Calling out “checkmate” followed by the shaking of hands, signals the end of an intense game of chess between two formidable opponents.
Nine-year-old Markus and his opponent, 11-year-old Zoe were a study in concentration as they sat across the chess board from each other.
Both are learning the intricacies of the game at The Chess Studio in North Bay.
“I like everything about it,” said Markus who decided he wanted to learn to play chess after watching his father play.
The young player is quick to point out who tends to win the bulk of their matches.
“Me,” he stated with confidence.
His opponent, Zoe has been playing chess for “a couple of years,” pointing out that it helps with her concentration.
“You can’t just move randomly; you have to focus. You have to think ahead. I think it is good for memory and strategizing.”
It was her mother who introduced Zoe to the game.
“We play together sometimes,” shared the youngster with a grin.
At a nearby table nine-year-old Iris, who has been playing for just a few months, is up against 10-year-old Isaac.
“I just saw my uncle playing and it seemed interesting,” shared Iris.
“It’s fun basically. Some of my friends play.”
Isaac is more experienced, playing for nearly two years.
“I like that you get to strategize and plan ahead. It makes your mind smarter. It is good if you want to get a business when you’re older, it is a good thing for that because you can plan good strategies to get lots of money,” he stated emphatically.
While some of his friends spend time playing video games, they also seem interested in what Isaac is doing.
“I think they think the same as me, and I think it is pretty fun. It is good to practice for tournaments and get medals and certificates.”
Chess Studio owner Dmytro Korotkykh credits his own father for developing his love of the game.
“I used to be a Candidate Master when I was 12 years old. My father unfortunately passed away then and we had to move back to Ukraine. I used to be a professional chess player when I was a teenager.”
Due to his family situation, he quit chess, but some 25 years later he was reintroduced to the game he loved thanks in part to his son.
“He was into checkers, and he was in a checkers tournament when I saw two guys playing chess. I felt I should try again and that night I started to play online.”
It all came rushing back, sparking the flame needed to motivate him to work towards getting his title of Candidate Master back, which is one step below earning the Chess Master ranking.
“It was five or six years ago, so now I play every day and I decided to get my title back. So, I played in Ottawa's official tournament, and next weekend we will be in Sudbury. I am going to play there, and so I hope I will get my title back,” grinned Korotkykh who shared a funny story about playing as a young boy.
“When I was 10, I was a very strong player, and I went to a park with my dad where people were playing chess but they were in their 40s and 50s and they were not interested in playing with kids. They were Masters. My dad asked if I could play just one game, and they said okay. After that I won 20 games in a row,” laughed the chess teacher who got his first adult ranking at age 10.
By that point, he had already been playing three times a week for four years.
When he and his family moved to North Bay in 2015, he was surprised he could not find a local chess club.
“For me, it was a shame. North Bay is pretty much a large city with a 52-thousand population and no chess or checkers school, I was surprised,” said Korotkykh.
“I wanted something for my kids, so I spoke with the principal at Vincent Massey Public School and offered myself as a volunteer and I started chess classes at Vincent Massey. I did two years of chess classes during lunch breaks. At some point, I had 70 students on my list, so it was pretty popular.”
Just last month he branched out, offering classes that include theory, to the community at large.
His students currently range in age from six to 16.
Korotkykh sees many benefits to learning chess.
“From my experience, it is super. I quit chess but I still had this chess thinking strategy in business and in my life, so I felt I could outplay my opponents in business to think three steps ahead. And even if you lose you learn something; Why did you lose? What can you do better in the future? And in this way, you can progress well, not only in chess but in life also. It also helps with problem-solving and building confidence.”
As an educational tool, experts have explained that playing chess can improve memory, planning, and problem-solving skills, and it teaches people how to focus. It also builds self-esteem, teaches sportsmanship and patience.
“I don’t know anything bad about chess,” Korotkykh chuckled.
Adults are also encouraged to drop by and play at the Chess Studio.
“During the daytime, I am here so if adults want to come and play or want to learn something, I’m open. I really want to bring chess back to North Bay because I found out years ago, that chess was very popular here. Every second week in August was the North Bay International tournament. The last was in 1993. It was usually 200-300 players from all over the world, including Grand Masters,” Korotkykh pointed out.
The Chess Studio is hosting its own tournaments next month.
“It will be December 16th for beginners and December 17th for intermediate. I have limited space, so if you want to hold your spot, email me at [email protected] Everybody is welcome, no age restrictions because chess is not really about age.”
The Chess Studio is located at 4-400 Airport Road across from Blue Sky Bingo.