He adds, "But I am devoted to spreading my love of chess to young people everywhere."
Stewart is doing just that as the founder of the Jersey City-based, non-profit King's Knight Chess Club, which runs chess programs at several venues throughout the city and in Essex County. The club was founded in the late 1990s and has served over 1,000 children since.
And it continues to hold the Hudson County King's Knight County Championship, which will take place at the Hudson County Courthouse on March 25.
The championship will see young Hudson County chess players from grades 1 through 8 compete in several sections where there will be first through fifth place winners.Kids realize they're smart
Stewart sees the championship as an event to celebrate a game he calls "the gymnasium of the mind," and expose youngsters to an activity that first seized his attention as a 10 year-old at the old CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) club on Oak Street.
He says the game helped shape him as a person.
"I had low self-esteem as a child and didn't think I was smart," said Stewart, "I learned chess and within two weeks, I was beating my instructor." The game of chess
Chess is a game of strategy for two players using a 64-square board of eight rows (ranks) and eight columns (files). Each player begins the game with 16 pieces, each moving in specific direction to remove, or "capture," other pieces from the board.
The pieces include eight pawns, two knights, two bishops, two rooks, one queen, and one king. The object of the game is to accomplish a checkmate, which is capturing the opponent's king. Life is a chess match
Stewart said as he grew older, he gained confidence and patience as the result of mastering the game of chess.
Both of those qualities have come in handy as Stewart contends with "a constant struggle" to receive funding from the city for his program.
"Going through various administrations and to get funding has not been easy," said Stewart. "And this year we didn't get any CDBG funding."
CDBG, or Community Block Development Grants, are distributed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund projects by various community groups in a municipality.
The city submitted an application recently for $6 million in grant money. Recently, a list of the programs in Jersey City that received CDBG funding was announced - the King's Knight Chess Club was not one of them.
"I don't understand how [King's Knight Chess Club] are not funded," said Stewart. "I'm told by the city it's because of budget cuts, but I see some other programs with whom we have partnerships and I want some answers."
Stewart said that King's Knight receives small stipends from the various organizations it has partnered with, such as the Boys and Girls Club of Hudson County and NJCU Pre-College Program. He is currently in discussions with county officials about possible funding.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise confirmed last week that Stewart had discussed funding with him and said that there could be money available through the county's Cultural Affairs Division.
But for now, Stewart continues to keep his organization afloat with the few instructors he has in his employ.
He sees the impact the game has on children and even senior citizens who take lessons at the club.
"Chess is basically colorblind; it doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, or how young or old you are when learning," said Stewart. "Most people look at it as geeky, but their kid can learn self-control and discipline from learning chess, and who doesn't want that in a child." Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com. Sidebar County chess championship
The Hudson County Kings Knight Chess Championship will take place on March 25 at the Justice William Brennan Court House, 583 Newark Ave., Jersey City, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Children in grades 1 through 8 will be competing. There will also be a half-time chess match with local politicians scheduled to take part, including Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, County Freeholder Bill O'Dea, and Ward C City Councilman Steve Lipski.
Organized by the Kings Knight Chess Championship and sponsored by DeGise, the event will be first county level chess tournament in at least five years, according to Bobby Stewart, who is the founder of the local King's Knight Chess Club.
Stewart said when he met DeGise to discuss a county chess tournament, he immediately won over the county executive.
It turns out DeGise is a chess enthusiast.
"I used to be a bit of a chess player in college and sometime afterward," said DeGise. "Early in my career as a teacher, I was the chess coach at Dickinson High School [in Jersey City]."
DeGise is proud to be a sponsor of the championship, and looks forward to sponsoring future county chess championships, but will gauge the turnout for the upcoming event.
"It's a wonderful game, a great game to teach kids how to think logically, to solve problems," said DeGise.
The Kings Knight Chess Club is still looking for players and sponsors. To register for the championship, e-mail: Kingsknightchess@aol.com or write to Kings Knight Chess Club, Inc., 497 West Side Ave, Suite 654, Jersey City, NJ 07304. The deadline to register is March 20.
For more information, call the Kings Knight Chess Club at (201) 936-9997. - RK