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'Brooklyn Castle' families turn to chess, avoid checkmate by Sandy (+video)

'Brooklyn Castle" documentary film shows the inspiration chess can be for kids in life's storms – and they the kids say it even helped in Sandy and this week's nor'easter.

By Lisa SuhayCorrespondent / November 9, 2012

'Brooklyn Castle' in theaters Oct. 19, 2012.

Norfolk, Va.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, parents struggle to help their children cope with the fact that their homes are no longer their castles and the uncertainty each new day brings. Last night some of the stars of the new documentary film "Brooklyn Castle" talked to me by phone while sitting in the green room of "The Daily Show." They reflected on how chess is their anchor for every kind of storm life throws at them.

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Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.

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 “Chess is about patience and strategy. That’s what you need to get through any kind of tough time, or challenge in life,” said  Pobo Efekoro who was 12 in the film and is now age 16. “We need that now with the challenges we face in this country. In chess, everything you do you need a plan, a series of plans actually. It’s a direct correlation between chess and survival.”

Oh, to be a parent, hearing a teen deliver such an insightful response because a board game helps him organize his mind and analyze what is thrown at him moment to moment!

"Brooklyn Castle" follows the lives of five members of the chess team at Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, a below-the-poverty-line inner-city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the nation. In the film, the biggest obstacle arises not from other competitors, but from budget cuts to extracurricular activities at the school. After Sandy hit on Oct. 30, those funding issues will probably be the Grandmaster of all opponents and the thing they are fighting to save, is the very thing empowering them to fight. 

In the movie, Pobo then in 7th grade, parented his teammates when they were faced with losing games, funding and hope. It was Pobo who offered life strategies based on the lessons he’d learned playing chess.

Like many parents watching the film, I said a silent prayer that any one of my four sons would be so caring as to sacrifice his own game in the cause of helping others achieve greatness.


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