By Maina Walkley

A brave soul has spearheaded the revival of chess, at first to keep himself occupied while his wife happily indulges her passion for shopping! It all started at Knox Westfield Shopping Centre with Eddie Atacador.

Picture Eddie and his nephew Rick finding a vacant space to spread out their chessboard and start a game of chess. This simple activity started to attract some onlookers; others stayed to challenge, while others, for a chat. It came to a point where Eddie had to bring his spare chess sets for others to play. They have one thing in common –they have seen the need to form an inclusive hub for people waiting for their wife, husband or partner to finish their shopping.

Eddie Atacador told The Philippine Times, “In the beginning, I saw a need to form a hub for seniors like me waiting for their wife or companion to finish their shopping.

As Eddie is a member of the Westfield Knox Shopping Centre Walkers Group, he made enquiries on how he can start a proper chess group in the shopping centre. It did not take long for Eddie to find the right connection and in no time at all, the Knox Community Chess Enthusiasts (KCCE) was born with the support of the Coonara Community House and Volunteers, through its Community Development Project Manager, Sally Dusting-Laird. She loved the idea and immediately sourced the initial chessboards for the use of KCCE.

The Community Space at Knox Westfield Shopping Centre is managed by Coonara and was made available to Eddie and his players every Thursday from 10.30am to 3.30pm. This has now become like a “melting pot” for people from all walks of life, young and old, to play, chat, share a cuppa or just relax. Eddie would bring supplies of coffee, tea, biscuits etc. for everyone.

The Knox City Council welcomed the formation of KCCE and has approved its application for a Community Development Fund 2017-18 for the purchase of tournament chessboards and accessories and to further promote the game to the greater community of Knox City. KCCE is grateful for the support of Knox City Mayor, Cr John Mortimore, Cr Jackson Taylor, Deb Robert, the Management of Westfield Knox and Concierge Adriana Tavitian and Julia Vaughns.

Chess connects you with others. And being a game which requires critical thinking and problem solving, it’s an excellent way to keep your mind active.”

I talked to some players, their partners, and drop-in visitors, and I uncovered some very interesting mix of stories about their backgrounds, their interests, why they come to play or what they get out of it.

Nick Grskovic from Croatia has now become a regular player and a great support to Eddie. Nick has lived in Wantirna for 35 years and is now retired. The shopping centre has been part of his family life, but with the introduction of the KCCE, he now has a focused recreation. He boasts that since the start of the chess group he has made more friends in such a short time and he looks forward to every Thursday to sharpen his skills on chess.

Hector Maza and his wife Olga are from Argentina. Hector used to teach the game of Chess at the U3A, unfortunately, the class has closed down. He sees the chess group as a great way to help young adolescents or even younger kids to stay out of trouble by getting them interested in chess. He said he is willing to teach them the game. Olga happily does her shopping knowing that Hector is close by and enjoying his passion.

There is evidence that you can lower your risk of developing dementia by keeping your brain challenged.

Peter Mihaly is from Hungary. Peter recently retired as an Insurance Manager of QBE for 17 years. Peter said that since there is no pressure to play every week, he finds it more enjoyable and relaxing. He enjoys the human interaction and finds that he gets help from people he meets at the chess group with some small problems with his mobile or good tips on how to use his Internet more efficiently. He loves the free coffee and tea!

Manfred Ringert is also retired and originally from Germany. He is a widower and has other interests such as tai chi, swimming and table tennis. He enjoys the camaraderie in the group and claims that the game of chess exercises his grey cells to avoid the onset of dementia. Manfred said that he has made more friends and met lots of interesting people at KCCE.

“There are no fees to join KCCE and you can come and go as you please. There are no age or skill requirements. Young or elderly can play, even my grandson comes along sometimes on his school holidays,” said Eddie.

I also interviewed Eddie and Lita Atacador and some of the KCCE guests and there is no mistaking that there is now a friendly buzz in the Community Space. The hub has become a meeting place too for the ladies who plan to meet for coffee or lunch while their husbands or friends play the game.

The “Knox Community Chess Enthusiasts” (KCCE) at the heart of Knox City. The members gather every Thursday from 10:30am to 3:30pm at the community space, located on the ground floor of Knox Westfield Shopping Centre near the fresh food market and Liquorland.

Whether you are a master or beginner of the game, everybody is welcome.

For further enquiries, about KCCE, contact Eddie on 0409 417 719, Gerry on 0412 384 651, or Rolly on 0432 598 354.

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