By Ana Laura Araya

Chess is an analytical and universal sport that improves academic achievement and helps individuals plan ahead, problem-solve, become more disciplined, and have more patience. As if that was not enough, it also helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

As in any major city, chess has a presence in Atlanta. The city is fortunate enough to have many talented chess players of all ages.

Three young and dedicated chess players, all below the age of 30, shared their stories with INtown.

Richard Francisco, 27, is a doctoral student at the University of Georgia and the current two-time defending Georgia Adult State Chess Champion. Carter Peatman, 15, spends most of his spare time playing chess and recently won first place at the 2011 Georgia Class Championship in Class A. Cole Leingang, 9, received second place in Georgia Chess Association’s Grade Level State Championship and plays chess everyday.

All three learned chess from a family member. Cole learned from his older brother, while Richard and Carter both learned from their fathers. As with many other chess players, they were all below the age of 8 when they began to play.

Richard caught the “chess bug” after seeing classmates playing on the chess team and getting Chessmaster on his Game Boy. Carter learned in kindergarten and his talent was apparent since a very young age – in 2nd grade he won11th place at the Super National Chess Tournament.

“I recently ran cross country and I am planning on participating in track and field in the spring, but chess will always be my priority,” said Carter, who is now a 9th grade student at Decatur High School.

When asked what makes a good chess player, all of them had different answers.

According to Richard, the most important aspect is to love the game. “A voracious appetite to learn more is the most important criteria to chess achievement,” he stated. “It then becomes a balance between studying published books and games and playing against players near your ability level.”

Carter said it’s important to understand that you’re not always going to win, but you’re always going to learn. Cole said that you have to practice and figure out what your opponent will do next.

Unfortunately, these players have seen a decline in the Atlanta chess scene. “Many strong players in Atlanta have stopped playing, one reason being the rough economy, the emergence of online chess and a popularity in poker, which can be more lucrative,” Richard said.

Both he and Carter have both been playing tournaments at the Atlanta Chess Center in Scottsdale. Unfortunately, this center will close soon and Carter believes that there will be a need for a new center in town.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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