Broward mayors encourage children to check out chess
June 7, 2014|By Erika Pesantes, Sun Sentinel
SUNRISE — You would expect silence, but there was no shushing here. There were cheers for chess instead in commission chambers that were abuzz with chess players strategizing to save their kings.
Excited players — mainly mayors from across Broward County and schoolchildren — faced off Saturday for the inaugural “Mayors’ Chess Challenge.”
About 25 tables with chess boards and pawns, bishops, rooks, kings and queens occupied commission chambers. Name cards identified mayors from Margate, Hollywood, Miramar, Hallandale Beach, Wilton Manors and other cities who urged kids to check chess out.
“The real point of this is to develop better engineers, thinkers, leaders,” Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan said.
“It’s a war game,” McKhaila McKenzie, 11, said. “I can let out my feelings on the board.”
The event was co-organized by Ryan and Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan. It was inspired by Charles Cuyler, Lauderhill’s director of environmental and engineering services, who runs a chess program in the city and pushed to get more kids playing the game.
In the commission chambers, pint-sized players knelt on chairs to boost themselves a few inches as they reached over for pieces across chess boards. There were furrowed brows, some nail-biting and palms abruptly slamming game clocks.
Zachary Bernier, of North Lauderdale, brought his daughters Dana, 9, and Kayla, 8. Father and daughters manage to squeeze in chess before breakfast and school in the mornings by waking up at 6 a.m., he said.
“It’s just our time together,” Bernier said.
Scholastic chess can help expand children’s minds, train them to think critically and teach them to become problem-solvers, Ryan said. Another lesson: there are consequences for every action.
In the game, touching or moving a chess piece means committing to a specific piece or move. Beyond the chess board, it translates into “think before you act,” Ryan said.
To kick things off, Ryan and Kaplan challenged each other to a friendly match. The Lauderhill mayor said he learned the game as a child, but hadn’t played in about 15 years. It was the host city’s mayor who ultimately pulled off a win.
“I lost my queen,” Kaplan said. “That was pretty much the end of it.”
“It’s a mind game. It helps my brain advance,” said McKhaila, who is on the nationally ranked team.
The mayors hope more children can learn the game and benefit from the brainy workout it no doubt gives.
On Monday, school board members will consider a proposal to expand a pilot program that introduced second- and third-grade students at three Sunrise schools to chess in the past year. The measure would bring chess to children at each of Broward’s elementary schools.
“What do you think about that?” Ryan asked the crowd of chess enthusiasts.
They erupted in applause and cheered.