Chess champ John Donaldson holds court at Miami Country Day tournament
Posted on Fri, Sep. 26, 2008

Special to The Miami Herald

International Chess Master John Donaldson provided South Florida chess players of all ages one-on-one game analysis during the third annual Spartan Chess September Scholastic tournament at Miami Country Day School.

Edison Park Elementary Rooks Chess coach Webber Charles brought some of his award-winning players to compete in the United States Chess Federation-rated tournament and to learn from the master.

”It’s great to be here. Having his presence is awesome,” Charles said. “He has that insight.”

Donaldson, chess director of the Mechanics Institute Chess Club in San Francisco, visited the co-educational college preparatory school in Miami Sept. 18-20. The school paid Donaldson for his visit.

”The school has an active chess program and I want to help them out,” Donaldson said. During his third visit to the school, the chess expert taught strategies and competed against students, alumni, teachers and members of the community. School officials plan on bringing Donaldson next year.

”He is the best chess teacher in the world,” said Miami Country Day school English teacher Thomas Keelan. “It doesn’t matter if he is teaching a 6-year-old or a 17-year-old; he is just superb at teaching and kids flock to him when he is here.”

Donaldson, who has been named the captain of the U.S. Olympic team six times, is notorious in the chess world. He has been an international master since 1983 and has written about 30 books on the game. He started playing chess when he was about 13 years old and credits the game for bringing him closer to his family.

”The game brought me closer to my grandparents because chess got me to relate to them as peers rather than having an age differential,” Donaldson said. “There are endless possibilities in this game and [it] provides logical thinking.”

He adds that Bobby Fischer, the only American to win the official World Chess Championship so far, also influenced him.

”He was a very charismatic figure,” he said. “His match was in the public eye, which attracted me to the game.”

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