Downtown Chess attracts young and old to ancient game

One of the most popular programs at the Central Library in Downtown San Diego doesn’t involve a book. In fact, participants don’t even need a library card.

That’s because, on Friday afternoons, the lobby of the library at 330 Park Blvd. is transformed into a chess sanctuary. Players of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels come together to play one of the world’s most recognized games.

“We represent a cross-section of our society, we have kids, the elderly, adults, male and female, all of them coming in to play,” said Albert Elguira, Library Assistant and Downtown Chess program founder.

While reading is not required, founders of Downtown Chess say the program perfectly aligns with the San Diego Public Library’s mission – inspiring knowledge through connections to each other and the world. Participants teach each other and share tips on how to play.

“Chess is not only a sport, it is an art and a science,” said Elguira.

Health benefits are also attributed to the game. Elguira points to research linking chess with dementia prevention and promoting analytical thinking skills.

Game inspires community connection

Downtown Chess receives support from community partners like the San Diego Chess Club, which is one of the largest chess clubs in the country. San Diego Chess Club maintains its own facility in Balboa Park, which is temporarily closed for repair and improvements.

“The club likes to support the casual programs, like here at the library, because we’re hopeful that these players will become more interested in chess and will want to become tournament players,” said Jeffrey Turner of the San Diego Chess Club.

Even with a game originating in 6th century India, chess is still more popular than ever.

“It’s interesting because over 600 million people know how to play chess, it’s by far the most popular game in the world,” said Jeffrey Turner of the San Diego Chess Club. “Compared to other games, it’s pretty cheap to get into chess. You just need a little knowledge and you are empowered.”

Chess tournaments at the Central Library are held on a quarterly basis. Program partner Herges Capital Management donates prizes for tournament winners.

Regular play is open on a first-come, first-serve basis every Friday from 1:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. To contact the Central Library, call 619-236-5800 or visit the San Diego Public Library website.

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