Newburgh’s young chess players will soon see a revival of in-person matches, after over a year of playing online, thanks to a collaboration with Gita Nandan of ADS Warehouse Gallery, who offered the outdoor community space and courtyard to be used for the initiative.
“Our idea behind our courtyard space is that it is publicly accessible and that the community is able to do community-based events there,” said Nandan. “We are very happy to partner and work with local organizations that have a need for space and are doing interesting, cool things for the community, for youth, for supporting each other.”
Over the years Newburgh children have traveled from Albany to New York City to participate in several chess tournaments, learning not only the game but the values behind it all. Matthew Tether, an architect by day and chess teacher by night, started teaching Newburgh’s youth after he noticed the children in the street outside of Newburgh’s Baptist Temple (back in 2015) didn’t have much to play with. The idea to start teaching chess was quickly born and he began showing kids how to play the game right there on the street.
When things changed because of the pandemic, Tether quickly switched gears, had the students jump online and they made the most out of the new situation. Although a different experience, Tether went as far to say that the chess program thrived during the pandemic. For example, new ways of learning were introduced, like an interactive “Sesame Street” program and the use of Filippo the Chess Jester puppet. In a normal year, the chess group would have a one-day winter chess workshop during the week when the kids were on their winter break. However, this year they decided to have a winter chess week, which was seven days full of chess matches and workshops followed by a “bonfire” where the chess players each shared something new they learned.
“I hope the whole team can come together and play again,” said Nia Griffin. “We have meetings on Saturdays where we present what we learned, but it’s not the same as being in person.”
While it was an adjustment for those who may have been used to in-person chess, the virtual setting also allowed for new faces, like Jazmine Pyle.
“I haven’t been in any other chess groups or anything, but I am really excited to be a part of this one,” said Pyle. “I really want to get in-person because the interaction between people is better and you can learn a little more. I look forward to being in person.”
Now, with in-person chess on the horizon, the group is considering how to transition in a way that allows them to return stronger than ever. Throughout the pandemic, the only time there was an in-person meeting was on October 10, at the ADS Warehouse Gallery.
“As the pandemic becomes a thing of the past, we’re going to have to learn how to go forward,” said Tether. “Our analogy is like Noah’s Ark. When the flood was over, everyone didn’t pile off and say great, we’re going to go back to living the way we were used to. No, we’re going forward. We’ve learned a lot of good things during the pandemic, and we’re not letting those things go.”
Now, with envisioning a “better post-pandemic world,” the group will return on select Sundays at the ADS Warehouse Courtyard, and design and create a custom large-scale chess set, which Tether said is “symbolic of creativity, renewal and a vibrant post-pandemic world.”
“Our Sundays are pretty quiet around the space,” said Nandan. “We don’t have a lot going on and so it seemed like a good opportunity … The chess club seemed like the perfect fit. They had a great time the last time they did it and we asked them if they wanted to try and do it again in the summer.”
Although the chess players have had to be flexible between online chess matches and now soon back in person, Tether said their “primary mission remains to bring the good game of chess, and everything positive that comes with it, to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity.”
The new plexi chess set and gym flooring chess board will require fundraising to create. In May or June, ADS Warehouse Gallery will host a fundraising event to help make this possible.
“We want to make it so that it’s easy to play with and easy to take around,” said Griffin. “It would have a white and yellow checkerboard instead of black and white so it’s more colorful. We are thinking of cardboard pieces that are yellow, so it’s easy to play with.”
Tether hopes to have the large-scale, 18 by 18 feet chess board will attract new students and to have others be involved moving forward. As always, Tether hopes to teach students not just about the game of chess, but more importantly, the pyramid of values they practice, which includes “learn” at the bottom, followed by “teach,” “community” and then “collaborate.” Additionally, the chess club teaches to teach, rather than teach to test.
“The difference between teach to teach and teach to test is when you’re teaching to test, you’re learning about it just to take a test just to pass it,” said Pyle. “When you’re teaching to teach, you’re teaching it to the level you can understand it personally and you can go off and teach someone else and learn more after teaching them yourself. Maybe they know a little bit more.”
As the fundraiser approaches, Nandan of ADS Warehouse Gallery and Tether will distribute more information about the date, time and how to get involved if you wish.