Scottsdale memory care resident competes with high schoolers in chess

Silverado Scottsdale Memory Care resident Glenn Wood (left) and Notre Dame Preparatory junior Thomas Meeks (right) face off in a chess match Tuesday, May 16. Mr. Meeks was victorious. (Submitted Photo)

In the ancient and heralded game of strategy, chess skills learned during youth can sometimes remain late in life, even as memory begins to fade.

Glenn Wood, 88, taught himself on board a ship in the U.S. Navy during World War II and has played actively since, according to a press release.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, he competed in amateur competition across the country. About 30 years ago, Mr. Wood was instrumental in getting Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt to include chess in the high school curriculum, a release states.

Mr. Wood recently has been playing with members of Scottsdale’s Notre Dame Preparatory’s chess club as well as the group’s coach. One of those students he plays is junior Thomas Meeks, future chess club captain.

Silverado Scottsdale Memory Care Community resident Glenn Wood. (Submitted Photo)

After splitting two previous matches, Mr. Wood and Mr. Meeks faced off in a decisive third match Tuesday, May 16 at Silverado Scottsdale Memory Care Community. In the end, Mr. Meeks came away victorious.

Defeating Mr. Wood is no easy feat. The U.S. Chess Federation’s National Amateur Class ranking starts at 600 for a beginner to 1,800 for a top amateur, with any number above 1,200 recognized as a strong social player.

“Mr. Wood is near the 1,300 level and a good enough player to beat most people, about 70 to 75 percent of all chess players,” NDP Chess Club Coach Rich DesMarais said in a release.

“He’s getting good games from the students, but not beating them all the time. I thought it might be the opposite, but he sure holds his own.”

Mr. Wood will continue to play Meeks and other chess club members on an ongoing basis.

A story in Chess News by Michael Ciamarra, “Checkmating Alzheimer’s Disease,” cited research that points to the benefits of chess and other “mind games” in keeping the brain cognitively stimulated and possibly offering protection against deepening dementia, even as communication and other cognitive skills have diminished.

“Glenn and the students have already had some amazing games and the enjoyment and benefits he gets from competitive chess are quite apparent,” Dan Harrah, administrator at Silverado Scottsdale, said in a prepared statement.

“We are so pleased to be able to provide the environment to foster this unique program. Everyone really enjoys the challenge and we all look forward to the rematch.”

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