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Historic International Detainee Chess Tournament Held

Detainees in seven countries spanning multiple continents participated in a historic chess tournament that concluded Tuesday, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.

Detainees at Cook County Jail competed against prisoners from Armenia, Belarus, Brazil, England, Italy and Russia. After seven matches involving four players from each country, Russia was declared the winner, having amassed 22.5 wins over the two-day event. Belarus and Italy tied for second place, Armenia came in fourth, the United States came in fifth, Brazil sixth and England seventh.

Sheriff Dart and senior officials from the competing countries participated Tuesday in an event ceremony via Skype.

“We are incredibly thankful for the participation of these six countries to make this event truly historic and incredibly competitive,” said Sheriff Dart. “Chess instills important skills, from patience to strategic thinking, that help individuals better navigate custody and re-entry to society.”

Fourteen players from Cook County Jail competed in the tournament and were selected based on skill from the more than 100 players who are in the jail’s chess program.

The top player from each country will receive a special chess set from World Chess Champion Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, who helped organize the competition and served as a catalyst for the creation of the Cook County Jail chess program. Karpov was the world chess champion from 1975 to 1985 and again from 1993 to 1999.

“I would like to thank you, our American friends, for their effort and work in organizing such great competition,” Karpov said in a video statement to the tournament. “I hope everyone plays interesting games, wins matches and has a good time at the tournament. And, as we always say in chess and other sports, may the best player win.”

The Cook County Jail’s chess program started in 2012 and has hosted numerous chess dignitaries over the years, including Karpov. Prior to this event, players from the jail competed in online tournaments against Russia in 2013 and 2016. In 2017, they won an online tournament against prisoners in Brazil.


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