PAL Teaches Chess to Kids in Brooklyn, Helping Fulfill Vision of Late DA Ken Thompson

The Police Athletic League expands its offerings in Brooklyn, helping to fulfill a vision of the late District Attorney Ken Thompson. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

The Police Athletic League has been around for 102 years, but for the first time, it is teaching kids chess. 

The after-school program kicked off this fall at two Brooklyn sites, including at Middle School 218 in East New York. 

The Brooklyn district attorney's office is the sponsor. 

"PAL was the perfect partner for us because they've been doing after school and working with kids for such a long time. They do such a fabulous job," said acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. "So it was one of our first forays to come out into the community and bring law enforcement out into community in a completely non-law enforcement way."

The program is a legacy of sorts for the Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, who died of cancer earlier this month. Thompson's son, and the son of the acting DA, play chess, and both men wanted more kids exposed to the game. So they reached out to the PAL back in the spring. 

"It went from the love of chess to supporting chess to actually creating a new program, so we're really touched that they were able to support us," said Frederick Watts, executive director of the Police Athletic League.

After Thompson died, Gonzalez was even more committed to seeing the program through. Helping him to do that was an International Hall of Fame Chess Grandmaster, Maurice Ashley. Ashley is from Brownsville and is the first African-American international grandmaster. 

"It's all about using the mind. It's all about making great decisions. And sometimes bad decisions have consequences, so you have to deal with those as well," Ashley said. "So chess really trains you with problem solving, critical thinking and everything we want our young people to have for their futures."

Kids meet twice a week for a 90-minute session.

The other chess program takes place at the PAL Center on Gates Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant. 

Third- through eighth-graders participate, many who had never played before. 

"It's actually really good. It's one of the things that I look forward to," said one participant.

"I think it's good so far. You just have to learn the basic steps about how to play," said another.

Kids will take part in a tournament at the end of the 15-week program. 

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