CHICO — His baby sitter first taught him how to play chess at the age of 5. At 12 he won the Northern California Championship chess tournament in San Jose.
Now 16, Michael Nielsen has helped found a kids chess group at the Chico library and arranged for other chess enthusiasts to meet around town.
The Chico library holds a weekly session for children and teens to come to learn and play chess. It began in the fall of 2008 and has two teen volunteer “chess experts” that run the program, said Heather Tovey, senior library assistant.
“It’s nice to watch the school-age crowd playing chess instead of going on the Internet,” she said. “A lot of kids are interested in it these days.”
Every week anywhere from three to 10 kids show up to engage in the strategic board game. The library has 12 tournament style boards that were bought by the Chico Friends of the Library, Tovey said.
Recently the library chess group had to switch from Mondays to Tuesdays because budget cuts forced the library to close on Mondays. It wasn’t an issue for Nielsen, who takes pleasure in teaching the youngsters.
“I show them tactics and techniques,” he said. “I enjoyed learning how to play chess, and it’s nice to teach these kids to play too.”
The children who attend his library group tend to be between 6 and 12, though age doesn’t seem to have much to do with skill.
“There are some 6- and 7-year-olds who are quite good,” he said.
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