COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Jail individuals in custody challenged Russian federal prisoners in a historic international individual in custody chess tournament, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
Sheriff Dart welcomed Russian chess grandmaster Dr. Anatoly Karpov to Chicago for today’s event. Dr. Karpov – the world chess champion from 1975-1985 and again from 1993-1999 – last visited Cook County Jail in 2012 to help Sheriff Dart launch an individuals in custody chess program. The connection to Dr. Karpov was facilitated by Dr. Mikhail Korenman, a native Russian who runs the Cook County Jail chess program. Sheriff Dart and Dr. Karpov were joined for the opening ceremony via Skype by senior Russian criminal justice officials from Moscow.
Today’s match was a true David vs. Goliath affair, as most of the Cook County individuals in custody had no previous experience playing chess until being exposed to the game upon their incarceration. This stands in contrast to the far more experienced Russian individuals in custody, who were spread throughout several different prisons throughout the country. Two rounds of 7 vs. 7 match play via an online chess platform resulted in a 12-2 final score in favor of the Russians. Still, Sheriff Dart took pride in the individuals in custody’s ongoing skill development as well as Dr. Karpov’s presence.
“I am very grateful that Dr. Karpov was able to make the trip from Moscow to America to see how far we’ve come since he helped me form this program in 2012,” said Sheriff Dart. “Chess instills qualities such as patience, strategy and critical thinking, which will serve these men well as they re-enter society looking to avoid the triggers that landed them into the criminal justice system.”
Individuals in custody earned their way into the tournament through internal competition. Additionally, their participation in the tournament was contingent upon good behavior, which helped alleviate the workload of their supervising correctional deputies.
The competition transcended countries and languages. Though separated by a language barrier and thousands of miles, chess was their common ground.
At the conclusion of the tournament, Dr. Karpov discussed strategy with the CCDOC contestants and offered constructive suggestions to improve their playing methods. Sheriff Dart showed his appreciation for Dr. Karpov’s generosity by naming him as an honorary Sheriff’s Deputy.
More than 600 individuals in custody have participated in the Cook County Jail chess program since its inception in 2012. In May 2013, the first chess tournament between CCDOC individuals in custody and Russian prisoners was held.
With Dr. Karpov’s counsel, Sheriff Dart is seeking to expand the chess program, and plans for a follow-up international tournament are already underway.
After the event, Sheriff Dart and Dr. Karpov shared a meal prepared by the individuals in custody in the jail’s culinary program, overseen by Chef Bruno Abate of Recipe for Change. The vocational training curriculum prepares individuals in custody to enter the food service industry upon their re-entry into the community. Along with the chess program, Recipe for Change serves as a core facet of Sheriff Dart’s restorative justice vision, aimed at reducing recidivism by providing non-violent individuals in custody with marketable job skills.