Sarasota chess players, including the mayor, take on the Israel chess team | sarasota

Mayor Erik Arroyo likes to play chess.

It’s true when he was a young boy after he got his first set of chess – he thinks his dad gave it to him, but he’s not sure – up to when he was a lawyer working in Sarasota and playing chess all day with other lawyers and judges, moving pieces between crates.

He now has a chess set as mayor in city hall, he has one in his car, and he has one at home. He also takes the time to play chess online with players around the world. It’s a connection he clearly values.

“It’s a great way to connect with people around the world,” Arroyo said. “It’s an old tradition that we’ve all managed to pass on.”

He feels good enough – he has his favorite strategies like the English opener, the Stonewall attack or the Sicilian defense depending on whether he’s playing black or white – but that self-assessment took a hit the first time around. participated in a competition at the Manasota Chess Center.

“I thought I was advanced,” Arroyo said. “I got here and was crushed. I won maybe one out of eight matches.

Nonetheless, Arroyo recently found himself at the chess center for a different kind of competition – one that fostered goodwill and camaraderie between Sarasota and the city of Tel Mond in Israel.

Arroyo and five other players of varying backgrounds and skills took on a chess team in Tel Mond in an online chess match to foster unity and friendship on May 28.

The event was a partnership between the Manasota Chess Center and the Sarasota Sister Cities Association, an organization that promotes goodwill between Sarasota and the international cities it partners with.

Executive Director Nicholas Lewis takes the time to join in the game.

Arroyo teamed up with several other players, including a national chess master, and they each played two matches against their opponents in Israel. Players on both sides were chosen to be at similar skill levels. The Sarasota team included Manasota Chess Center Executive Director Nicholas Lewis, National Chess Master Scott Ramer, Scholastic participants Rui Jiang and Ellie Levy – both of whom studied chess at the center – and the player from long-time failures Donnally Miller.

Many players showed up for the thrill of competition, but today’s contest meant more to Sister Cities President Miriam Kramer. The organization’s leader sees it as a way to connect Sarasota to the rest of the world through good deeds, something akin to an idealistic boost for dark times.

“It may look dry on the surface, but it really isn’t,” Kramer said. “Our players meet people (during) their talk, it’s an idealistic view. Our whole (mission) is to create peaceful relations with our cities around the world.

Sisters Cities had held Connected Cities chess matches at local libraries and schools before the pandemic, but that was before Sarasota had its own established chess center. Once it was clear that the Manasota Chess Center was up and running, the wheels started turning in Kramer’s head.

“We did chess matches before, but we didn’t have a chess center back then,” Kramer said. “It just opened a year ago and it’s wonderful. I reached out as soon as I knew they existed.

The sister cities and chess organization soon planned a chess competition against one of Sarasota’s sister cities – the city of Vladimir, Russia. Their match was scheduled just days after what turned out to be an invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. The relationship between the two cities was suspended and the event was quickly canceled.

Lewis and Kramer were still eager to play and set their sights on the city of Tel Mond in Israel. Fortunately, much of the technical setup and planning could be quickly applied to the new competition.

“I was trying to do something that we could do across the ocean, low cost and fostering friendship,” Kramer said. “We have a strong chess tradition, they have strong chess in Tel Mond.”

Arroyo received an invitation to join the team after Kramer learned he was a chess fan himself. He felt like he was holding his own in his two matches and came away with a win.

There is also philosophical value in chess for Arroyo. He believes playing the game can make you realize the importance of progressive wins and the effects they can have when added together.

“It unites us and teaches a younger generation that, like in chess, you find value in small incremental wins,” Arroyo said. “These can add up to a big win later on. Even small activities like this tournament can add up to a bigger bond with our sister city.”

Lewis was less fortunate. The general manager of the center gave everything in his two matches but left with two defeats. He felt like he had a knock on his opponent but didn’t make the moves necessary to win.

“I’m going back to basics, trying to play good moves,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t matter if the other person is better than you, you play the board. Just make the best shots. »

At the end of the day, Tel Mond defeated Sarasota 9-3.

Still, it was hard for Lewis to view the day itself as a loss. Finally, having the Sarasota team together and competing was a win in itself.

Hopefully, Kramer and Lewis plan to hold new competitions against cities in the future.

“(Sister Cities) has many relationships with different cities,” Lewis said. “Hopefully we can all play them.”

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