COOK COUNTY, IL – The Cook County Jail is hosting the largest international chess competition for detained individuals starting today, with 116 teams from around the world participating in the three-day virtual competition, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
The competition is facilitated through the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and features teams from jails and prisons in 50 different countries, including international female and juvenile teams.
“It’s encouraging to witness the growth of this program and the impact it has had on detainees around the world,” Sheriff Dart said. “Our global collaboration with FIDE is something I’m truly grateful for, and it is incredible to see the competition continue to grow year after year.”
Since it was launched in 2012, more than 1,300 men and women in custody have participated in the Jail’s chess program, and the Jail has served as host to multiple international chess tournaments through the sponsorship and support of FIDE.
“During these years of Chess for Freedom, we have experienced how life changing chess can be. We’ve seen how it gives detainees a very strong motivation to learn, to create positive routines, and build teams,” managing director of FIDE, Dana Rezniece-Ozola, said. “FIDE is happy to have the Cook County Sheriff’s Office as our great partner in this project that will grow in numbers and quality.”
Dignitaries from Mongolia, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, and the Netherlands visited Cook County Jail to meet with current program participants and attend discussions about the expansion of these programs.
Currently, more than 80 individuals in custody at the Jail participate in weekly chess program classes. Studies show programs like these can reduce the number of incidents inside carceral facilities and can make them safer places overall. To be eligible, participants must demonstrate good behavior during their time in custody.