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Chess mates: New club for adult enthusiasts checks in at Westport Library

Published 12:20 pm, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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  • Angus Lawrie, 8, of Westport -- at a recent session of the Westport LIbrary's Chess Club for young players -- finds chess a challenging but fun game. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Fairfield Citizen
    Angus Lawrie, 8, of Westport -- at a recent session of the Westport LIbrary's Chess Club for young players -- finds chess a challenging but fun game. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Chess is no longer just for kids at the Westport Library.

Following his move to Westport, Dana Rossi learned the library hosted only regular gatherings for young players.

But Rossi did not let that hold him in check. At his suggestion -- and with his help -- the library recently launched a club for adult chess enthusiasts. The group meets the first and third Wednesday evenings of the month.

For more than 10 years, the Children's Department of the library has offered a chess club for players up to seniors in high school. Now, the new club for adults also provides a setting for players to share enjoyment of the board game's challenging strategies, as well as to take advantage of some advanced instruction.

"The library is a good resource," said Rossi. "I've been playing since junior high ... I guess I just like the puzzle aspect of solving the position, or figuring out the best move."

Rossi said he was pleased with the turnout at the adult club's first meeting on March 5, which drew 11 participants.

"He called and offered to be a contact person," said librarian MarySue Waterman.

"We've noticed the chess table in the middle of the Great Hall gets used a lot," she said, so hosting regular club meetings for adult players seemed like a logical activity to sponsor.

Kevin McGreen of Stamford, who attended the first meeting, came back for a second. "It was fun," he said. "There were a lot of people that came."

"It was a good competition level," he said. "I lost a couple of games, which is always good. It means there's something to learn."

McGreen likes chess because, he said, "It's just a way to keep exercising your brain, to think about something that's not work-related."

Others agreed that the concentration needed to play chess effectively is a great diversion from everyday concerns.

"It's very calming," said Mary Parmalee, children services coordinator at the library, who oversees the youth chess group on Wednesday afternoons. "It takes you out of your daily life because you have to focus."

Parmalee said the goal of her group is to focus on friendly competition and to teach the children to both win and lose with grace.

"The kids get an opportunity to play, but they have to behave well, whether they win or lose," she said. "So they end up playing for the joy of playing the game."

"I think it's great because you have to learn all the ways to move the pieces and you have to focus," said Julia Rabinalek, 7, of Westport.

"Pretty much you go and play because pretty much it's for those who already know about chess," she said, having herself learned in kindergarten.

"We love the chess club," her mother, Molly Rabinowitz said. "We try to come every week."

"I think it's an amazing program," said Ginger Juliano of Westport, whose son Justin, 8, participates weekly. "In my opinion it's a large play-date for the town.

"It's a fun game," said Angus Lawrie, 8, of Westport. "You've got to think really hard to make moves. If you make one mistake, a person may take your king."

"You play with different people each time," said his father, Nick Lawrie, "so it's a good way to improve your skills."

That appears to be part of what drew Joel Goldstein of Westport to the new adult group. Having played regularly in high school, in subsequent decades he has sat down at a chess board three or four times.

Now he intends to change that.

"I'm interested in chess," he said. "From what I understand, (Rossi) is going to combine the opportunity for people to play chess along with instruction, so I am particularly interested in the instructional part."

For more information about the chess clubs at the Westport Library, check its website: www.westportlibrary.org