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Fifty losses in a row.
That’s about how many times Tim Bratton said he was beat at chess by a Russian player on a recent Caribbean cruise. Bratton, a longtime chess player, tested his mettle against players from Russia and Bulgaria on his vacation.
At the end of the trip, Bratton finally was able to take a game from the Russian, he said. Despite getting skunked, the experience made him a better player, he said, and he took his new skills to a local chess club started by Gerry Scherbenske.
Scherbenske, a former math and science teacher in Jamestown, began a group in town with the goal of building more interest in chess in the area. Scherbenske said he first learned chess from his uncle when he was around 7 or 8 years old. With no television or computer, Scherbenske cherished the long nights on the farm playing game after game with his uncle, he said.
The club meets at Alfred Dickey Library and hopes to transition into a local chess association and play in tournaments around the state. For now it’s just about growing the game in the city, Scherbenske said. The group meets on an informal schedule at the library. Scherbenske said players have to learn to deal with the variables in each match. Bratton said chess teaches people critical thinking skills. In addition to the mental challenge of the game, Bratton said he enjoys the social aspect. “It’s nice to have something to do in my retirement,” Bratton said.
Scherbenske said all ages and skill levels are welcome to join the group and play. The group is willing to teach people who are new to the game. “It’s a learning environment. Gerry is always teaching people how to play better,” Bratton said.
One of the people who has joined the group is the Rev. Bob Boyar, pastor at the United Presbyterian Church in Jamestown. Boyar said he joined after one of his congregants introduced him to Scherbenske. Boyar said he had not been much of a chess player previously but decided to join the group. “The game looks really simple at first, but there’s a lot of layers to it,” he said. Boyar said it’s a great way for him to get to know people outside of his church.
In a technological age where people are able to play chess from their smartphones, Bratton said there is still something to be gained from playing someone in a face-to-face matchup.
“There’s a psychological aspect to the game that you don’t get over the computer,” he said.
Scherbenske said they are always looking for more people who want to play or learn the game.
Interested players can call the library at 252-2990 to ask for information about the chess club.