Chess at the Island Free Library

The Naval War College in Newport regularly closes its doors and stages “war gaming,” mental exercises that challenge the best in the world to plot and execute military strategy against foes all over the world.That same mind game goes on weekly right in town at the Island Free Library.Chess is an abstract strategy game and involves no hidden information. It is played competitively worldwide on a square chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight by-eight grid, and is not beholden to age groups. No one gets to hide behind a secret “hand of cards,” everything is out in the open and subject only to personal strategy and glares across the board. The eyes mean everything.On Block Island that gaming begins with Graham Watkins, a charismatic seasonal visitor who has been teaching the game of chess to beginners all the while challenging the most advanced players visiting the island.Librarian Kristin Baumann saw a need and a fit in Watkins and found space for him, for which he is grateful.Says Watkins with an engaging personality, “Chess is my game and I’m currently the Block Island Champion.” But he welcomes all challengers and learners from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays

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