2011-03-31 / News

Check-mates: Chess veteran helps islanders learn game

By Cindy Cingone

Mark Carnevale Mark Carnevale The game of chess, since it’s first recorded conception, has been misinterpreted for thousands of years. Once thought of as the “games of kings,” now is the king of games: It is the most popular board game in the world.

Many of the misconceptions regarding chess are that it is thought to be a game of calculus reserved only for the highest of intellectuals – nothing can be further from the truth.

Jamestown resident Mark Carnevale has been playing chess for 39 years. Carnevale thought it would be a fun idea over the long winter months to set up a chess program at the Jamestown Philomenian Library.

Jane Bentley, the president of the Friends of the Library, and Judy Bell, the recently retired library director, agreed to help Carnevale set up Jamestown Chess Nights.

“The group does seem to be growing with more interested people showing up each week,” said Donna Fogarty, the director of the library.

“Overall,” said Carnevale, “the club has had 20 players attending on different evenings.”

The core group is made up of six to eight people. The game of chess is played between two players and through elimination, so a participant can shift to a second game of chess in the same night. There is no competitive involvement. According to Carnevale, the evening is generally just for the enjoyment of playing the game.

Next year Carnevale is hoping to make chess nights more pleasurable by having the hours extended. Currently, the group meets from 7 to 9 p.m. Carnevale wants to add another hour of play. “Two hours,” says Carnevale, “is not enough.”

Mark Carnevale and his family moved to Jamestown eight years ago from Narragansett. Carnevale is vice president of BankNewport and works as the bank’s residential loan officer. He first learned the game of chess when he was 8 years old. His grandfather taught him how to play.

Carnevale is now teaching his own three children how to play the game. His two daughters, ages 6 and 7, both know the game. His 4-year-old son is just starting to learn.

Participation in the chess club requires that participants be at least 16 years old and have a basic knowledge and understanding of playing the game of chess. The library can be a great source for learning the game of chess by reading the many how-to books available.

Players can practice and sharpen their skills further by logging onto an Internet chess playing web site. However, chess, to some, is best played in person.

Before each chess meeting at the library, Carnevale spends 10 minutes with the group discussing chess theory and strategy. He goes over the fine points of the game, as well as the obvious rules, strategic approaches and tactics. To some, this can be the advantage point where one-onone personal game participation surpasses online playing.

Part of the myths generated around the game of chess can be found in our own American history. While it is difficult to estimate how many people play chess worldwide, the World Chess Federation projected the number of chess players in the world to be 605 million in 2009. American estimates come in at around 16 million.

Chess can be seen everywhere in our past and modern-day media. In the 1963 James Bond classic, “From Russian With Love,” tuxedoed international spies can be seen playing the game. Mr. Spock from Star Trek played a 3-D version of chess in both the film and television versions of the sci-fi classic. Harry Potter en- gaged in a chessboard battlefield in scenes from the movie “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Misconceptions of chess may be foundered in folklore, but two of America’s founding fathers – Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin – both played chess and wrote about it in their journals. Chess is easy to play anywhere. Anyone can buy a set for a few dollars or can learn to play against a computer opponent on their desktop.

Many people still find chess an intimidating game and believe that it’s a game for intellectuals. According to Carnevale, this is simply not true. Chess is easy to learn and the game can be played at any age level.

The Jamestown Chess Nights will meet for two more weeks before shutting down at the end of April. They will meet on Wednesday, April 13, and again on Wednesday, April 27.

“One of the reasons why I started the group was to give islanders something to do during the snowbound winter months,” Carnevale said. He will begin Jamestown Chess Nights again in November.

The program is free and open to the public. The group has met twice a month in the Sydney L. Wright Museum inside the Jamestown library since November.

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