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Club teaches chess, life lessons

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NILES, Ohio - During this age of technology, an organization in Trumbull County is getting kids away from the TV screen and in front of a chess board.

In our What Works segment, 21 News met founders of the group who hope to show more kids that playing this strategic game can help them down the road.

Michael Witt may be half the size of his opponent, but it doesn't faze the 121/2 year old. He's using the strategy he calls the engineers defense.

"Well my king is protected because the only way you can come down is this angle, but as you see his own knight is stopping him from coming down at this angle and defeating me," Witt said.

Michael is one of the regulars with The Chess is Life All-City Chess Club which meets every Saturday morning at the Eastwood Mall food court.

Organizers say the club is about more than just learning how to win in the game of chess. It's about learning life skills like critical thinking, organizational skills, and problem solving.

"I win sometimes, I lose sometimes. I think my game is getting a little better. I am on my road. Maybe one day I'll be as good as Bobby Fischer," Witt said.

One of his friendly challengers, Alex Georgescu, hardly goes anywhere without his velcro chess set in tow. The Hickory High 8th grader says he doesn't keep track of the number of people he has beaten. "I just like the challenge," Georgescu said.

It was a spirited challenge to a matchup between Miles Johnson and Jeff Butts that started this whole program.

Miles said, "He (Jeff) said something and I said you know I'll beat you in two moves, three moves whatever."

Their next plans were to collaborate to provide a space for kids and the community to come together to learn, play, and promote chess in education.

"This is an intellectual game so you have to think. So you can't just talk your way out of it but you have to intellectually think your way through and you have to map out a plan and that thing can better prepare kids in education, personal life, everything that they do," Jeff said.

Miles, who is 20-years-old, has seen a change in his own life.

"I guess I would say I was a troubled child as a young man and once I started playing this game it kind of calmed me down. I really learned how to think through things, my problems you know," Miles said.

Now he and Jeff are passing on what they have learned to future generations.

Bec'klen Scott, an 8th grader at Warren JFK, said "The phrase 'chess is life' is kind of true because it really does help you."

Michael said, "It's basically taught me all and I've definitely made a lot of life connections and it's definitely increased my grades in school."

Strategies that are helping these young minds navigate the road ahead in the game of life.

The chess club meets Saturday mornings at the Eastwood Mall food court. Adults play at 8 a.m. Youth lessons and play are at 10 a.m.

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