Chart chess strategies in the park while fostering friendship and community


COMPETE: Impact Chess, a nonprofit founded by young Princeton resident Eric Wu, held its first outdoor rally last month at Turning Basin Park. A second will take place this weekend.

By Anne Levin

When Eric Wu, founder of the nonprofit Impact Chess, planned the first “Chess in the Park” event last month at the Turning Basin Park, he wasn’t sure how many people would show up. To his delight, some 25 players of all ages and skill levels arrived on the scene. They were challenged by a single player – National Master Winston Ni – who faced them in 19 concurrent matches.

“It was a huge success,” Wu said. “My main goal is to inspire young children to pursue chess more, to give them an experience that allows them to associate chess with community and friendship. It was our very first in-person event, and I think we did it. You could see 19 kids crammed into 19 boards, and you could see the dedication. It was a sight you don’t usually see anymore – focused and calm.

“Chess in the Park” returns to Turning Basin Park, off Alexander Street, on Sunday, August 7, from 2-6 p.m. Wu, a Princeton resident for nine years, expects an even bigger crowd this time around. As a rising junior at Phillips Exeter Academy and an alumnus of Princeton Day School (PDS), he is not much older than the young chess players he seeks to inspire.

As a small child in China, Wu played the Chinese game Go. After moving to the United States with his family the summer before second grade, he began learning chess. “I went to chess camp at Princeton Academy, and I really enjoyed it,” Wu said. “I’ve been playing ever since. PDS also had a pretty big chess program, with coaches and team events.

One evening last December, Wu was chatting on the phone with a friend from Princeton about her life and the direction in which she was headed. “I realized that the good things I had in my life, the good decisions I had made, were due to what failures had taught me,” he said. “I have the tactical mentality to assess situations. It taught me creativity, critical thinking, calmness under pressure and defeat with grace. I started thinking, maybe everyone could use a bit of chess in their life. And that’s how I founded Impact Chess.

The nonprofit organization is registered as 501(c)(3). While Wu is still two years old on his
boarding school in New Hampshire, he plans to start the business online. “We organize events and recruit new people,” he said. “Primary location is the greater Princeton area, but we also have spots in California, Michigan and Massachusetts.”

Together with his father, Wu often played chess with elderly people at a senior center in Ewing Township. Its mission “is to spread the game to young students and seniors,” he said. “We want to bridge the gap by bringing children and the elderly together. We’ve done it once before, and it was a success.

The website lists the nonprofit’s activities and future plans.

Wu is looking for student volunteers and donations. “If anyone is interested in chess or community service or leadership, get in touch,” he said. “We have so many opportunities and we need members. Our team is what drives us.


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