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.
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.
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.”
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, and commercial work — plus, she’s been The Skanner News’ Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washington’s The 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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