Central Falls: The city of chess champions
01:00 AM EST on Monday, January 25, 2010
By John Hill
Journal Staff Writer
CENTRAL FALLS — The state tournament is two months away, but the players are already working on their game.
Frank DelBonis, social-studies teacher by school day, middle school coach by afternoon, was at the board, going over one of the team’s last games, quizzing the players on offensive and defensive strategy.
But there were no helmets or pads in the room. No shoes with cleats or outfielder mitts on the walls. That’s because in Central Falls, the championship sport is chess.
For more than a decade, Central Falls students have dominated Rhode Island’s scholastic chess scene, frequently winning individual and team titles. In 2008, they went to the United States Chess Federation’s national scholastic tournament and finished seventh in their division. The high school team is this year’s defending state champion.
And batting cleanup for the middle school squad is Cristian Estrada, a Calcutt Middle School eighth-grader who this fall tied for first place in the Rhode Island Open chess tournament — in a category for adults.
With his gentle face, quiet voice and wide, dark eyes, he seems an unlikely dominator. But at a chessboard, DelBonis said, he is ruthless.
Estrada’s strength is the middle game, he said, when both players have exchanged pieces and been knocked off the patterns they’d meant to follow. Estrada has a superior ability to analyze those situations, he said, and spot a winning combination of moves.
Estrada said he tries to not only think of what he wants to do, but what his opponent is planning.
“I see what I can do, I see what he can do and look for the thing that will mess him up,” he said.
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