A record number of participants - 88 teams representing 41 countries have already registered for the third Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners, scheduled for October 11-13, 2023. Teams wanting to join the tournament can register via the following link until September 29, 2023.
57 male, 18 female and 11 youth teams made of amateur chess players, for whom the game became not just a hobby but a strong motivation to change for the better, will be representing correctional facilities from Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, England, Ghana, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Malawi, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, El Salvador, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, UAE, USA, and Zimbabwe.
For most of them, this international tournament is an opportunity to test their chess skills acquired in the classes within the prison walls and while playing the game with the inmates. The number of countries and correctional facilities implementing the Chess in Prisons program is constantly growing.
The English Chess Federation has been running a program supporting chess in prisons since 2014. A chess player, author, and columnist, Carl Portman, who volunteers for the Chess in Prisons program in the country, has visited a number of prisons across the country. Carl provides valuable support to prison communities, where it is recognised as a purposeful activity for inmates, supporting the development of critical analysis and reasoning skills and helping to reduce reoffending rates.
“As the chess columnist for the prison newspaper ‘Inside Time’, I receive a large amount of posts from inmates, and I use that feedback to measure how chess features in prisons. As one inmate wrote, ‘It has taught me to think ahead and not make rash decisions.’ My motto for life has always been ‘Don’t complain about the darkness, light a few candles’,” says Carl Portman.
The reigning champions of the Championship for Prisoners, who won the event in October 2022, are the Philippines in the male section, Mongolia in the women’s category, and Serbia in the youth tournament.
Jail officer 1 Cedrix B Cabangal, representing the General Santos City Jail in South Cotabato, Philippines, winners of the 2022 event, has served as a team coach since 2021, when the first tournament took place. “In 2021, I saw a post on FIDE’s website about the international tournament among prisons, and I immediately signed up. This year, we are joining again and are determined to retain our champions’ title,” he says.
Participation in the tournament is free of charge. It is open for teams made of 4 players representing any correctional facility (jail or prison). Winners will be determined in male, female and youth categories.
More info about the program can be found here: chessforfreedom.fide.com