Public checks into CHESS

By Sean Barron


For many people, chess is arguably one of the more-complex games because of the infinite number of positions and combinations, the need to think ahead and the patience required, but taking advice from Kaiden Sykes could put you a few moves in front.

“I always try to occupy or indirectly control the four squares in the middle,” the South Range Middle School sixth-grader explained. “I want to control the middle, and you should try to castle pretty early in the game.”

Kaiden, of Columbiana, began playing the game around age 8 after having learned more than a few pieces of strategy from his grandfather. He also had an opportunity to exercise a variety of key moves during Sunday’s Check into Chess gathering at the Boardman branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 7680 Glenwood Ave.

Castling is simultaneously moving one’s king two squares and one of the rooks while placing the rook on the square next to and opposite the king. The move often provides added protection for the king against attack.

Conducting the three-hour session for children, teens and adults was Marc Witte of Poland, a chess coach who began playing nearly 60 years ago and was a chess champion in Peoria, Ill.

Witte went over the moves each piece makes, as well as several basic rules, with Sarah Martin and her younger sister, Gabby Martin. He explained that the two rooks move vertically and horizontally, bishops move diagonally, and the queen “is a combination of a bishop and a rook” and is the most-powerful piece. In addition, knights move in L-shaped patterns and are the only pieces that can jump over others, he continued.

In many instances, a game’s outcome is determined by a player’s early moves, Witte said, noting that most of the action takes place in the middle of the board.

“It’s important to control the center, and the person who does so is most likely to win the game,” he added.

After explaining that the object is to checkmate an opponent’s king, Witte created a scenario for Gabby and Sarah using two rooks against a king. He had each girl practice a series of moves using both rooks to checkmate the other’s king.

Witte also demonstrated how the eight pawns on each side can go one or two spaces on the opening move, then one space ahead thereafter. The exception is when they can make one diagonal move to capture one of an opponent’s pieces, he continued.

In addition, Witte introduced the participants to terms such as “interposing” and “forking.” Interposing is making a move to block the king’s being in check; a fork is a situation in which a single piece simultaneously threatens to attack two or more of an opponent’s pieces.

“My dad plays, and I kind of wanted to learn to play also,” said Sarah, a McDonald High School junior. “I tried [to play him], but he wins real quick.”

Gabby, an eighth-grader, added that the girls’ father, Ron Martin, also encouraged her to give it a go. She’s played for fun and has a chessboard at home, though her school does not have a team, Gabby added.

Another Check into Chess gathering is scheduled for 1:30 to 4 p.m. May 1 at the Boardman library.

Also, a group called “Chess is Life” meets from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the food court at Eastwood Mall in Niles. Jeff Butts, a co-founder, said the organization uses chess as a vehicle for mentoring youngsters and offers free lessons in the game from 10 a.m. to noon at the mall.

For more information, call Butts at 330-646-4878, or email him at

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