Chicago chess star shows off in Ghana

Chicago (CBS) — Video games have come and gone, but chess is 1,000 years old and still popular for pitting your wits against your opponent on a board.

CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported on a young Chicago chess champion who, along with some friends, brought his skills and chess diplomacy to West Africa.

Jack Herer and his coach Matt Carney discuss chess and their love for the game.

“I’ve been playing chess since I was four,” Heller said. “My father told me.”

A junior at Walter Peyton College Prep, Heller has extensive experience playing chess in the city and thousands of miles away in Ghana.

Jack was one of six Chicago students selected for the cultural exchange program. Chicago Chess Foundation and Basics International.

“It was a great feeling. Just meeting new people is pretty cool,” Heller said.

The idea came from a Chess Foundation backer with ties to Ghana.

It started with Zoom games during the pandemic. The Ghanaian players spoke English, so the groups got along well during the break.

“We’re going to ask students to share their culture, their favorite music, their favorite food, so they can get to know each other,” said Matt Carney, executive director of the Chicago Chess Foundation.

But the Chess Foundation and the students wanted more.

So, with a grant and help from the US Embassy in Ghana, all 10 days of free travel in April were made possible. There were a lot of chess games, but it was more than that.

“We talked about common interests,” Fuller said. “Sports, I love soccer there, and of course I love chess.”

“On the first day, we took the bus to go on a cultural excursion and a city tour, and I didn’t even know what they were talking about,” Kearney said. “They were just laughing together and having a good time.”

And for Heller it’s even more special.

“I was lucky enough to have my birthday during the trip, so that’s probably my favorite part,” he said. “Children sang traditional songs.”

Carney said it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for everyone.

“You can sit in front of the board and shake hands at the end of the game, even if they have different goals,” he said.

The Chicago Chess Foundation has several programs, many of which are accredited in underserved communities.For more information, please visit

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