“In this room, there are a bunch of minds and one thing that chess does is keep your mind sharp. I’m intimidated by all of the brain power, all of the minds in this room,” proclaimed local Philadelphia Officer Mouzone. On Saturday, January 21st, ASAP hosted the 10th Annual PECO-ASAP Checkmate Violence Chess Marathon at Temple University, with over 250 of the city's most skilled competitors (now that’s a lot of brain power). From 9AM Saturday until 5PM Sunday, hundreds of scholastic chess players crowded the Temple University Gittis Student Center; some quietly practicing last minute moves, while others sorted through donated chess books to prepare for their next match. “We get to go to so many places with ASAP, and play different people, know more people. We get to have free books…free books! I know there is a library, but this, this is a free book!” exclaimed Kavai Sterling of ENON Connected Pawns chess club, as he stood next to his best friend, Christian Debrady. “We became friends because he did a weird opening at a tournament, and I knew I had to be his friend. He lost though…” jokes Christian. Kavai responded by excitedly sifting through multiple pieces of literature to strategize a win with a more efficient opening for Checkmate Violence. “I chose this book to get better on my opening. I’m tired of losing.”
Following 2 rounds of rated and non-rated matches, ASAP welcomed officers from the 39th Police District to say some words of encouragement at the lunch time pep-rally about the importance of utilizing chess to reach goals, while also welcoming the youth challengers to take on Philly’s finest. Sergeant Mannings took the stage, recognizing the role of dedicated adults in the room, “I commend coaches and parents and adults who brought the kids here- young people you don’t know what a gift that is. What they are doing is focusing your mind. Every coach here, every parent here and every police officer here will tell you-- you get in trouble when you stop thinking. Chess is a thinker’s game, so keep on thinking. Thinking keeps you out of trouble.” Over the last few months, the officers have been supporting the chess team at Dobbins High School, led by coach Prince Campbell.
39th District Officers with Dubbins' High School Chess Team & Coach Prince Campbell
The message of considering one's actions and keeping youth engaged during after school hours was a constant theme spoken by the officers. However, Philly youth were not the only ones moved by inspirational words on Saturday. Sergeant Sanford stated, “I see a bunch of faces I’ve never seen before all sitting together and shaking hands and competing peacefully with each other. It’s a good thing to see. In the neighborhoods we serve, we don’t see this there. We need to see more of this. Keep going--keep the momentum.”
Overall, ASAP recognized individual tournament competitors Austin Ready from Taggert (K-3U400), Luca Jose La Rosa of PPACS (K-5U700), Quinn Dominick of Masterman (K-8U1100) and Pernell Jordan of MTCC (K-12 open), for placing first in their sections. Team awards were also distributed to first place schools and clubs; Powell and Black Knights (K-3U400), SLA Middle School and Lenfest Center (K-5U700), Masterman and Dark Knights Center City chess club (K-8U1100) and Abington High School and Minor Threats Chess Club all received first place! Although some went home with trophies, everyone left knowing they got to ‘checkmate violence.’
After enduring 2 days of competitive chess matches, Philadelphia youth proved they had the stamina to not only weather the moves of their opponents, but also varying life obstacles to come. ASAP chess players are developing a confidence to find success in their future aspirations. We are reminded of what Sergeant Sanford said during the pep rally as he stood next to young Kalif on stage, “In 10-15 years I don’t know what Kalif will be…a president, a doctor, a lawyer. I’m not sure. But he’s getting that guidance right here with ASAP.”
ASAP is grateful to presenting sponsor PECO for its support of enriching activities and experiences for youth, as well as for the many teachers and volunteers who share their passion for the game with our city’s young people. ASAP also thanks Dobbin’s coach, Prince Campbell, Sergeant Jeffery Mannings, Sergeant Stanley Sanford, Officer Jamal McFadden, Officer Daniel Levitt and Officer Benjamin Mouzone for speaking at the pep rally. ASAP also is appreciative to Temple University for inviting students to explore its wonderful campus.
This article was written by ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships' Development Coordinator, Victoria Bakey.
Photographs provided by Rachel Utain-Evans