CLEVELAND — Did you know? Cleveland is home to the largest chess collection in the entire world.
One-of-a-kind chess sets, unique manuscripts, scorecards from chess greats like Bobby Fischer.
It is all housed on the third floor of the Cleveland Public Library, in the special collections room, and has been there since the library opened in 1925.
So why Cleveland?
We can thank John G. White, one of the library’s founding donors and board members back in the early 1900s. White was an avid chess collector and had amassed one of the largest private collections in the world, which he donated to the library.
“And we’ve kept with his collecting habit and we now have the world’s largest collection of chess material, period,” explained Raymond Rozman, Special Collections Librarian. “It is an interesting, fascinating little world.”
It is a world the library wants to share with everyone. The collection is free and open to the public, not just the researchers and specialists who come from all over the world. And spreading the word about the game is one of the reasons the library teamed up with the advocacy group “Invest in Chess.”
The group was started by Cleveland native Sharan Subramanian when he was a college student at the University of Chicago. The avid chess player decided to share his love of the game and teach students in Chicago Public Schools. Now, he is back in Northeast Ohio and working to bring chess to local schools.
“With certain activities, there are barriers to entry — whether it be the high cost of equipment, or you have to be physically fit,” Subramanian said. “But I guess chess is perhaps the most accessible and democratic of sports.”
Invest in Chess is hoping to help create chess clubs in local schools, community groups, and nonprofits.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your age is, your race or nationality,” Subramanian said. “You and the other person that you’re playing chess with can enjoy the beauty of the game and I think through that enjoyment, we realize the humanity in one another.”
Studies have shown playing chess can raise IQ scores and help with reading, memory, and math skills. Teaching kids to think a move or two ahead — and always think of the consequences of their actions.
For more information on how to get involved with Invest in Chess, click here.