The Cook County Jail hosted the largest international chess competition for detainees on Wednesday, with 41 teams from around the world participating in the two-day round robin competition, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
The competition was officially called the Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners and sanctioned by the International Chess Federation (FIDE).
“It is incredibly exciting to see the program that began in Cook County Jail expand to include players from around the world, and we are grateful for the partnership we have with FIDE,” said Sheriff Dart. “No matter where you live or who you are, chess lessons go beyond the game. Like life, chess rewards those who are able to adapt to the challenges ahead and those who consider the future consequences of their actions. “
This is the sixth international competition the Cook County Jail team has competed in to date, and at the end of Wednesday’s game, the Cook County Jail team was in the 2nd finals on Thursday with 4 wins and 2 losses.
The Cook County Jail’s chess program began in 2012 and has hosted numerous chess dignitaries over the years, including chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov. It began hosting international games the following year, and in 2019 the Cook County Jail hosted the first multinational team to compete against teams from six other countries. Earlier this year, the Cook County Jail Team finished second in a smaller international tournament leading up to the current competition.
In March 2020, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office signed an agreement with FIDE that formalized the organization’s logistical support for future international online games through its Social Service Commission. The Cook County Jail, in turn, will serve as the hub for the FIDE-sponsored International Chess for Freedom events.
Since its inception, around 1,200 people have participated in the chess program while in prison. Participants in the program practice weekly, and the eight players who represent the Cook County Jail in this tournament have been selected for their skills.
“We are proud to have hosted and participated in such a historic tournament,” said Sheriff Dart. “It is so important to have such programs for incarcerated people, not only because research has shown that programs can make prisons and prisons overall safer, but also because they allow people from all over the world to share an experience that they enjoy.”
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