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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bloomington Chess Activist Scott Set for National Honor

Alexandra Kosteniuk's Chess Blog for Daily Chess News and Trivia (c) 2013

Hi everyone, 
Garrett Scott, founder of the Bloomington-Normal Martin Luther King Jr. Chess Day Chess Tournament, talks with his Kingsley Junior High School chess team before the start of competition Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, at Bone Student Center at Illinois State University. Scott will receive the United States Chess Federation's lifetime achievement award on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Pantagraph file photo, David Proeber)

BLOOMINGTON — Local chess players and coaches say the lifetime achievement award that Garrett Scott will receive Wednesday from the United States Chess Federation is definitely well deserved.

“I can’t think of a more deserving person than Garrett Scott to get a lifetime achievement award,” said Dan Irvin, an organizer and fan of chess tournaments in Bloomington-Normal. “He is the real heart blood of youth chess.”

Scott, 69, is retiring from decades of work with the national-level chess organization, but he will remain active at the local level. He said he is pleased with what he has accomplished.

“I am happy,” he said.

Irvin described Scott as a role model with a communitywide impact. “Beyond my parents, (he is) one of the people that had the most impact on my life and that of several generations in Bloomington-Normal,” he said.

Scott, a former Normal City Council member and speech pathologist for Bloomington District 87 schools, has coached dozens of promising young chess players. Among his students were members of state championship teams at University High School and Kingsley and Parkside junior high schools, all in Normal, and Bloomington High School and Oakland and Washington elementary schools, all in Bloomington.

He also has organized a myriad of chess tournaments — perhaps most notably the Bloomington-Normal Martin Luther King Jr. Day Chess Tournament, which started in 1988.

Each year, he tells students about his interaction with King and reminds them of the importance of making good decisions and working together.

Scott said he believes the award he will receive at the federation’s annual meeting in Wisconsin is not for him alone. It also honors the active chess community in Bloomington-Normal, he said.

In 1994, Bloomington and New York City shared the federation’s title of Chess City of the Year. “It was an honor to be considered on equal basis as New York City,” Scott said.

Some of the best young players across the nation competed in events that Scott helped arrange locally.

“A generation of American chess players came through Bloomington,” Irvin said, who worked with Scott during the 1990s in organizing the Maurice Irvin Chess Festival.

That tradition continues as Scott continues to mentor young chess players. Among them is Benjamin Nielsen, 16, of Normal. The teenager’s summer job is teaching 10 to 12 novice chess players in one-hour, weekly lessons.

“A few years ago I got lessons from Mr. Scott; now I give lessons,” Nielsen said.

“I am very happy Mr. Scott was part of my learning experience. I can’t tell you how much I respect him,” the teenager said. (

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