Ted Fagan closely examines the chess board and various moves made by 10-year-old Jordan Perkins.
After Perkins picks up a bishop, Fagan asks why he moved it to that certain spot.
“In my opinion, that’s the right move,” Jordan said with a smile recently at the Largo-Kettering Library.
“Oh, so chess is about opinion,” Fagan said while rubbing his salt and pepper beard. “You sure about that move?”
“No,” Jordan replied.
Fagan, 86, a retired administrator with the Federal Aviation Administration who resides in Bowie, teaches chess to youth and adults at least once a week in libraries throughout Prince George’s County.
He has volunteered for at least two decades and wants to incorporate the game into public school system curriculum. Ten years ago he created two chess clubs in the county attended by dozens of people such as now retired state Sen. Ulysses Currie.
“This is a game for the mind,” said Fagan, now serving as executive director of the Eagle Chess Academy that holds free classes weekly. “Everything you see is on the chess board. There’s no tricks to it, just thinking.”
Fagan’s love for the game led him to serve as former president of the Maryland Chess Association, which plans to host a tournament Saturday, July 26 in Rockville.
According to the organization’s website, a team from Poolesville High School in Montgomery County won a state competition and received a $750 stipend as Maryland’s representative in a national tournament Aug. 3-6 in Orlando, Florida.
Last year, Montgomery County public schools listed chess within its extracurricular activities program booklet.
Similar to Montgomery County, each school in Prince George’s lists their activities on their websites.
In terms of chess, Fairmount Heights and Central high schools held a competition this year.
Raymond Tiwang, a chemistry and physics teacher at Fairmount Heights, has managed the school’s chess club for two years.
Along with Fagan, Tiwang walked around the room at the Largo library giving instructions to 16 youth and adults in attendance.
He briefly explained how a 10-year-old girl put her twin sister in checkmate.
Tiwang’s five children also play. His daughter, Hope, 14, calmly explained to two younger children where to place each piece on the board.
“Chess is really a beautiful game,” said Hope, who will attend the Academy of Health Sciences High School at Prince George’s Community College in the fall. “When you study and know how each piece functions, it’s a game that can increase your patience and make you stronger mentally.”
Even a few adults such as Star-Yvette Daye of Largo sat attentively to learn the basics and six game pieces: eight pawns, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, one queen and one king.
When she realized the queen can move in any direction on the 64-square board, she said, “I know that’s right.”
She participated in her second chess class July 15 at the library. She became interested after watching co-workers at the U.S. Department of Labor play during breaks.
“It’s a game that you learn something different,” she said. “It strengthens the mind.”
The U.S. Chess Federation notes the 1,500-year-old game has changed its “nerdy” status with a few folks who love the game: supermodel Carmen Kass, former heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis and actor Will Smith. The nonprofit organization with its 93,000 members also has a World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis.
Although Jordan Perkins became familiar with chess through his grandfather, he played the game on an app and loved it. Besides his grandfather, he also plays with his uncle, who has a Marvel Comics chessboard.
Before anyone left the library, Fagan asked them when they return to bring a book about chess.
“We’re here in a library. Knowledge is all around you,” he said. “It’s important that if you want to know the game, also read about it. Got it?”