TAMPA — School is over, the athletic fields dark. All that matters to the children squirming outside a strip mall storefront is getting to a white room lined with plastic tables.
And the chess boards ready for action.
Black and white pawns, rooks and queens hold court in silence until little fingers arrive to steer them to war. The battleground looks old fashioned, but to an increasing number of children in the Tampa Bay area, chess regularly trumps the thrills in video games.
“Bam! Bam!” cries Benson Walent, a finger migrating between the board and his nose as he captures a pawn, a rook, and a prized knight.
Then the 6-year-old senses trouble.
“Don’t take my biss-up!” he cries. “Don’t you take my biss-up!”
No one is more surprised than the parents, waiting with magazines and laptops in a front room, to see their children mesmerized by an activity that starts and ends with a handshake.
In an age of digital distractions, where cell phones and Nintendo DS seem more childhood rights than privileges, the sport of chess somehow not only survives, it thrives.
The appeal goes beyond shiny trophies. In chess, size doesn’t matter. Winning requires brains, not brawn. It’s a lot trickier than PlayStation. And when else does a kid actually have a fair chance to beat Mom and Dad?
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– GM Susan Polgar