SAN MARCOS: Boy’s club helping chess buffs hone their skills

11-year-old Alex Goddard didn’t want chess to ‘die’ in North County
By ANDREA MOSS – Staff Writer Friday, November 28, 2008 1:08 PM PST

SAN MARCOS —- Don’t mess with Alex Goddard’s chess game.

The pint-size San Marcos resident is only 11, but he’s so serious about the game that he was appalled when he heard the North County Chess Club he belonged to was closing earlier this year.

“He said to me, ‘Dad, we can’t let chess die in North County,'” Alex’s father and fellow chess buff John Goddard said Wednesday. “‘We have to do something.'”

That “something” was a new organization called the Escondido Chess Club. The only local club that holds regular United States Chess Federation-rated tournaments, the club meets every Thursday at the Escondido Library’s main branch.

The club also holds weekly sessions at the San Marcos Library. Open to anyone who wants to drop by from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, the sessions offer beginning and intermediate chess players the chance to hone their skills with help from fellow club members.

Club members also face off against one another in unofficial tournaments, in preparation for the real thing.

Alex was too young to legally form the chess club on his own, so he tapped big brother Zakary, 19, for help in filing the necessary paperwork and setting up bank accounts for the club.

But Alex runs the club — everything from organizing chess tournaments to pairing up chess competitors and collecting club dues. Alex also makes the bank deposits, distributes the prize money and writes the checks that pay the club’s bills.

John Goddard said his son is learning valuable business and life lessons from the experience.

A boy who intentlystudies the chess board and its pieces and plans out several moves well in advance, he dismisses the video games that are popular with other kids as having no point.

“You get to think,” Alex said, succinctly explaining his love of the game.

Good friend and San Elijo Hills Middle School classmate Riley Curry, 12, found out just how good Alex can be in an unofficial tournament game this week when Alex called “checkmate” on Riley’s king in just a few moves. With that game over, Alex jumped up to watch the moves of six other players, occasionally pointing out better ones that could have been made.

Watching her sons Joshua, 11, and Caleb, 9, battle it out over a chess board earlier this week, Escondido mom Jenny Liu said she started out playing alongside them in club sessions.

“But they quickly got better than me,” Liu said, adding that she likes the fact that chess challenges her kids’ minds. “They both like math and things like puzzles. So this is much better than just playing video games and mindless things like that.”


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