Chess-in-the-Schools comes to Maine

08.28.07 Students and chaperones from Chess-in-the-Schools, the wildly successful program that teaches chess to kindergarten through eighth grade children in New York's inner-city public schools, recently made the trek to downeast Maine for a cultural and chessic exchange with some of Maine's top scholastic players. In four fun-filled days, students enjoyed USCF-rated chess, blitz, bughouse, two cookouts, a lobster bake and most importantly, each other's company.

Students from the Chess-in-the-Schools program in New York play chess with Maine students in Deer Isle.

For twelve Chess-in-the-Schools students and three chaperones it was a long ride from New York City to Bangor, Maine (about nine hours with a few pit stops and rest breaks) but after arriving in Vacationland for four days of fun (August 21 - 24, 2007) all would agree that it was worth the trip. Beginning with a cookout on the shores of Chemo Pond in Eddington, students had a chance to unwind and prepare themselves for the copious amounts of chess and fun that was to follow.

The first official chess on the docket--dubbed the Chess in the Woods tournament--was a twenty-four player, four round, game in 30 team event at the Airline Community School in Aurora. The only player to go undefeated and untied in this tournament was New York's Isaac De Los Santos. He was followed by seven players tied for second with three points, all of whom were Chess-in-the-Schools players except Maine's Matthew Fishbein from Cape Elizabeth.

USCF crosstable of the Chess in the Woods tournament

Immediately after the tournament players reconvened at Featherfoot Farm, also in Aurora, for a taste of Maine farm life. After a feast of homemade foods and dessert (including traditional wild Maine Blueberry Cake known as Blueberry Buckle or Blueberry Boy Bait), soccer, tether ball, a bit of animal husbandry and of course more chess, we were treated to a star-filled sky and a meteor or two.

The weather continued to be just perfect for day three and a quintessential Maine experience--the Maine Lobster bake. Courtesy of Billings Diesel and Marine Services in Deer Isle, kids got a chance to pull some pots (that's Maine-speak for hauling up lobster traps and checking their contents) and enjoy a traditional lobster feed with all the fixin's while overlooking Deer Isle - Stonington Harbor. There was horseshoes and football, more blueberry cake and more chess! This time of the blitz and bughouse variety.

As a thank you, Chess-in-the-Schools graciously provided chess sets, roll-up boards and carrying cases to all the Maine players and the Deer Isle program responded in kind with Deer Isle - Stonington Mariners chess t-shirts. Amid thank yous and goodbyes talk could be heard of planning next year's event, the only question is: Will it be in Maine or New York City?

Much thanks to the Chess-in-the-Schools program, the organizing committee members from both Maine and New York (Juliana Solinger, Bob Solinger, Andy Bryan, Dick Powell and Dan DeLuca) and the many volunteers that made this a great experience for the kids. Special thanks to Fritz Gaspard, Ian West, Fred Irons, Dan and Ilene Fishbein, Emily Lowell, Beth Bryan, Carol Solinger, Peg Zembrusky, Suzette Billings, Harlan Billings and Billings Diesel and Marine Services.

Isaac De Los Santos, the Chess in the Woods tournament winner plays former Maine K-3 state champion, Anna Bryan in the first round.

This game between Jasmine Grant (1562) and Brett Parker (798) was a real barn burner. Despite two illegal moves and four minutes added to his opponent's clock, Parker managed a triple repeat of position draw. After the game he said, "I think that was the best game I have ever played." Notice the wooden set and board; top boards played on chess sets from The House of Staunton.

Chess-in-the-School instructor Fritz Gaspard analyzes with Airline Community School student Joey Ahearn.

Ian West does the same with Laddy DeLuca Lowell as Shehab Hansan looks on.

Laron McBryde showing his Yankee colors.

The Airline Community School in Aurora, Maine. Those white vans are the Chess-in-the-Schools transport.

Tether ball at Featherfoot Farm.

Fritz Gaspard trying his hand at goat milking and...

sampling the results.

The homemade lemonade was a huge hit.

Just like the super GMs! What better activity after chess than some pick-up soccer?

Always the coach: Ian West giving his team some pointers.

Four rounds were not enough! Issac De Los Santos and Shehab Hasan play some skittles in the farmhouse.

The perfunctory group photo.

Deer Isle - Stonington lobster!

Shehab Hasan continues to plays blitz through it all.

A blitz team tournament on the ocean.

Oh, the insanity of it all: blitz bughouse! Kids these days...hey, wait a minute, that's not a kid!

Watch out for that football!

Our gracious hostess and the Deer Isle - Stonington Chess Boosters President: Suzette Billings.

Dick Powell reeling off the pairings for the team tournament.

The Chess-in-the-Schools brain trust (left to right): Juliana Solinger, Fritz Gaspard and Ian West

Yes, chess is this much fun!

The exchange of gifts: t-shirts for New Yorkers, chess sets for Mainers.

Captain Billings at the controls.

One of the many sailing ships to pass through the harbor.

Ahh, summer in Maine.


Thanks so much to everyone in Maine who made this trip a great successs. The Chess-in-the-Schools students (and staff) could not have had a better time.

no wonder you got best web site good luck & keep it up , man from Quincy Mass.

Great article, great pictures and a great event. The Maine kids (and their parents) got just as much out of this experience as did the CIS kids. Can't wait until next year!


Great article and pictures show all the enthusiasm. The players from Orono greatly enjoyed their experience and thank you for hosting this great event and the C-I-S leaders for bringing their players to Maine. It was a great time for everyone.

Great pics Dan. Looks like all had a ball. Thanks for posting. Paul Dumont

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