Check great! Chess whiz offers kids master’s courses • Brooklyn Paper

Check great! Chess whiz offers kids master’s courses

Bringing it all back home: Bruce Pandolfini, the United States Chess Federation National Master, is returning to his hometown borough to mentor young players.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Brooklyn chess whizzes and novices are about to get some lessons in strategy from one of the world’s most well-known players.

Bruce Pandolfini, a United States Chess Federation national master and a contemporary of Bobby Fischer, began coaching in the borough this week. He is not doing it for the money or the glory, he said.

“I do it because I love it,” said Pandolfini, who grew up in Bensonhurst and Flatbush and now lives in Manhattan. “Once you show a kid that she or he can do well at something like this, they can use it as a springboard to be good at other things.”

Pandolfini first got bitten by the chess bug when she was a kid.

“I was walking through the Brooklyn Public Library when I was 13 and I came across the chess section. I became obsessed with the figures and names,” he said. “I took out all 32 books by going back six times that day and didn’t go to school for a month.”

He began teaching in 1972, which is the same year that he officiated at the World Chess Championship match between Fischer and Russian defending champion Boris Spassky.

Pandolfini was portrayed by Ben Kingsley — yes, the guy who played Gandhi — in the 1993 movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer.”

The master’s Brooklyn tour is being organized by the group Chess NYC, which for years only operated in Williamsburg’s IS 318, the middle school whose award-winning chess club was the subject of a documentary called “The Brooklyn Castle.” The group has now expanded to two elementary schools — one in Greenpoint and one in Prospect Heights — and the Ella McQueen juvenile detention center in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Chess NYC offers early-bird, lunch, and after-school programs, as well as chess camps on every day that school is not in session, with the goal of making the game less elitist.

“When I was a kid, it was four quarters or nine innings or I was not interested,” said Michael Propper, who runs Chess NYC. “We are working on making chess more mainstream so that it is in the kids’ consciousness.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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