Operating out of the Newburgh Free Library on Grand Street, the Crossroads Chess Community welcomes all from the City of Newburgh and surrounding areas to participate, learn and enjoy the game of chess. The Crossroads Chess Community was founded by City of Newburgh resident Matthew Tether, who also serves as a coach and teacher for the community.
The origins of the community began when Tether was visiting friends in 2015 who belonged to the Baptist Temple Church community. On that particular day, Tether remembered seeing several children playing in the street by the church entrance. It was then that Tether and others went over to the group and started playing chess with them. Following this interaction, Tether started to form the idea of a chess program and thus the community was born.
The community welcomes all levels of chess players from beginners to more knowledgeable players and follows a specific value system, called the Values Pyramid, created by Tether, which helps guide the group. An architect by trade, Tether designed the Values Pyramid with a specific foundation and layers in order to not only teach chess but also provide a fun and safe environment, building a positive community wherever the community goes.
“If you’re gonna build a building, you want a strong foundation. Our foundational value is learning. The second value is teach. If you want to know something, learn it. If you want to master something, teach it,” Tether said. “Third level is community because that’s really what we’re all about. We’re not about chess, we’re about building positive community. The fourth and highest level on the other side of positive community is collaboration. Everyone says it, our kids do it.”
During the summer of 2019 the community was able to receive an Awesome Foundation grant that helped in the creation of an outdoor chess park on South St. and after the summer, the hope was to have a better park next year. Unfortunately, it never happened due to COVID.
While the last several years of the COVID pandemic have been difficult for many, the community continued to operate virtually. Tether recalled that the community utilized the Google Meet and Microsoft Excel programs to make a virtual chess board and had lessons prepared for students to learn more about the game. It was during these interactive online chess games where the usage of algebraic notation was taught and utilized. Algebraic notation is the way the game of chess is recorded along with the description of moves.
Now since the end of the lockdown, the community members have been able to partake in games in person and new members have also joined. In addition, the community has made appearances at several community events such as the Back To School Events at the library. There are opportunities to compete in tournaments in Albany and in New York City; but for those who are interested in tournament play, Tether emphasized the importance of knowing algebraic notation along with the understanding of the Values Pyramid before one could join. Though there is no chess park in Newburgh, Tether shared that a chess park, with help of St. Paul’s Church, will be coming to Poughkeepsie in the coming days.
Tether extended his gratitude to the partnership with the library for the usage of their space to meet on weekends and to St. Paul’s partnership to use their property for a chess park. Again, Tether re-emphasized that all are welcome and that this is a community, not a club.
Over the course of several days, the Mid-Hudson Times spoke with several of the community members to learn more about the community, what they enjoy about it and what they plan to do going forward.
Second grader Quincy Branch first joined the community back in July of 2021 which is also when he first started playing chess. During the lockdown period, Branch was able to have online lessons and learn more about the game with Tether and has continued to improve his game each time.
Since the lockdown has ended, Branch has now been able to meet new and returning players and hone his skills. Speaking on the Values Pyramid, Branch shared that the most important value in his opinion was teaching ,because he himself enjoyed teaching other members how to play the game. For now, Branch anticipates competing in tournaments when the time comes, he hopes to see the community grow and he thanks Tether for being his teacher.
Another member of the community that has enjoyed her time thus far and helps in the teaching of the game is rising eighth grader Jay Hayes, who has been playing chess for the past two years. She first joined the community during the lockdown period of the COVID pandemic.
On a trip visiting family is where Hayes first learned how to play chess. One of her cousins asked if she knew how to play and was able to teach the basics, yet Hayes admits that her cousin won every game they played. Naturally competitive as she claims, Hayes became interested in the game of chess and started to play more and more.
Eventually, Hayes learned about the program at the library and found her way to Matthew and the community. Since she has joined, her experience with the group thus far has been fun and rewarding, especially when it comes to teaching the newer community members.
“I will definitely say that I am sticking with this. This is one of my passions,” Hayes said. “Since I joined the crew or the community, I’ve been helping teach the younger children. And so almost every Saturday, I’m at the library, with Matthew and helping all these younger kids, and it’s been so inspiring to see all these young kids, I’m talking four year olds, three year olds actually wanting to learn, and seeing them improve is just magical.”
Hayes said that she is also thankful for her mother for being her support system and motivator to practice when she has the chance. Hayes also said that she has not been able to compete as of yet but looks forward to competing in tournaments one day soon.
The community has operated out of the library during the duration of the summer; but with the school year having started on September 6, the hope is to remain for the time being. For more information on the chess community, Tether recommends contacting the library for more information. The library can be contacted at (845) 563-3600.