Central control: U.S. Chess Center celebrates new digs in suburban Maryland

September 26, 2018 GMT

With more than 100 area elementary and secondary students on hand and a virtual visit from the former world champion Garry Kasparov, the U.S. Chess Center got off to a rousing start at its new home in downtown Silver Spring Saturday, a location organizers hope will boost the Center’s visibility and accessibility for chess players around the Washington region.

Located for its first two decades in a K Street office building, the Chess Center has found a permanent new home at the renovated Alexander House apartment building at 8560 Second Ave. in Silver Spring a chip shot away from a Red Line Metro stop and a soon-to-open Purple Line station, close by the thriving Silver Spring downtown, and across the street from a public parking garage.

“This is a very proud day for Maryland,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat, told a large crowd gathered Saturday for the opening, recalling how he used to drive his own children to the downtown D.C. site when they were young. “We needed a real home for the U.S. Chess Center, and I am so glad it’s here.”

Center President David Mehler, who has been with the facility since its 1992 opening, credited Montgomery Country Executive Ike Leggett and Council member Roger Berliner, among others, with helping find the space, and said the new accessible location within walking distance of thousands of homes and apartments “will increase our visibility very nicely.”

In addition to its outreach efforts, the Center will offer weekend instructional and competitive programs for area school children, as well as weekday lunchtime drop-in play starting Sept. 17. Regular Monday evening rated ladder play is planned in the near future.

Virginia WGM Jennifer Yu gave a simultaneous exhibition in the morning, and Kasparov whose visit to the Center had to be postponed because of the nasty weather paired off against Mr. Raskin via video hookup for a quick, casual game. The congressman a Class B player himself crowd-sourced many of his moves with the kibitzing junior players, and could have made the champ work for the point in the game’s critical phase.

From today’s diagram, after Mr. Kasparov’s 22...Rf8-f6, Raskin Co. put up surprisingly tough defense in a bad position with 23. Qf1 Qg4 24. f3 Nxf3 25. Ne4! (White’s best try to stave off immediate collapse) Nxg1 26. Nxf6+ gxf6 27. Qxg1 Kf7, when 28. Qf2! Rg8 29. Rg1 Qxg1+ 30. Qxg1 Rxg1 31. Kxg1 promises a long and uncertain ending. Instead, White solved all Black’s problems with 28. Qxg4?? (played against the advice of many in attendance, in part because the congressman confessed he’d always wanted to say he had “captured Kasparov’s queen”) fxg4 29. f5 Re8 30. Bh6 Re2 31. a4 b4 32. h4 b3 33. Rf1 Rxb2 and the champ went on to an easy win.

Mr. Mehler says the Center’s mission using chess to teach academic and social skills to children, especially at-risk youth remains unchanged, and adds he has no plans to seek other employment either.

“I enjoyed being a high school teacher, I became a lawyer for more vulgar reasons, and have been following this as a passion for 26 years,” he says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


I have fond memories of my own of the Chess Center, having captained for many years the Center Counters in the D.C. Chess League. Although it had a tragic ending (I lost), one of my all-time favorite games was played at the Center against expert Tom Beckman.

It’s a wacky affair in which Black was definitely worse on the queenside, gambled with a speculative piece sac (27...Bxh4?!?) on the kingside, was winning after a time-control blunder (39. Qe2??), failed to find the crushing 50...Rg4!, and finally threw it all away on 52. Re2+ Kf6?? (Ne5+!! was the tempo-winning only move; e.g. 53. Rxe5+ Kf6 54. Qd5 Qd1+ 55. Ke4 Rg4+ 56. Ke3 Rc3+ 57. Qd3 Qxd3 mate) 53. Qf3+ Kg6 54. Re6+ Kg5 55. Qf6+ Kh5 56. Bf3+ Rg4 57. Qg6+, and I resigned not needing to see 57...Kh5 58. Qxg4 mate.

For more information on U.S. Chess Center activities, call 202-857-4922 or check out www.chessctr.org.

Beckman-Sands, D.C. Chess League, U.S. Chess Center, Washington D.C. 1994

1. f4 e6 2. Nf3 f5 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 d5 5. O-O c6 6. h3 Nbd7 7. b3 Be7 8. Bb2 Ne4 9. Qe1 Bf6 10. Ne5 Nd6 11. d4 g5 12. e3 Rg8 13. Nd2 Nf7 14. a4 Ndxe5 15. fxe5 Be7 16. a5 Bb4 17. a6 b5 18. c3 Be7 19. Ra2 Qb6 20. c4 bxc4 21. bxc4 Bxa6 22. Qa1 Bc8 23. Bc3 a6 24. c5 Qa7 25. Nb3 Bd8 26. Rb1 g4 27. h4 Bxh4 28. gxh4 Qe7 29. Be1 g3 30. Nd2 Qxh4 31. Nf3 Qg4 32. Kf1 h5 33. Ng1 Ng5 34. Qb2 f4 35. exf4 Qxf4+ 36. Ke2 a5 37. Kd1 Rg7 38. Qd2 Qg4+ 39. Qe2 Qxd4+ 40. Rd2 Qxg1 41. Qxh5+ Nf7 42. Qh4 Ba6 43. Qf6 Kf8 44. Qxe6 Bb5 45. Rxb5 cxb5 46. c6 Re8 47. Qxd5 Rxe5 48. c7 Rxe1+ 49. Kc2 Rc1+ 50. Kd3 Rxc7 51. Qa8+ Ke7 52. Re2+ Kf6 53. Qf3+ Kg6 54. Re6+ Kg5 55. Qf6+ Kh5 56. Bf3+ Rg4 57. Qg6+ Black resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email dsands@washingtontimes.com.