Monday, January 07, 2008

Prison Chess


Scotland's Daily Record reports in "Evil Killers Become Prison Chess Pals" that, "Two of Scotland's worst killers have struck up a bizarre jail friendship over games of chess." Murderers Zeeshan 'Crazy' Shahid and Jamie 'Baldy' Bain met in the segregation unit of Glenochil prison. Though kept in solitary confinement, they shout out moves to each other as they play on separate boards, much to the consternation of fellow prisoners. It's probably for the best, however, that they are kept in separate cells. As the story of Ohio killer Christopher Newton reveals ("Ohio inmate executed for killing cellmate after they fought over chess game"), playing chess with cellmates can be quite dangerous:
"In an interview with reporters last month, Newton said he killed Brewer because he repeatedly gave up while they were playing chess. / 'Every time I put him in check, he'd give up and want to start a new game,' Newton said. 'And I tried to tell him you never give up ... I just got tired of it.'"
And I imagine Alexander Pichushkin has met quite a few players in Moscow's prisons, though I hope they do not have to share his cell.... Are we to make of all these stories that chess is seen as the activity of a derganged mind? Or that chess is the ultimate way of passing time behind bars?

In "Prison Chess: The Game Called Life" at The 65th Square, by Daaim Shabazz, Ph.D., suggests it is the latter and points to the many psychological benefits to the game:
"What is it that is so attractive about the game of chess to inmates around the world, but specifically the U.S.? Perhaps it is the ability to control one's fate in a place where they are otherwise subjected to someone else's total control. Maybe it's a form of escape into a world of 64-square intrigue. Maybe it's the idea that some inmates are able to channel their aggressive energy in a more disciplined fashion."
Or perhaps it is that chess is the ultimate game of logic and rational thinking, which can help those used to acting on instinct, emotion, or irrational calculation to reform and learn to play by the rules....

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