1223 Moves Chess Club working to introduce the game to Vicksburg’s youth

Published 4:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2023

Chess has always been considered a thinking person’s game — and that’s exactly what a group of Vicksburg men are trying to teach the city’s youth.

Geno Williams and Buff Harris are the directors of the 1223 Moves Chess Club, a non-profit group that is trying to use the game to steer Vicksburg’s children in a positive direction.

“We’ve been having a lot of violence when it comes to our youth. I felt like this was another approach that we haven’t tried,” Williams said. “We’ve tried the physical approach with football and basketball and things like that.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Let’s see how sports of the mind works.”

The “1223 Moves” name comes from Williams’ business. He owns The Headquarters barber shop at 1223 Monroe St. Williams is an avid chess player, as are many of his customers, and there’s often a game going on in the shop.

The group consists of Williams, Harris, Timothy Spears, Synica Mangle and Sosa White. Williams is the founder and chariman.

Chess, Williams said, helps people learn a number of skills that can help them navigate through and succeed in life.

“I’ve been playing for 15 years. I like the concept,” Williams said. “I look at chess as an operation. I like the strategy, the concepts, the patience, thinking before your next move. It teaches you how to strategize.”

Those are the same things the 1223 Moves Chess Club is hoping to bring to Vicksburg’s next generation. They’ve been working to introduce the game in schools by hosting tournaments and trying to start after-school chess clubs. One tournament at Beechwood Elementary in February had about 90 students playing and learning the game.

This month, they’ve also conducted a summer chess camp at the Se-’ren Event Venue. About two dozen children ranging in age from 7 to 15 attended over the course of two one-week sessions. A few were more advanced players, while others were complete beginners.

At one camp session, Harris walked newcomers Addison Anderson and Blake Turner through everything from how the pieces moved to the basic strategy of the game. Meanwhile, at another table, Gabriel Klee and Harry Crockettt played a game on their own.

“I like how you need patience,” Klee said. “It’s an activity that I like because I like to do quiet games, patient games. It’s done with patience and mind work.”

Learning how to think before they act, Williams said, is what he really hopes to bring to the board. Examining a situation and seeing the potential negative consequences of a bad move — whether it’s losing a key piece in chess or much more on the street — is a key lesson.

“We’re going to teach them how to slow down and think. When to play and when to be serious, and how to have fun while being serious,” Williams said.

The 1223 Moves Chess Club is still in its formative stages. Williams said he’s hoping to get some grant money or sponsorship to expand its work, and there are already plans to have the camp again next summer.

Even reaching a few children, Harris said, and steering them in a positive direction will make it all worthwhile.

“If we can reach five or six, we’re doing our job,” Harris said. “The biggest thing we’re going to try to do is lead by example. We want to be thinking of tomorrow.”

• For more information on the 1223 Moves Chess Club, call Geno Williams at 769-203-9793 or Buff Harris at 318-434-0009.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest