Cook County Jail inmates taught chess

April 2, 2012 3:38:22 PM PDT
Some Cook County Jail inmates may soon be saying ''checkmate.''

Monday, Sheriff Tom Dart announced the start of a new program to teach inmates how to play chess.

A world-renowned chess champion helped launch the program that is designed to teach inmates lessons including problem-solving and learning from past mistakes.

The new chess program was implemented into Division 11 of Cook County Jail. One-hundred-fifty detainees are actively participating in the game.

"It makes your mind expand," said inmate Kevin Upshaw. "It is like life. I am incarcerated. I am trying to unlock my mind. Chess is going to help me."

"It gives them something to do. The benefits are amazing," said Sheriff Dart. "This is a unique thing, and they are paying for it themselves, not the taxpayers...Some are tournament ready to challenge other inmates in jails, and they are paying for this themselves."

Dr. Mikhail Korenman, a chess philanthropist, approached Sheriff Dart about introducing chess to the jail, and Monday they were joined by world-renowned chess player Anatoly Karpov.

Karpov says he has successfully introduced chess to inmates in Russia and other countries. He spent time with the detainees on Monday.

"I was surprised some of them play at tournament level and are very quick," Karpov said. "Chess will help them spend time with sense. When they are free, they can become members of society through chess and play in tournaments."

Inmate Markovic Arandel is from Serbia and is a big fan of Karpov.

"He is a great human being, and he knows chess," said Arandel. "Here I have been teaching them for 10 months. If they play chess, they do not fight."

"I love that it teaches you the art of thinking that I can apply to everyday life," said inmate Jack Moody.

"Chess helps these people be a winner," said Dr. Korenman. "They need to feel being a winner...maybe this can help them when they get out. They will follow rules."

Korenman taught inmate Arnell Ewing how to play chess when he was at South Shore High School.

"It does keep me calm, and make the right moves, you can play this game in life as well," said Ewing.

"It is like planning ahead, you have to plan your next move ," said inmate Lavell Gordon. "It calms me and eases the tension in the day."

Sheriff Dart said the detainees will be ready for competitive matches in a month. They will be playing against other facilities. He added that he is confident they will become champions.