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Chess club uses game to teach life lessons to youths

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — During Black History Month, the Inner City Chess Club is using the game to teach life lessons but also shifting the narrative by showing Indianapolis children that chess is a game for all.

Two chess club players, brothers Andre and Nathan Pipkin, get a little bit closer every time they lay out the board. “It feels good knowing that this is the way we can connect,” said the younger brother, Nathan.

Andre said, “I definitely want to go in a tournament one day. I definitely want to go into a tournament.”

Yuri Smith, their coach, started playing chess as a child. At the time he didn’t know it, but chess would become more than just a game.

“Chess has been a game changer for me, and I didn’t even realize until the last several years,” Smith said.

During his youth, Smith gravitated toward chess as an escape from the drugs and violence in the world around him. “The only difference between me and almost 90% of my friends, who are no longer here or in jail, is that I play chess, and so I didn’t make perfect decisions.”

He said, particularly for kids familiar with his youth, thinking before you act and evaluating the consequences of those actions is valued in chess.

Andre said, “I kept trying to get across the board to take down the king. That was the goal in the beginning. Later on, I learned not to move too fast, and look at the whole set up before it try to win.”

The Pipkin boys’ mother, Natalie, said she sees value in the chess programs, but they don’t always need to be looked at as something that saves youths. “Having Mr. Yuri, even if he didn’t have the story to tell, having a man, a Black man, a human being who cares, all children should experience that, especially our children,” she said.

Nathan, at age 9, sees the value. “It helped me learn more because he is my own reflection.”