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Chess Grandmaster Takes On 10 Jail Inmates Blindfolded, And Wins

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A chess grandmaster, ranked 3rd in the U.S., put his skill at playing blindfolded to the test Friday at the Cook County Jail, beating ten inmates in two hours, without ever seeing any of the chess boards.

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Timur Gareev visited the jail as part of a program aimed at helping inmates think things through, and be more thoughtful about their actions.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who started the program last year, said the goal is to direct inmates away from their predilection toward seeking out instant gratification, and urge them to think before they act. He said chess teaches people patience and strategy, and acting impulsively will be devastating.

Gareev played against 10 inmates on 10 different chess boards on Friday, with a black bandana covering his eyes. He visualized each game as moves were called out loud, letting him know each of his opponents move as they made them. Still, he couldn’t exactly keep track of every single piece on each board throughout each game.

“It’s kind of almost a visceral sense of the experience that you take in. If you’re trying to memorize every single game, all the moves, all the variations, it’s quite impossible,” Gareev said. “But the memory has all the little tricks that makes it easier to create patterns.”

By trying to play several games at once, Gareev said it puts a greater strain on him, making the games more interesting.

“I have to be more resourceful,” he said.

Inmate Anthony Wooden was cocky going in, since Gareev couldn’t see the board.

“I know I can beat him,” he said. “I’ve been playing chess since the 6th grade.”

He didn’t win, but he was the second to last to fall to Gareev.

Demetrius Hartsfield said he’d be satisfied with not being the first inmate to lose to Gareev.

Earlier this year, inmates from Russia faced off against Cook County Jail inmates, a first-of-its-kind event organized by former Russian World Chess champion Anatoly Karpov.

Dr. Mikhail Korenman, a high school science teacher in Chicago, who runs Karpov’s chess school in the U.S., introduced the chess program at Cook County Jail last year.