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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chess at the barbershop!

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hello everyone,

For those who understand the passion of chess, this story is not going to sound incredulous. For those who don't understand the passion of chess, this story could maybe get them thinking about giving chess a try! It's about chess at the barbershop. Tahira Lindsay has an interesting feature story for you.

Haircuts and Checkmate: Briggs Chaney Barbershop's Unique Hobby
Barbers hope to use chess to empower communities.

When Jafar Ramsey isn't cutting hair, he's calling checkmate from the table that stands in the middle of the cutting floor. Ramsey, a barber at Big G's Barbershop located at Briggs Chaney Road and Old Columbia Pike, is one of more than a dozen barbers at the shop who, in between clients, use the chess board to show off their technique.

"When I first started working here, I saw that they had a chess board," said Ramsey. "I started playing against a few guys at the shop and then more and more people started coming, sometimes just to play chess."

The matches at the barbershop are casual yet competitive. Ramsey has made a name for himself at the chess board; everyone around the shops whispers that he's the hardest guy to beat.

"I've watched guys play for years," said Delton Graham, barber and owner of the shop.

"I would watch them move the players around the board and I'd see guys win and lose all the time. Then, they got a clock. I wanted to see what the clock was used for. A week later I was playing the game."

The chess matches, which are held throughout the day between barbers and clients, are now becoming the blueprint for a larger community bridge project linking chess to empowering neighborhoods. The brainchild for the project, Tai Campbell, believes that chess can be another avenue to bring communities together.

"Our goal here is to create a league and get a community of barbershops to come together with our passion for chess," said Campbell. " If we can come together, we can help bridge the gap between younger and older generations and become a positive force in the community."

His league, which now competes in chess tournaments against neighboring barbershops and chess clubs, meets every Sunday evening at Ihop on Tech Road.

"African-American's are mostly associated with playing basketball or football, said Charles Dickerson, a client of the shop. "But chess is a thinking game. It's teaching how to anticipate someone's next move, it teaches you about how to work together as a team."

For Campbell, who started playing chess at Big G's to pass the time while his kids got their hair cut, the league is more than just a group of men playing a board game. He wants to use this as a tool to keep kids out of trouble and to keep families together.

"My father taught me how to play chess when I was 5, but I didn't start applying it to my life until I was 18," he said. "Chess teaches you a lot about life and choices, that's why all my kids now play chess, even my 6-year-old daughter."

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