HAVERHILL — It can take a lifetime to master the game of chess, experts say, but 82-year-old Geraldine Follansbee said it’s never too late to start playing.
The skill may come slowly, but there are more immediate benefits.
Chess can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, said Follansbee of Haverhill. She is a longtime player of the game.
“It keeps your mind active and alert,” she said. “Playing chess really makes you think.”
Whether their goal is keeping their minds sharp or improving their game or a combination of both, Haverhill elders like Follansbee, as well as middle-aged residents and even children, now have a place where they can learn all the right moves.
Yesterday, the Citizens Center hosted a meeting of its new chess club.
The club was launched by the city’s Council on Aging but does not restrict participation to senior citizens. In fact, current club members hope to recruit youngsters with time on their hands this summer. The club meets to have matches on Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
Participants have plenty of experienced players to learn from.
Club members Dave Ferreira, 59, and Arthur King, 58, both of Haverhill, are lifelong players of the game and are regulars with the Newburyport Chess Club, where they often battle head-to-head. Both men were hoping to join a chess club in their hometown. They are nationally ranked players.
They said they have enough knowledge of chess to help others learn, including adult newcomers, those who want to improve, as well as children and teenagers who never played before but are interested in giving it a try. Ferreira and King will even analyze the quality of your play for free.
“We’re both Class A (very strong) ranked players,” said King, explaining that is two levels below a master level player. “The average ranked player is probably at the C (intermediate) level.”
Marie Spaulding, 73, of Haverhill had gone online to search for a chess club she could join in Haverhill. She was happy to learn about this new one.
“I’m not a great player, but I love to play,” Spaulding said. “I love it here. People are great and I get a really good vibe.”
Her favorite opening move is what used to be called “king’s pawn to king’s four.” Modern chess boards use the new so-called “algebraic notation” where Spaulding’s opening move is called “E4.”
Chess reached a high in popularity in America in 1972 when Bobby Fischer beat Russian Boris Spassky for the world title, Ferreira said.
“There were a record number of people playing chess at that time,” he said.
Yesterday, Ferreira and King were about 15 minutes into a half-hour long game. King, a defensive player, studied the center of the board, focusing his attention on his black knight at position D4. He paused and, in a seemingly reluctant move, took Ferreira’s white knight at C6.
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