Chess is played by millions of people worldwide and can be enjoyed by even the youngest participants. Detroit native Daron Brown hopes a chess club in DeKalb will open doors for local kids he mentors. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Brown about his love of the game.
In the basement of DeKalb's public library, Daron Brown is wearing a white dress shirt and baby blue striped tie. He's "Mr. Brown" for the dozen or so pre-teen kids who are part of the club.
It's not all serious, though. There are pizza boxes and scattered chess pieces around the room. Near the end of the session, Brown senses their energy and tells the kids to brainstorm what snack they want for their next meeting. They huddle around a dry erase board and take an informal poll between ice cream sandwiches or ice cream cake.
"You make it more than the chess club," Brown explained. "You don't make it a job. They see it as fun. They come here and they're provided with food and drinks. We talk for the first thirty minutes."
So why chess?
Brown explains that he's played since second grade, and it opened doors to him as a youth growing up in Detroit. He says he learned from his little brother and had mentors throughout his training. Brown came to Northern Illinois University on a full scholarship for football. He graduated in 2016. He says now it's his turn to give back.
"Yeah, I gotta be a 'Mister,' you know, to the kids," Brown said. "It's just a matter of respect. It's teaching them how to respect an adult. Because it's more than a chess program, it's a mentoring program as well. So that's why I use the name 'Mr. Brown' with them."
As far as the mechanics of playing, he says it's important to build kids up no matter what ability level they are starting from.
"Some days it's puzzle days and we come in and they have to learn puzzles and solve the puzzles. Some days I challenge them to be quiet, like in a serious tournament environment," Brown said. "I challenge them in ways with different incentives."
He says the game is a great outlet for getting them to open up and learn new skills.
"That's the beauty of it. Chess is life. It really is," Brown said. "So what I preach in chess, I preach in life. The slogan that we go with, is 'Every move matters.' I say that every day. That's good in chess and especially in life."