BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Finishing his first lecture session of the day, Rob Fusco readied his 22 campers to test what they had learned in games of chess of their own.
“And when you see a good move,” he said, finishing off his instructions, “wait for a better one.”
For the most part, the boys and girls taking part in the town’s Aug. 1-5 chess camp did just that. Fusco — a US Chess Federation certified coach who lives in Mechanicville — started his camp with several true beginners to chess, but the whole of his camp’s roster ended up boosting their ability and acumen during the week.
“Skill levels in chess are elevated very quickly, especially when the camaraderie is high,” he said. “The more-experienced kids really help the lesser-experienced kids.”
Fusco, 40, has been coaching chess for more than a decade, helping to teach the game in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia prior to landing back in the Capital Region. Born in Albany, Fusco has hopes of opening a chess and games shop in his hometown region within the next year in addition to his training of individuals and groups for tournament play.
“It’s not a standard 9-to-5 gig, but I think the [Capital Region] is in desperate need of something like this,” he said. “I don’t know of many other individuals who do this type of work around here, and there are kids everywhere — and adult beginners — that would take tremendous benefit from the study and practice of our game.”
Besides engaging in quiet, focused game play at the camp, participants also were led through classroom-like training sessions with Fusco in the role of teacher. In leading campers through famous games from chess history, Fusco was able to teach skills and allow his students to think critically about what move — and countermoves — were set to come next within the games he demonstrated.
“Funny enough,” he said, “some of the ones that [speak up] the most had little idea about these things at the beginning of camp, but they absorbed and processed it so rapidly.”
Theyvasre Muralitharan, who will be a sixth-grader at Acadia Middle School this upcoming academic year, had only played chess with family members prior to attending Fusco’s camp. While she enjoyed playing in the camp’s tournament and friendly games, the skull sessions where Fusco went over skills and techniques most appealed to her.
“Some of these moves, I hadn’t heard of them,” she said. “Now, I’m getting good at them.”
The camp, though, featured more than just hours upon hours of chess training. Participants also got outside for recreational activities, helping the campers to refresh their minds after focusing on the new skills they were learning and utilizing.
The camp — conducted at Town Hall — hit capacity well in advance of its start. Fusco said that initially caught him by surprise, but left him encouraged chess could see a surge of interest in the area.
“So,” Fusco said, “perhaps in the future we’ll book two, three weeks — maybe a month’s worth — of camps to fit that demand.”