BLOOMINGTON — Benjamin Nielsen and his friends don’t speak Russian but language was not a barrier Saturday as they gathered for a chess tournament against a team in Bloomington-Normal’s sister city.
The Internet provided the conduit for 10 area students sitting at laptop computers to challenge players from Vladimir, Russia. The event was sponsored by Colley’s Chess Cafe, 320 N. Main St., Bloomington.
Nielsen, a sixth-grader at Parkside Junior High School, played a warm-up game before his big match. Aware of Russia’s reputation for producing chess champions, Nielsen was a little nervous as he waited his turn to play.
“Russians are the best. They know chess so we’ll see,” said Nielsen, who has played for about six years.
J.D. Theile, a member of Grove Elementary School’s chess club, enjoys the mental exercise offered by the game.
“It’s good for my brain and it’s fun,” he said.Theile was looking forward to seeing how Russian students approached the game.
…Cafe owner Colley Kitson said it took about three months to arrange the international tournament. The effort was worth it for a community so supportive of chess, he said. “We have 1,000 kids playing in a town of 100,000. I’m teaching 400 kids a week now,” said the chess club owner.
Ronald Pope, Illinois State University professor and founder of Serendipity-Russia, an organization with a cultural school in Vladimir, helped Kitson with contacts for a chess school in Russia.
Chicago chess instructor Mikhail Korenman helped translate Russian e-mails and set-up the Internet meeting that took into account a nine-hour time difference.
Korenman said Saturday that players had no problem communicating. “Chess is a very international language. You have the same rules anywhere in the world,” said Korenman.
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