Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 43 and growing, the club has competed at var- ious local and regional tournaments. Sam Johnson, director of youth development and education at the Urban League, says the club teaches decision-making, discipline and patience, which fits into the nonprofit's overall mission to "correct inequities on a systemic level." Plus, kids can earn scholar- ships for chess. "I didn't know chess was so big," says Malik Emre, father of two teens in the club. "When I grew up, it was checkers." He says his family will play at home but that his son always wins. "I mean, not just beating me, whooping my A-S-S," Emre says. "(Chess is) a thinking-man's game. It's a little bit like life." A couple dozen kids have paired up at boards, fists on cheeks as they contem- plate next moves. Seavers sets a veggie platter, apples, oranges and peach pies on a table and calls the kids in for a chat that resembles a locker room pep talk. "Let me talk about the Queen City Classic," Seavers begins, referring to the regional tourna- ment in Cincinnati this month. "First year we went there as a team, we got stomped. Silly. Second year, you guys dramatically in- creased — it was great. And, of course, we got a first-place team trophy for grades four through six under 800 (rating)," he says. at accomplishment last spring is what caught Gov. Matt Bevin's attention, leading him to pay the club a visit, congratulate the kids and declare in a video he posted to Twitter that the chess club is "not some- thing you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town." Many responded with criticism, calling it tone deaf and attempting to school him on the varied interests of west Louisville residents. Not only that, says the Urban League's Johnson, but several west Louis- ville community centers, schools and parks also host chess. So while Seavers refers to the club as "the monster" because of its size, chess is nothing new to the area. "at was my son (Bevin) took a photo with," Emre says of the controversy. "I was kind of mad about that. I felt like the governor, he used something positive for a photo op." Seavers says he was disappointed the media focused on the governor rather than the club's accomplishments. "Not only did we perform well on the board, but (the kids') behavior was exemplary. You don't always see that at chess tourna- ments. Some of these kids are buttheads. Not ours," he says. Continuing his pre-tournament pep talk, Seavers says, "It's a long day. Get a good night's rest beforehand. Stay away from the sugary stuff. Now, West Louis- ville Chess Club emphasizes sportsman- ship, we emphasize character. I don't care — never lie. I don't care what the result is. Don't do it. Guys, you're gonna lose in chess. (World chess champion) Bobby Fischer…lost as many games as he won. Don't get upset about losing. And, guys: We don't lose. We only learn or we win." Born in Boston and having grown up in Louisville since age 11, Seavers start- ed playing chess as a kid with his father. Colleges later recruited him, he says, but he was more interested in girls than chess at the time, so he stopped playing until his daughter was young. "I kept saying to my- self, man, I really want her to get a math- based career, and I saw that there's so few women in math-based careers," he says. An old college buddy of his was teaching math and told him, "Corbin, I don't know what it is. I don't know if the math is helping the chess or the chess is helping the math, but the top math students are usually the top chess students, and vice versa." Seavers smacks his hands together and says, "Done deal!" "ey have phenomenal tournaments out East," Seavers continues. "A thou- sand-plus (competitors) is nothing. But on your right hand with two broken fingers you can count the number of black stu- dents you see there. My daughter, I'll never forget — when she was tournament-active, she would flip out if she saw another black girl there. at's how rare she was." His daughter is now a freshman at Northern Kentucky University. "She showed me her math book," Seavers says. "It was like showing me Greek." e underrepresentation is not lost on the Urban League, which has hosted all- girls summer chess camps through the club and is sending up to six athletes to the all- girls national championship in Chicago in April. Urban League president and CEO Sadiqa Reynolds has been pushing for a national tournament. "If Sadiqa says we're gonna go, we're gonna go," Seavers says. "I want to see them offered chess scholar- ships." He mentions the hardships some of the kids face, such as not having the financial means to attend a tournament. "I'm under a lot of financial stress," Seavers says, "a lot of family pressure. But when I'm here it's like all that stuff is gone. ey teach me resilience, man. ey teach me tenacity." At the club meeting, Seavers has the kids gather around a board and walk through a game that one of the kids played at last year's Queen City Classic, similar to how a basketball team would watch game foot- age.When asked about chess and compet- ing, the players aren't much for words. As volunteer coach Steve Faulkner points out: "It's a game that you play in your mind. Your pieces do the talking." (He wears a shirt that reads, in part: Life is chess, not checkers.) irteen-year-old Bacari Ellis, who is the team captain for his grade level and was on last year's winning team, offers a piece of advice: "Never give up." "When you start getting behind," Seavers tells the kids, "and you lose your rook or you lose your queen, that's when you really need to calm down, 'cause that's when you start doing dumb stuff. Black moves DC5. White moves NF3. Black moves QF7. en QF6. White castles. White's doing what? Playing solid chess. And in playing solid chess, he stopped that four-move checkmate, right?" "I'm under a lot of financial stress," Seavers says, "a lot of family pressure. But when I'm here it's like all that stuff is gone. They teach me resilience, man. They teach me tenacity."

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