For as many squares as there are on a chessboard, Paul Sherwood has been playing chess.
Sherwood’s career as a local chess mentor spans 64 years, both for those familiar and unfamiliar with the game.
"My dad taught me how to play when I was 4," Sherwood says. "I’ve always enjoyed the game. I spent a lot of my childhood lying on the floor reading chess books and recreating the games in them."
Sherwood develops players past just moving the pieces: strategy, from the beginning through the middle moves and to the final moments of any game of chess, is the core tenet of his teaching.
“Now, chess has its rules, but I have my own,” Sherwood says.
Even to adults without experience, Sherwood can teach the moves of each piece. For just that purpose, the local naturalist has for twenty years orchestrated chess nights at the Huron Library.
Walking in the sliding doors, readers and players alike mingle and take Sherwood on.
Often, one of his opponents takes advantage of his blunder, making for a teachable moment—a victory for both mentor and player.
Sherwood rotates his winning position for Dorian to win the game with a king and queen at Summer Break Camp.
“Do you like free stuff?” Sherwood is often heard saying to opponents. “Free stuff is always good. That bishop is free.”
Noting the loss on the board, Sherwood says: “I figured out early on that I was better at teaching the game than playing it. I’ve met some phenomenal people in the 20+ years I’ve been teaching in our area.”
The merits of chess are life-lasting.
“Chess is a game that a person can play for their whole life,” says Sherwood, who helps players keep sharp through weekly challenges, and open social opportunities across the board. “It is a game where young people who are not necessarily athletic can do something to make them feel a sense of accomplishment.”
In the summer of 2023, Sherwood could be found teaching Summer Break Camp kids at the Sandusky Recreation Center, situated at the former Mills School. There—accompanied with snacks—newcomers to the game would socialize in the second story room with checkerboard
chess board tiled floor.
Sherwood teaches an opponent during a "Chess with Paul Sherwood" session at the Huron Library.
The game encourages its players to think about strategy and make an advantage out of the future moves of their opponent.
Nequon Warren, a camp director at Sandusky Recreation says of chess: “We want kids to look over the whole board and see threats before they happen. Knowing the consequence of a move, both on the board and in life, is THE skill to learn from chess.”
As the room comes together in the program’s first two weeks, students learn the value of pieces, special moves and socialize with Sherwood.
By the last three weeks of Summer Break Camp, a consistent crowd of strategists and young learners returned to the board to strike up games with the chess enthusiast. For those who had never played, Sherwood’s advice to “find someone with the patience to play and explain the game” is valuable in the classroom, too.
During the school year at Perkins, Sherwood is present during lunch periods, where he encourages games against players with more practice, resulting in the players themselves becoming teachers of the game. At Perkins High School, students bring chess to study hall, inviting friends to the board.
Reviewing the final moves, or ‘endgame’ of chess, Paul advises Perkins students Gage, Eli and Evan.
Joined by Tim Balduff, an advocate for connection through chess under the clever acronym C
hess players of H
andusky and S
eneca counties, Sherwood helps to organize chess tournaments for what Balduff calls “friendly competition.” Students who have played with Sherwood for three or more years play with more confidence in these settings.
Back at Mills, Payson, aged nine, noted the poster displaying American grandmasters (players rated 2500-2700 ELO), and asks, “Is Paul up on this wall?”
Bobby Fischer, an American World Chess Champion in 1972, has a legacy that lasted 64 years, an age Sherwood has surpassed and will be teaching for far longer than the American grandmaster ever played. By his 64th year of play, Sherwood will have impacted thousands of students on the board and in the field.
While players on the world stage train by challenging players better than them, their chess mentor need not be a master. Sherwood’s impact on area chess has already outlasted the legacy of any one world champion displayed on the walls of Mills’ chess room.
If any lesson is to be learned from Paul, it’s that “free stuff is always good.”
Regardless of background, people sit down to play at the Huron Library with Paul. Thanks to the connective qualities of Paul Sherwood’s lessons, chess in Erie County remains a timeless game
If interested in starting a chess club at your school, contact Sherwood at [email protected]
or Balduff at [email protected]
If interested in starting an online chess club, visit chess.com
or use lichess.org with the Perkins High School Chess Club
For information on chess and other events, go to the Huron Library site
. For information on City of Sandusky recreation programs, visit the Rec Department site