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Veteran, former Detroit police officer brings love of chess to community, aims to create thinkers

Posted at 10:49 AM, Oct 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 16:10:05-04

(WXYZ) — In life, we’re always thinking about what comes next, much like the game of chess, where every move counts.

"I learned to play chess in high school," said Chevelle Brown.

Chevelle said it was her English teacher who first got her hooked.

"Back then, there weren't a lot of girls playing ... but I did learn to play and I enjoyed myself," she said.

After college, Chevelle said her chess hobby took a time delay as she joined the United States Marine Corps and then became a Detroit police officer. It wasn’t until after her time with the department, and the birth of her son Joseph, that she had an idea.

"He's three years old and I present him with his first chess board. And that is my first student. From that point on, teaching became just what I love to do ... just love teaching children," said Chevelle.

And so the longtime Detroiter eventually decided to found I Teach Chess, a company that she says helps engineer thinkers.

"Chess is an activity that allows you to not just think about the board and what's happening in that moment, but the things that they learn playing chess they apply everywhere in their life. So not only on the board, but in the classroom, or in any field that they ever decide to play, doing anything," said Chevelle.

Chevelle has coached and taught chess all over the metro Detroit area, partnering up with schools and nonprofit organizations, like Detroit PAL, to help instill a love for the game, and of course, grow this area’s champions.

"Even though I have never played any tournament chess, I'm able to produce championship teams on elementary, middle and high school levels. And it doesn't matter, city, state, national, I can produce a team and I think it has more to do with my ability to connect with young people to be able to help them understand what they need to know," she said.

Wallace Harris is an eighth grader at U of D Jesuit, and just one of the many students Chevelle has helped instruct to chess greatness. At first, though, he wasn’t a fan of the game.

"My parents just made me sign up. At the time, of course, I didn't want to play chess," said Wallace.

But after a taste of winning in the third grade, he caught the bug.

"I've played a lot of older chess players, people that have been playing chess for a super long time. And they always tell me, it's good that I'm playing chess and it just helps you out in life, and it makes you think more about what you do," he said.

Chevelle says like Wallace, there are many great local students involved in chess.

"I use the game of chess to train young minds to become critical thinkers, able to solve complex problems and make wise decisions. So my scholars go on to win at chess and at life. I want to continue to do that," said Chevelle.

As interest in chess continues to grow, her dream, she says, is to open a dedicated chess center in the city.

She’s in the running right now for seed money to do just that, competing in the Michigan Women Forward’s 53 Voices Pitch Challenge sponsored by Fifth Third Bank.

"Detroit doesn't have this. We do not have a space that is dedicated to children and chess. We have places where they can play, but not where chess and children are the number one priority," said Chevelle.

She said the biggest misconception about chess is that people assume you have to be smart to play, but Chevelle says that isn’t true and that anyone can get into the game and reap the benefits.

"Chess can cause you to be smart. You will see students who will go from being a B student to being an A student because they've learned how to think it through," she said.

To learn more about Chevelle and I Teach Chess, go here.