National Geographic : 2006 May
ZPUSA Children meet to practice in Lindsborg's Swensson Park. Says Steve Kinzel, father of a young state chess champ, "Chess helps kids academically by strengthening their problem-solving skills." do," he says of his students. "I just wish they'd spend more time on chess. But I can't tell them how to arrange their lives." Korenman brightens when talk turns to anoth er of his students-Isaiah Jesch, 15, who lives two hours away. Isaiah, still in eighth grade, recently won his division at the SuperNationals. He has taken to wearing suits to every competition as a sign of total dedication-proper respect for the game, Korenman notes approvingly. At the tournament on Saturday, Isaiah plays Aaron Masterson in the final match. The two are friendly rivals who've played a number of times with mixed results. Wearing basketball shorts, a T-shirt, and a Texas Longhorns cap, Aaron needles Isaiah about his attire. "Kids call him 'The Suit,'" he says, smirking. "I've had people tell me they're intimidated by it," Isaiah says. Aaron snorts derisively. "Well, maybe to an opponent I haven't played before," Isaiah allows, with a slight frown. The judge gives the signal, and 200 students ages 5 to 18 make opening moves. When it's over, Isaiah, dressed for success, has defeated Aaron, dressed for basketball. But neither ends up win ning the tournament. Discussing the match, Korenman flashes an ironic smile-frown-raised eyebrows, laughing eyes, down-turned mouth. There's a long way to go if America is ever to produce another Bobby Fischer who can dominate the world's toughest Russian players, he says. Still, the Karpov School he started in Linds borg is a step in the right direction. "We need people to see chess as a tough, competitive sport," he says. He points to the recent poker craze as an example: Like chess, it's a chair-bound bat tle of wits, but somehow kids today view it as cool, maybe even a tad dangerous. "One thing that's key," Korenman muses, "we need to get chess on TV." r Chess for Youth Learn how a young Bobby Fischer became the first American world champion and find links to chess websites at ngm.com/0605.