Indians players sharpen minds with clubhouse chess
By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sportswriter
POSTED: 06:38 p.m. EDT, Jul 13, 2008
CLEVELAND: You see them huddled around a small table in the clubhouse, eyes concentrating on the board in front of them. At times, they seem transfixed, so intense is their focus. They are chess players, Indians chess players.
Traditionally, chess is a game for eggheads and nerds. Raise your hand if you’re an egghead or a nerd: Cliff Lee, David Dellucci, Paul Byrd; how about you, Sal Fasano?
When Fasano was traded from Atlanta to Cleveland last month, he brought his chess set with him. Suddenly, it was game on in the clubhouse.
Big leaguers playing chess is nothing new, but it also isn’t the norm. Ted Simmons probably was the leader of the Brewers’ chess bunch, and that was back in 1982. Former Tribe starter Rick Waits, after being dealt to Milwaukee, was a member of Simmons’ chess group.
”I used to play in the minors,” Fasano said. ”There was one guy I played with at Wichita in 1995. Guy named Doug Strange. I must have played him 200 times and never beat him.”
Fasano thinks chess can help some players become more proficient.
”I think it’s good for pitchers,” he said. ”It gets them to think ahead and plan strategy.”
Being a catcher, Fasano knows something about pitchers.
Paul Byrd has joined the assemblage of Tribe chess players.
”I’ve been off the circuit for two years,” Byrd kidded. ”But I used to play when I was with the Mets. Jerry Dipoto was one of the guys who played. And I remember Curt Schilling playing when I was over at Philadelphia.”
Dipoto is a former Tribe pitcher who is the director of scouting and player personnel for the Diamondbacks.
It didn’t take long for Lee to come on board as a clubhouse chess player.
”I taught myself how to play,” he said. ”I play on my computer all the time. Sal probably is better than me; he’s pretty good. He’ll beat me six out of 10 times.”
Lee used to play with Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, when he was with the Tribe.
”Cliff can beat me,” Fasano said. ”I need to work on my openings. Opening moves are very important. If I make the right opening move, I can checkmate you in four moves.”
Sign up for my free email chess course for Beginners and Club Players. In this free course, I focus on helping beginner chess players see the entire board. You will learn how to attack your opponent from move 1 and create a new threat with every single move! I’ve created this series of lessons designed to help beginner and club level players understand the game at a deeper level so that you can start beating higher rated players immediately. Start getting free tips from me directly to your inbox!
– GM Susan Polgar