Inmates In Two Prisons Permitted  For The First Time To Compete In International Competition

Inmates In Two Prisons Permitted For The First Time To Compete In International Competition

By Tony O’Riley-

Inmates at two British prisons have been given permission to play at a competitive level in an international chess tournament for the first time.

The Ministry of Justice has approved entries to the first Intercontinental Online Chess Championship for Prisoners for HMP Hollesley Bay in Suffolk and HMP Wandsworth in London.

Hollesley Bay is as category D open prison, and Wandsworth is a category B jail.

At this tournament, however, prisoners will be able to play the game directly.

The two-day event features inmates from 31 countries including the US, Russia, Portugal, Croatia and Trinidad and Tobago. England’s team of four has been picked from prison chess clubs

CSC chief executive Malcolm Pein, who is captaining the England team, told The Guardian“Chess instils mental self-discipline, problem-solving skills and the ability to concentrate. It has a positive effect on behaviour as it relieves boredom, and was a lifeline to some prisoners during lockdown.”

The four UK competitors are from HMP Wandsworth, south London – pictured – and HMP Hollesley Bay in Suffolk (Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty)
The four UK competitors are from HMP Wandsworth, south London – pictured – and HMP Hollesley Bay in Suffolk (Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty)

He added: “Our prison team has been preparing for six months and they are highly motivated and excited by the prospect of playing the Russians. If we get to the final we just have to hope that the internet connections hold up.”

The CSC has been working with jails around the UK to bring a secure and technologically feasible way to ensure inmates can play. It has partnered with Novus – the organisation that pioneered Wormwood Scrubs training restaurant The Right Course, with First Dates‘ star ,Fred Sirieix

Carl Portman, author of Chess Behind Bars and chess columnist for prison newspaper Inside Time, said: “I receive hundreds of letters from prisoners telling me how liberating chess is for them.

“It is not only a productive use of time, it encourages prisoners to think before they move – obviously something they might not have done on the outside.

“This tournament is a massive leap forward for prison chess, and shows that it is a global game and the prison community can all access it.”

 

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