Chess may be the game of kings, but in one inner-city junior high in Brooklyn, it is the game of kids – and their sport of choice; one that has helped energize learning, build school spirit and give pride and hope to students who, like their school, were once written off as mere pawns, at best, by the New York City school system. Brooklyn Castle, which airs on PBS Monday October 7, is the story of these kids and how an ancient game has given them purpose, a sense of accomplishment – and more than 30 national chess titles.
"We're the Yankees of chess" says one of the kids proudly, noting how his school and its chess teams have won more national titles than any other intermediate school in the nation. No small feat for a public school most of whose students come from families living below the poverty line - and which had its budget cut by a million dollars while the documentary was being filmed.
Brooklyn Castle is the latest offering in the POV series, and airs on most PBS stations starting at 10 pm Eastern, Monday October 7. Although CPTV has not yet scheduled an airing, Brooklyn Castle can be seen by viewers in Connecticut who are able to tune in New York and Boston public television stations.
Brooklyn Castle is also available on Netflicks.
The entertaining, sometimes humorous and definitely uplifting indie documentary by filmmaker Katie Dellamaggiore debuted in limited release in 2012 , but quickly developed a following – and not just among chess enthusiasts (or “chess nuts” as the kids at I.S. 318 junior high in Brooklyn jokingly call themselves). Teachers, parents and others looking for ways to reach students especially in schools in poor communities or with falling budgets took note of the film – and how by teaching and encouraging kids to play chess the school not only helped instill a sense of pride and community in their students, but also improved their scholastic performance. Chess, after all, is cheap especially compared to other “sports,” and is one at which anyone can succeed regardless of size and physical skills (or the lack thereof).
Brooklyn Castle, like the game of chess it celebrates, has many layers and many players. The true stars of the film are the kids – notably Justus Williams, who at 11 is already one of the country’s highest-ranked chess players and has been hailed by some as possibly the next Bobby Fischer. He is, however, only 11 and has a tendency to freeze when things get too intense. That, however, does not stop him or his teammates, Patrick Johnson, also 11, Alexis Paredes and Pobo Efekoro, both 12, and Rochelle Ballantyne, who at 13 is the “old lady” of the group from sitting down to play what is the world’s oldest and most popular wargame. They are so good that they don’t play just in Brooklyn or New York, but now tour the country; no small feat for kids from a school where the majority of students come from families and a school struggling to raise themselves above the poverty line.
Brooklyn Castle airs on most PBS stations at 10 pm Eastern, Monday, October 7, and is also available on Netflix.
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Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer, columnist, and game designer (and who also was third board on his high school and college chess teams). An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at http://www.gmtgames.com/p-238-rebel-raiders-on-the-high-seas.aspx
…or his blog at http://markgmclaughlin.blogspot.com/
Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan's Star Marines, is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Ryans-Star-Marines-Save/dp/1466218487/ref...
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