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Chess nights draw 'universal crowd'

January 23, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

Austin Fahey moved his bishop several spaces, sliding a rook out of his way.

Then he paused.

"Oh, I see," Austin, 10, said to his father, Jim Fahey.

"I was setting you up on that one," the father said.

Austin, who already had captured four of his dad's pawns, weaved his fingers together and thought about his next move.

The Faheys, both of Hagerstown, were at Port City Java's chess night Sunday. The gatherings are in their third week.

Joe Harris, manager of the business in Long Meadow Shopping Center, said chess night draws a "universal crowd" and has been growing in popularity since the first Sunday.

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"I'm glad something is offered that challenges the mind," Harris said.

Darren Bittinger, 8, has played chess for nearly two years. On Sunday, he tried to teach his mother, Sunni Bittinger.

Darren said he enjoyed the strategy involved in chess, and said he systematically picks off his opponent's pieces and then goes for the king. Without giving away too many of his secrets, Darren also said he has a way to protect his king when it is in trouble.

"A lot of the time when the king is in trouble, I (jump it over) a (rook) to save the king," he said.

Bittinger said her son began beating his aunt at checkers, and the two decided it was time to move on to a more challenging game.

"We thought, well, it's time to learn how to play chess," she said.

Darren is hoping his school, Greenbrier Elementary School in Boonsboro, will start a chess club. Bittinger said school officials have been discussing it.

Austin said he is a member of his school's chess club.

"He's getting better," Fahey said. "He's beaten me a few times."

David J. Lerner of Hancock said he began playing chess late in life.

"I came to the game late, and I feel myself not very good at it," he said.

Lerner's opponent, whom he met at Port City Java's chess night, said he disagreed.

"What is important is not winning or losing, but the dance of the game," Lerner said. "It's also a way to command an army without harming anyone."

Lerner, a retired dentist, said he loves learning and "thought," and chess was a good fit for him. A vocal player, Lerner talked and reasoned about what his opponent did and what his options were.

"I enjoy it when my opponent makes a good move," Lerner said. "And, of course, if I make a good move, I dream about it for a week."

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