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Dart: Teach Inmates Chess And They’ll Learn Valuable Skills

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Sheriff Dart On Chess

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is joined by chess master Anatoly Karpov (left) to announce a new chess program at the Cook County Jail. (Credit: John Cody/WBBM Newsradio/CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Authorities hope to teach Cook County Jail inmates some lessons about patience, responsibility and learning from mistakes – by having them play chess.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced Monday morning that chess philanthropist Dr. Mikhail Korenman had proposed introducing chess to the jail. Together with world-renowned chess player Anatoly Karpov, Dart and Korenman unveiled the new program in the day room of Division 11, a medium security sector of the jail.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

The program has roots in Russia, Karpov said.

“We started a similar program in Russia 15 years ago, and now we have a championship in Russia for detainees and for people who are rotting in prison,” Karpov said.

The purpose of the program is to direct inmates away from their predilection toward seeking out instant gratification, and urge them to think before they act, Dart said in a news release. Chess teaches people patience and strategy, and acting impulsively will be devastating.

Dart says Korenman, who works as a Chicago high school teacher and as the U.S. director of Karpov’s chess school will assist 150 County Jail inmates who could use a nudge in the right direction.

“Their lifetime accomplishments could be summarized in about one second – zero,” Dart said. “For them to get involved with something like this, where they’re actually learning skills and having goals, and feel amongst themselves that they can accomplish things they set out to – it’s the first time that’s ever happened,” Dart said.

Dart says he wants to see jail inmates playing chess with detainees at other prisons, so as to help pass the time and build up their confidence and problem solving skills for the day they are released from the jail.

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