‘David vs Goliath’: American & Russian prison inmates engage in chess battle

© Rune Stoltz Bertinussen
An international chess tournament between Russian and American prison inmates ended in a Russian victory. The Skype matches had seven players representing each country.

The Russians first dominated with a score of 6:1, before the pieces were swapped and they did it again, for a total score of 12:2. The Office of Cook County Sheriff Thomas J Dart reported the news, calling it “a true David vs Goliath affair."

Inmates from both medium and maximum security facilities made up the Russian side, as well as one super-maximum security prisoner. Several were pro athletes and one was a chess master.

American law prohibits divulging inmate details – prisoners are given numbers instead. However, according to Cook County Sheriff's website, none of them were pros and had not played chess before prison.

Also, unlike the Americans, who were pooled from a Chicago prison, the Russians pooled their chess masters from all over the country.

Sheriff Dart organizes the tournament every year together with Russian chess grandmaster and two-time world champion Dr Anatoly Karpov.

“I am very grateful that Dr Karpov was able to make the trip from Moscow to America to see how far we’ve come since he helped me form this program in 2012,” said Sheriff Dart. “Chess instills qualities such as patience, strategy and critical thinking, which will serve these men well as they re-enter society looking to avoid the triggers that landed them into the criminal justice system.”

More than 600 Cook County Jail inmates have participated in the program in the four years since its inception.

The first tournament of the kind between the two teams was held in 2013 and was also won by the Russians.