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Russian Prisoners Take On Cook County Inmates In Chess Match

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CHICAGO (CBS) — This was not Boris Spassky vs. Bobby Fischer.

First, it was a match between prison inmates, not world-class chess masters. Second, the Russians won this time.

On Wednesday, former Russian World Chess champion Anatoli Karpov organized a chess tournament–a first-of-its-kind event between inmates in Russia and the Cook County Jail.

The inmates at five Russian prisons, including one in Siberia, trounced the Cook County prisoners, 14.5 to 5.5.

But that wasn’t really the point.

Karpov, who has speaking from one of the prisons, said he was hoping to solve social problems through chess.

Karpov has a connection to the man who heads the Cook County Jail chess program, Dr. Mikhail Korenman, a chess teacher here in Chicago.

That’s what made the unusual international match possible.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said that for some inmates chess can be transformative.

“The very process itself requires some to think, not in the immediate time, but down the road,” Dart said. “So it transforms the way people think.”

Dart started the Cook County Jail chess program, with Korenman’s and Karpov’s help, last April.

A Russian journalist asked Dart if there would be an incentive for winning, like getting out of jail early.

“We are not that determined to win,” Dart said.