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Chess at Any Age: Chappells Brighten Boards in Reno Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
April 26, 2013
Photo courtesy Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows

Irene Chappell started working with kids and chess in Reno in the late 80s, reaching thousands of kids over a decade of teaching.  Irene loved working with kids and had a lot of success with fundraising. “The Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Abuse even gave us a grant because they saw chess as a drug prevention program.” Irene was honored by then President George H. W. Bush, as one of the "Thousand Points of Light.”

Then she suffered a tragedy- her husband was murdered in her apartment, still an unsolved case. Though she took some time off, she never lost her passion for chess and children. A few years later, she went to a meeting for widows and widowers. She used the perfect conversation starter, “Do you Play Chess?” The first two gentleman said, “I used to be but I’m not good anymore” Then she saw a man sitting in a chair and asked him. He responded far more enthusiastically: “I’m a lifetime member of the US Chess Federation.” Irene thought “Wow, I hit the jackpot.” The man was Alan Chappell. They went on a few dates, to lunch and to the movies. “Before you know it, we were married.”
Photo courtesy Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows

Irene and Alan decided to do something positive and started work with the Boys and Girls Clubs. Three days a week they teach students aged 6-12 from 2:30 to 5:30 pm. Alan, now 77, ups the incentive by offering $15 to any kid who can beat him. Among the kids who attended their program is Phillip Wang, now an International Master. 

Photo courtesy Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows
Last September Alan suffered a stroke.  Irene relates his extraordinary progress in rehab: “The first couple days he was out of it, but he started to come back, and he wanted me to bring a couple chess sets. He started to play against therapists and other patients. When it got time to discharge him, the doctor said he showed no sign of having a stroke. The only thing he could attribute it was brain therapy. Alan was constantly exercising his brain via playing chess.”

Irene and Alan both hope that his story can help other stroke patients. This spring, they began working on Saturdays with stroke patients. They use a DVD chess lesson series, Campaign & Conquest (developed by Irene’s grandson) and hope that the rigorous mental challenge will speed other recoveries. You can find more about the DVD and get in touch with the Chappells here. 

campconq.jpgIrene, 93 years old, said, “chess keeps me young (though) I have some of the same problems that a 93-year-old does.” Irene lost part of her sight to a stroke a few years ago, “But it’s so much fun to watch these kids and how hard they work. They stand in line to play Alan. Naturally they’d like to win that $15. But the kids keep trying, that’s what I love about them. They never quit.”

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