends Bonnie Branch Middle School.

Activity facilitator Amanda Gardner holds the chess club in the small meeting room outside the library. Four large tables are set up with two chessboards on each. The kids who come early help set up a few minutes before the club meets.

At 7 o'clock, the kids call out who they want to play and begin their games. Some choose not to play right away and instead talk with friends, read books and have snacks.

"It's a very laid-back environment," said Gardner. "The kids can come in and play a game, then go back into the library."

Players of all levels -- and different agendas -- attend the chess club. Some come to improve their skills while others like to hang out with friends.

"I have a lot of friends here, and most of them go to my school. So I get to know a lot more about them through playing chess," said Lydia McGotten, 13, a Bonnie Branch Middle School pupil.

Some of the better players are willing to help others learn the game. Adam Bravo, a 15-year-old Long Reach High School student, was unfamiliar with chess until Brian Coates, a regular Wednesday night attendee and Long Reach High student, taught him.

"It's all about strategy," Coates said as he instructed Bravo. "It makes you think."

Kayla likes the game so much that she is doing a research project on the history of chess for her Gifted and Talented resource class at Bonnie Branch. The sixth-grader is hoping her research project and her enthusiasm for chess will lead to the formation of a school chess club next fall. Kayla said attending the chess club has helped her with her project.

"The chess club helps me to learn more about chess and how certain people play," she said.

The chess club welcomes new players who want to play and learn the game in a friendly surrounding.

"The chess club gives [kids] a chance to do something in structure and teach them a thinking skill," said Phil Lord, the Elkridge library.

Gardner said she is looking for an adult mentor to help teach skills and strategies to the group.

The Elkridge Library youth chess club meets at 7 p.m. Wednesdays. Information: 410-313-5077.

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