Tonawanda News

October 22, 2012

Another time around ... the chessboard

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Carved horses of a different sort will ride again next weekend at the Herschell Carrousel Museum in North Tonawanda, as the Carrousel Chess Classic returns to the site for its second year. 

Michael McDuffie, U.S. Chess Federation tournament director and founder of Buffalo’s Archangel 8 Chess Academy, said he noticed that the museum’s annal Brass Ring Thing Renaissance Festival, which includes chess matches, would often conflict with the Mayor’s Cup Chess Championships in Buffalo. To help make up for the conflict, he suggested an October event at the museum, a celebration of National Chess Month.

Katie Loveless, the museum’s director of education, said McDuffie contacted the museum with the idea and both organizations decided to collaborate on the event.

“It’s a little outside our realm,” she said, “but our mission is not just educating people about carousel and band organ history, but to be a community resource, to promote educational opportunities ... and this is a way to get people through the museum we might not usually see.”

The event brought a lot of first-time visitors to the museum last year, she said. In between rounds of chess, museum staff took young participants and their families around and gave them a tour and ride on the carousel.

“It was a really successful event last year and we really wanted to continue it this year,” Loveless said.

This year’s tournament will run from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, featuring three rounds of no-elimination chess, an all-girls competition and an awards ceremony with trophies for top competitors. It’s open to chess players in kindergarten through 12th grade.

McDuffie was pleased with last year’s event, but he’s hoping for more in 2012.

“We had a decent response,” he said. “Obviously, there’s more room. We always like to have more.”

Started 13 years ago, Archangel 8 Chess Academy promotes chess in after-school programs, community centers, schools and libraries “and any other place we can,” McDuffie said. He’s particularly trying to promote the game to girls, and has started the Urban Queens Chess Club in Buffalo. The Chess Classic last year drew female chess players from as far away as Arcade.

“Little by little, they’re coming out,” he said. “It’s not a activity that traditionally girls get into ... or that people actively try to promote for them. They’re quite talented once they start playing the game.”

People have said to him, “ ‘Isn’t that a male’s game?’ “ he said. “But I don’t think the (pieces) care who takes them out of the box.”

For children in general, the accomplishment of learning and playing a game like chess can be a very good influence, McDuffie said. 

“Sometimes some kids don’t know that they’re chess champions or champions in general or feel good about themselves,” he said, describing telling one young boy, “Now you’re a chess champion.”

“Sometimes just having that kind of feeling about themselves ... If they put their mind to it, who knows? It might motivate them to do their homework, or go to bed earlier. There’s a lot of things that can come out of this.”

In additional to its special-event tournaments, Archangel 8 will host chess events every third Saturday starting Nov. 17 at Main Place Mall in Buffalo, and regularly hosts events the last Sunday of each month at the Buffalo Central Library.

“Buffalo is an area that’s underdeveloped as far as chess. They might dabble in it, but haven’t taken it to the next level,” McDuffie said.

“We’re growing to grow it, get people interested in playing in on a regular basic. ... We’re looking for players who want to be competitive.”

The tournament will follow U.S. Chess Federation rule. Participants must have sufficient playing ability to recognize check and checkmate. There is a $10 entry fee to compete. Registration and prepayment are due by Friday. To register, email with the participant’s name, grade, school, telephone number and USCF number. 

Spectators accompanying players will be admitted to the museum for $3.  Players must bring a chess set, board and digital chess clock, and must report by 11:30 a.m. the day of the event. (A limited amount of chess sets are available for use with advance notice.)

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Carrousel Chess Classic • WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday • WHERE: Herschell Carrousel Museum, 180 Thompson St., North Tonawanda • FEE: $10. Prepayment is necessary. Spectator admission is $3. • TO REGISTER: Email with the name, grade, telephone number and USCF number of participants by midnight Friday. For more information about the museum, call 693-1885, visit or email