In the morning, as spring works its magic on the beautiful Yakima Valley, the sun glitters between the leaves shading the front of the Yakima Central Library. Rays of sparkling sunshine fill the library and illuminate a small wooden board on the right side of the circulation desk.
Two tiny wooden armies stand atop this checkered piece of wood in much the same way they have for thousands of years in other places where people have gathered for intellectual pursuits. Yes, it’s a chessboard!
You can stop by the Yakima Central Library almost any day of the week and find a chess game in progress: Librarians versus Everyone! No matter your skill level, anyone is welcome to make a move, turn the sign and await a responding move from any one of our librarians on staff.
If you prefer a game with others, stop by Wednesday. From noon to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, chessboards and chess puzzles are available in the south reading room. Just turn left after entering the library and follow the sounds of thoughtful contemplation and comfortable seating past the drinking fountain and strike up a game.
Fascinating facts about chess, famous chess players, games and strategies fill a collection of books, and it is a challenge to pick just one. However, one player’s contributions to the game and influence on chess prominence in America stands out: Bobby Fischer. Just recently, I was reading Frank Brady’s book, “Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall — from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness.”
This biography of the greatest chess player of the 20th century contains many fascinating insights. For example, did you know that libraries played an important role in Bobby Fischer learning to play chess?
“To boost his competitiveness, Bobby spent hours after school at the Grand Army Plaza Library reading almost every chess book on the shelves. He became such a fixture there, and displayed such seriousness, that a photograph showing him studying appeared in the library’s newsletter in 1952 with a caption identifying him. It was the first time that his photograph appeared in print.”
Though chess is referred to as a “game,” it is an intellectual pursuit with a long history, and entire books are dedicated to analyzing games. Bobby Fischer claimed to have read thousands of chess books and it is well known that he read books about chess in multiple languages.
Whether you are experienced or a beginner at chess, the library has a book for that. If you are looking to watch a game, play a game or read about a game, the library can help with that, too.
Libraries have always been a place people go in order to encounter new ideas and learn new skills. So stop on by the library and try your hand at a bit of chess. You may find it suits you.
• Jared Fair is managing librarian at Yakima Valley Libraries. Learn more at www.yvl.org.