The Champions’ Game: A True Story
by Saul Ramirez and John Seidlitz
In April of 2015, a team of “border kids” from South-Central El Paso surprised the country by competing in the national chess championships. For these kids, dreams of beating highly privileged students from “fancy” schools in upper-crust neighborhoods aren’t on the radar. They have bigger issues to deal with in life. And yet, they choose to voluntarily–even enthusiastically–commit countless hours every week to the practice of a game that they had known virtually nothing about until art teacher Saul Ramirez started a chess club at Henderson Middle School.
Under Ramirez’s caring but firm tutelage, the rising stars of El Paso hunker down, deal with the challenges of life and trust Ramirez to mentor them in their new extracurricular passion–chess.
The Champions’ Game: A True Story chronicles Ramirez’s efforts to create a revolution of the mind.
Ramirez’s genius is not so much the chess that he teaches (even though he’s a former Texas state chess champion), but in his ability to intertwine life principles with chess rules to expand the minds, the insight and even the future possibilities of the students he teaches. The book’s 14 chapters lay out Ramirez’s rules for life–and chess, introducing concepts like guard your queen, control your center and protect your king.
Ramirez grew up in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio, a neighborhood that might bring to mind Compton, or South Central, or 8 Mile, often noted as the poorest zip code in the United States. Ramirez seems to possess a singular ability to draw out the talents of his students, perhaps because chess is much more than just a game to him. In The Champions’ Game, he writes, “I want to start a revolution. A revolution of the mind. I want to do what was done for me by [the people] who were always there for me when I was a child, guiding me, teaching me, showing me how to be a man, an artist, a teacher. I want to build children anew, from the mind up. That does not take genius. It takes love.”