Chess As Therapy from Chess Without Borders
By Rishi Sethi and Margo Bradley   
July 25, 2010

Chess Without Borders

[email protected]

428 Waverly Road, Barrington. Il 60010

312 375 7475

Chess as therapy was explored by Alexian Center For Mental Health at the South Elgin Rehabilitation Center in Elgin, Illinois. Chess Without Borders students were invited by Alexian Center for Mental Health to teach chess to the residents at the Rehabilitation Center.
The residents were fascinated as the students taught chess, played musical instruments and shared artwork and home made cookies with the residents. They both spent time getting to know one another’s lives. Chess Without Borders intern Sujit Johnston even introduced the residents to the art of making videos. “The residents were enthusiastic, participated actively and were animated” as they related stories from their lives according to Greg Newlin, a Social Worker from Alexian Center For Mental Health. Greg observed “some of the residents who normally interact poorly with their environment were more alert and excited by the visit of the students from Chess Without Borders.”

Many of the residents recognized instinctively that the students needed encouragement for their volunteerism so they described the different volunteer jobs they perform at the Center. For example, Mike Trojanowicz, who was one of the residents and a good chess player explained to students Peter Abrahamson, Jo Jazwinski and Jack Bradley that he was President of the Residents Council at the Center. Glinda Parker who was another resident recounted her days as an actress when she was in high school. Glinda knew all about stage fright she told students who declined to dance in front of the residents. The students were invited to spend an hour with the residents but they were not ready to leave till almost two hours later. Before getting into the car to leave Peter Abrahamson told his mother, “ that was so much fun.”

Peter Abrahamson teaching chess
The most important aspect of this interaction was its evolution from playing chess to playing a humanitarian role as both residents and students shared the joys that come with being able to do something for each other. The knowledge and skills moved beyond the chessboard to winning many matches in real life.

Students who participated in the program were Chess Without Borders intern Sujit Johnston, Peter, Lucy, Martha, Rose and Natalie Abrahamson, Joseph and Matthew Jazwinski, Matthew Wilson, Jack and Jane Bradley and Laila Franklin. 

Find out more about Chess Without Borders and co-founder GM Yury Shulman's camps at