Cook County Jail Chess Team Posts Strong Finish in Largest Intercontinental Chess Competition for Incarcerated Individuals

Oct 15, 2021Press Release

COOK COUNTY, IL – The Cook County Jail’s Chess Team finished 3rd in its division during the championship round of the largest international chess competition for detained individuals, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.

Hosted by Cook County Jail and sanctioned by the International Chess Federation (FIDE), the Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners featured 41 teams from jails and prisons in 30 countries.

The Cook County Jail team finished 2nd in group play in the first day of the competition on Wednesday and was one of twelve teams to advance to Thursday’s championship round.

During Thursday’s play, teams were divided into two groups of 6 teams. Cook County finished in 3rd place in its division, which was won by a team from Zimbabwe. Mongolia was the winner of the other division, and during a match early Friday morning, Mongolia defeated Zimbabwe to become the overall winner.

“I’ve always been a fan of chess, and I know how much time and effort it takes to play at the level our team exhibited this week,” Sheriff Dart said. “Our team should be incredibly proud of their accomplishment, and for the strong foundation they have built for future international competitions.”

This was the sixth international competition that the Cook County Jail team has participated in since the chess program was launched in 2012. Since then, the program has hosted numerous chess dignitaries over the years, including chess grandmaster Anatoly Karpov.

In March 2020, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office signed an agreement with FIDE – the governing body of international chess competition – formalizing the organization’s logistical support of future international online matches through their Social Service Commission. In turn, Cook County Jail will serve as the hub for FIDE-led International Chess for Freedom events.

Since its inception, approximately 1,200 individuals have participated in the chess program while in custody at the Jail. Program participants practice weekly, and the eight players who represented Cook County Jail in this tournament were chosen based on skill.

“It is gratifying to see a program that started at Cook County Jail expand to include literally dozens of countries and hundreds of players from all around the world, and we are thankful for the partnership we have with FIDE,” Sheriff Dart said. “Programs like this are so important because studies show they can make jails and prisons safer places overall. This competition not only serves that goal, but also enables people from all over the world to share an experience they enjoy.”