Photo of a long outdoor table with chess mats and individuals playing chess. A male-presenting youth looks towards the end of the table where the camera is.

Rainier Beach Chess Park Pop-Up Brings a Vision of a Future Permanent Home for Chess

by Susan Fried


It didn’t take long for chess lovers to fill the tables at the future site of Detective Cookie Chess Park in the Rainier Beach neighborhood on Saturday, Aug. 21. Members of Detective Cookie’s Chess Club, volunteers, and even the president of the Washington State Chess Association (WSCA) showed up for the second of three Chess Park Pop-Up events to be held this summer. 

Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin started the chess club in 2006 for Rainier Beach youth. Today, the club serves community members of all ages. The outdoor park, at the corner of Barton Place South and Rainier Avenue South, will eventually be home to built-in chess tables and a giant in-ground chess board. Community leaders and volunteers who formed the Friends of Detective Cookie Chess Park group began fundraising in 2015 and are on track to have the park fully funded by the end of 2021. 

Photo of Yabi Ephrem talking to his opponent through a black surgical face mask during a game
Yabi Ephrem, 11, talks to his opponent during a game at the Aug. 21 Chess Pop-Up at Detective Cookie Chess Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin watches a game between a couple of her chess club members.
Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin watches a game between a couple of her chess club members during the Aug. 21 Chess Park Pop-Up at Detective Cookie Chess Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting a male-presenting youth in a blue t-shirt staring fascinated at a giant white Knight chess piece. Another youth in a yellow t-shirt rests their hand on the piece.
Zuriel Smith, 2, is fascinated by the giant chess pieces set up during the Aug. 21 Chess Pop-Up at Detective Cookie Chess Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)

WSCA President Josh Sinanan has worked with Detective Cookie and Larry Greenawalt, the club’s main coach and expert on the game of chess, on several other projects, such as opportunities for chess club members to participate in Washington Chess Federation tournaments. Sinanan said he’s excited about the future chess park. “I see huge potential to make this a really big deal. We don’t have anything like this in the Seattle area — a dedicated chess park. So I’m very interested in it from the chess promotion perspective and in also just working with Larry and Detective Cookie to help promote chess for kids.”

Since many of the young chess players have only been able to play online since the start of the pandemic, the pop-up event was a welcome opportunity just to be able to play chess in person. 

Selina Cheng, 9, and her brother Edward, 14, played in several of the online tournaments and did well enough to qualify to participate in the 2021 Washington vs British Columbia Challenge Match held online in January.  At the pop-up, Selina and Edward both played against Sinanan. The WSCA president barely beat Selina, and his game with Edward ended in a draw.  

Photo depicting a long outdoor table with portable chess boards and individuals playing chess. In the foreground, a female-presenting youth in a pink t-shirt plays chess against an older male-presenting adult with glasses and a blue-and-green plaid collared shirt.
Selina Cheng, 9, plays a match against Washington State Chess Association President Josh Sinanan during the Chess Pop-Up at Detective Cookie Chess Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting Edward Cheng in a yellow t-shirt and blue surgical face mask shaking hands with Josh Sinanan, who is wearing a chess-themed tie and face mask, over a chess board.
Edward Cheng, 14, shakes hands with Washington State Chess Association President Josh Sinanan after playing to a draw during the Aug. 21 Chess Pop-Up at Detective Cookie Chess Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Bouldin says bringing opportunities to play chess adds to their community. “[The chess club] brings nothing but positivity. It shows possibilities, it shows that Rainier Beach is a beautiful place to be, and it shows that we are going to continue to take our community back by doing positive events, where everyone is welcome to participate,” she said. 

The future permanent chess park will be a beautiful gathering place and an opportunity to expose more community members to the game of chess. “I look forward to having events here, and I look forward to when it’s finally built — having a chess park that we can call our very own in our very own community,” said Bouldin. “It shows that police officers, community, and kids can come together for a positive event and make things happen that are wonderful and positive.” 

Photo of Detective Denise "Cookie" Bouldin in her SPD uniform thinking over a chess board.
Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin thinks about her next move. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin poses by a part of a new mural located across the street from Detective Cookie Chess Park.
Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin poses by a part of a new mural located across the street from Detective Cookie Chess Park on the Pho Van restaurant building. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin taking a picture of some of her chess club members standing in front of a metal sculpture with two giant chess pieces in front of the group.
Seattle Police Detective Denise “Cookie” Bouldin takes a picture of some of her chess club members during the Aug. 21 Chess Pop-Up at Detective Cookie Chess Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)

There is one more Chess Pop-Up scheduled this summer at the future Detective Cookie Chess Park adjacent to the Barton Place Apartments on Sept. 18 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend, play some chess, and learn about Detective Cookie’s Chess Club and how to get involved. No experience necessary. You can learn more about the park and how you can help support it here.


Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits, commercial work — plus shes been The Skanner’s Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washington Daily, the Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and many more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.

📸 Featured Image: Detective Cookie’s Chess Club member Yabi Ephrem, 11, plays a match during the Aug. 21 Chess Pop-Up at Detective Cookie Chess Park. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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