By Ukee Washington
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Sports championships are always big news. Chess championships, almost never. But volunteer coaches and their supporters are helping young chess players from Philadelphia travel to the big show.
Mikyeil El-Mekki knows what chess can teach a child: taking time to find options.
Ibrahim Muhammad, a 9th grade chess player, said, “Like, it lets you know to do the smart thing, so that you can stay out of trouble.”
“And in the world that we live in, wise decision-making on a consistent basis is becoming a rare and more precious thing,” said El-Mekki.
El-Mekki coaches the Paul Robeson Chess Club. Jason Bui coaches the Minor Threats Chess Club. Those are just two of five Philadelphia Chess Society’s trophy-winning teams with players from first grade to 12th.
Bui said, “Most of my kids are from southwest Philly and quite a few of the kids from that school don’t leave southwest Philly very often.”
The tournament trip isn’t cheap. Forty kids plus 12 adults costs $24,000.
“We’ve done T-shirt sales, bake sales,” Bui said. They also spread word online.
Ken Silver owns Jim’s Steaks at 4th and South Street, and plays chess, too. As soon as he heard about the club, he donated $2500.
“I wanted to do whatever I could to sponsor this effort, because I think it’s tremendous,” Silver said.
He believes a kid playing chess will make better decisions in the long run. So do they.
Karissma Jackson, a 6th grade chess player, said, “Instead of kids getting around, getting in trouble, it’s a game called chess than can help you.”
The team was close enough to its fundraising goal, so they’re headed to Nashville this week! But there are still bills to cover.
The non-profit After School Activities Partnership or ASAP is collecting donations on behalf of the Philadelphia Chess Society. You can donate through ASAP online at the Philadelphia Chess Society website.
You can also mail donations to ASAP,1520 Locust Street, Suite 1104, Philadelphia, PA 19102. Their main number is 215-545-2727. Write on the memo line “Philadelphia Chess Society.”