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Pleasantville Chess Instructor Challenges Students

Jack Stockel will be the star of a benefit chess tournament on Saturday.

Chess aficionado and longtime familiar face in Pleasantville Jack Stockel will be putting his more than 70 years of knowledge of the game to the test with a unique style of tournament on Saturday.

"I will play 20 students simultaneously," he explained—a setup that will leave him little more than five seconds to make a move before moving to the next game.

While Stockel will be volunteering his time to play in the simultaneous tournament, parents are encouraged to make a donation if their child is participating. All funds will benefit the Community Scholarship Fund of Pleasantville.

Stockel, 82, said he has been playing chess since age seven and been a chess instructor since 1959.

"It keeps your mind sharp and teaches you a lot of things," he said of the game he plays and teaches several times a week. "It teaches you not to take something for free. It's like that in life, too—when someone gives you a dollar, he wants $10 in return."

While he now resides in Thornwood, Stockel previously lived in Pleasantville for 29 years and spends a lot of time in the community. He used to own and operate on Manville Road and still helps out his son regularly, who know manages the business.

"Pleasantville is a nice community. It's unique," Stockel said. "There is no other community like Pleasantville in Westchester. It's a small village, there are sidewalks; you can walk wherever you want. You can say 'hello' to people and they say 'hello' back to you."

He currently plays weekly as a member of the Max Pavey Chess Club in Briarcliff Manor and also frequents several times a week to teach the game.

"He is a pleasure to work with," said Lisa Rodriguez, the school's curriculum coordinator. "He is all about the kids."

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Rodriguez said Stockel's involvement with students grades one through four is something they look forward to during recess and after school.

"For some children, recess can be stressful," she explained. "It's nice for them to go down and play. It's another opportunity...some kids come every time chess is offered."

Stockel said he has coached many local kids who have gone on to achieve national recognition in the chess circuit, as well as continue playing competitively in college.

"It's a wonderful game," he said. "It teaches you strategy, planning and thinking ahead."

Rodriguez added Stockel always welcomes students who have never played before and gives them basic tips to get them started.

And while Stockel said his eyesight is deteriorating due to glaucoma, his mind has stayed sharp and he's looking forward to a day full of chess on Saturday.

"I'm excited, I want to do it for the community," he said. "I never get tired."


The Chess Challenge will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Pleasantville Masonic Lodge (287 Manville Rd.). Students grades one through 12 are invited to participate. Donations are encouraged. Register by Friday by calling 769-1364.

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