Nearing 9 p.m. at Douglas County Libraries' Parker branch on April 18, some faint shouting could be heard coming from a conference room on the second floor. As the library announced it was closed, a …
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Nearing 9 p.m. at Douglas County Libraries' Parker branch on April 18, some faint shouting could be heard coming from a conference room on the second floor. As the library announced it was closed, a group of kids, originally three that grew to a team of six, battled one teenager in the final game of chess for the evening. It ended in a draw as employees began to put away tables.
It's not uncommon to see this 15-year-old, Cameron Miner, take on an army of elementary-aged kids in chess just to bring him down. There's a sense of pride in defeating their mentor. It has to happen, just once, each week.
“It's one of the few games in which there's no luck,” Miner said. “You have to do it well, and it goes so far. There are so many levels of play and you can get so much better.”
Miner is the vice president of the Parker Chess Club, a group dedicated to teaching chess to anyone who walks in the door. He's just one of the club's members, who loves to compete and teach kids chess — and although sometimes he admits he underestimates his opponents, seeing his lessons pay off is special.
Though mostly made up of these kids from various charter schools, the Parker Chess Club ranges in ages from young to old. Sometimes an 8-year-old will defeat a man with a beard, and there's never any animosity of competition. It's all for the love of chess.
Darshan Satishkumar, 8, of American Academy at Lincoln Meadows, began playing when he was 5 and is a frequent player at the Parker Chess Club. Last year, he took third place in the state competition in his first rated competition.
“When I came to the chess club, there were very few people there, but after (more) interest, lots more people came, so I get to play various types of middle games and end games,” Satishkumar said. “They hear about the chess club and how good it is and lots of chess boards and players.”
The group is helmed by John Brezina, one of the state's most avid ambassadors of the sport. He began the club in the old Parker Library in 2016. Over the years, through teaching, playing and dragging tentative onlookers into the library conference room, he has grown the club to near capacity every Thursday night. His players have competed in rated competitions and he even hosts his own — for fun — tournaments that have also grown enormously over the past few months.
“There are so many parities with chess and life,” Brezina said. “What I'm trying to do in the community is find great people who love chess.”
Brezina hopes to keep the chess club a safe and fun place for kids to learn the game so close to his own heart. His belief is that chess is for everyone. In passing, he mentioned that he hopes to eventually begin to undo the stereotype of the “chess nerd.” He wants to one day hold larger community events, inviting the mayor and town council to match up with some of his chess phenoms.
Brezina runs the club as a volunteer. He travels the world attending and photographing major chess tournaments and strives to bring his love of the game to his hometown.
“It's a cool thing when a young kid can beat an adult. How many sports can you compete with an adult?” Brezina said. “I've played homeless people, I've played billionaires. The range of people that can play chess is phenomenal, and that's why I've been drawn to it.”
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