(19 Nov 2008) HEADLINE: Inmates take on undergrads in friendly game of chess
CAPTION: A group of undergraduate chess players from Princeton University took on the best chess players at a maximum security prison in Trenton, New Jersey. The ‘ivies versus the inmates’ competition has been going on since 2002. (Nov. 19)
An unusual set of chess match-ups were played Wednesday in New Jersey.
The undergraduate Princeton University chess team took on a group of the best chess player inmates at the maximum security prison in Trenton.
This is where they keep the worst offenders in the state:
“I’m convicted of murder in the first degree”
“Thirty years for murder”
“I’m here for kidnapping.”
“Attempted murder and armed robbery.”
“Aggravated assault and various other charges.”
The visiting student players each had different major fields of study.
“Operations research and financial engineering.”
(Ted Shaffrey, The Associated Press)
“This ‘ivies versus the inmates’ competition has been going on here at the prison since 2002. The idea is to pit street smarts against book smarts.”
Each of Princeton students took on up to nine inmates at a time.
They had different ways of describing moves.
(Conor Myhrvold, Princeton Student)
“This is a sharp line of defense for the Petrov opening”
(Warren King, Inmate)
“What I play is what I’ve developed over 30 years of playing chess, it’s called the Hamim attack.”
The president of the Princeton chess club, David Wang, says the competition is not fundamentally different.
(David Wang, Princeton University)
“I’ve never actually been to prison, but I try not to let that affect my playing ability, I’m playing them like I’d play anyone else…just slowly building your position up, gaining small advantages and hopefully exploiting them in the end game.”
Prison officials say the inmates who play a lot of chess are less disruptive than other inmates, and a lot of them have the time to become really good.
NATS: “your queen if this can come up, it can do anything”
There are other lessons also.
(Matt Schuman, NJ Dept. of Corrections)
“The most important piece on the chess board that can do the most is the queen, so in some ways you can think that they learn respect for females, respect for women.”
This year, for the first time, one of the Princeton players was a girl, Susan Hu.
The inmates here don’t see a lot of women.
(Susan Hu, Princeton University)
“I certainly don’t think I have an edge, I don’t think being a girl has anything to do with it, it’s just chess.”
The common bond here is chess, a game that can bring out the inner-philosopher.
(Aijalon Arad, Inmate)
“Playing this game gives you the opportunity to think about the things that you do. In order to stay away from situations you don’t want to be in. Chess teaches you to think, think before you act.”
“There are a bunch of rules, and you want to choose openings, where if you follow the rules, you’ll make a mistake, you have to make a number of counter-intuitive choices.”
Ted Shaffrey, The Associated Press, at New Jersey’s maximum security state prison in Trenton.
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