NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was a beautiful day to get an outdoor workout Saturday, but mental exercise took over Central Park.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported for TV 10/55, hundreds of pint-sized players turned out to compete in a chess tournament.
Most of the chess players were barely out of elementary school. But don’t doubt their fast-moving hands or the look of concentration on their young faces – these kids are the real deal.
“You have to have very good focus and patience,” said Niah Plenty of Harlem.
Niah, 12, and her 8-year-old sister Yoni, said it is all about strategy.
“You have to think before you move, and you have to know your pieces,” Yoni Plenty said.
The sisters were among about 800 people in Central Park Saturday for the 14th Annual Chess-in-the-Parks tournament – the largest of its kind in the country.
“We have such a diverse group of people here — from ages to backgrounds,” said Shaun Smith of the group Chess-in-the-Schools.
Anyone can enter for the tournament. But the majority of participants are from the Chess-in-the-Schools program, which brings the game to schools across the city.
The program has taken off.
“I saw kids in third grade wear chess T-shirts, and I said, ‘Wow, there’s a team in this school?’” said Partho Nath of Jamaica, Queens.
“It’s a real-world exercise in their brain so they become better students; better thinkers; better planners — and they’re more disciplined,” said chess coach Marlon Bailey.
The players are competing for medals and prizes, but a lot of the kids will tell you they are looking well into the future to see how the game can help them.
“If you do good in chess, you can get scholarships,” said Adeeb Seleh of Jamaica, Queens.
“They want to talk about nationals. They’re talking about going to Sweden,” added coach Bailey. “They’re more focused in their game.”
Donations make the tournament possible, and it is free to all participants.