Checkmates: Brewers Players Bond Over Chess

The baseball season is a long one–162 games in 180 days–and that doesn’t even count Spring Training and all those Cactus League games. In Spring Training especially, players often arrive very early in the morning to get in their own workouts before the scheduled practices and games, so there is often a lot of natural downtime that happens as a result.

As players are going in and out of the workout and trainers’ rooms and eating breakfast, you’ll see groups of guys gather to talk and often play games to pass the time. Sometimes, it’s cards, sometimes it’s dominoes, but this year, there’s been a new game, which is actually quite old, sweeping the clubhouse: chess.

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Chess is a sport that improves memory and concentration, enhances creativity and problem-solving skills and exercises both sides of the brain, so this is certainly a beneficial hobby that is having its moment in the clubhouse.

Reliever Jeremy Jeffress is the one who brought in a chessboard this spring after picking up the game over the offseason.

He says it all started over the winter when he visited the home of a friend of a friend who had a board in his living room.

“I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve never learned how to play chess. I’ve got a lot of time right now…..Can you teach me a little bit?'” Jeffress said. “Then he just showed me basically how the pieces move. And then he said I that I’ve got to learn my strategy first–my defensive strategy, then my offensive strategy and then play the best way I know how.”

 

After that, he was hooked. Why?

“First of all, it’s the competition,” Jeffress explains. “I like that and creating my own strategy–trying to be smarter than the other guy is basically what I like.”

He claims to be a pretty good player in the clubhouse, where there are a lot of guys who either play or are now learning the game.

“Tyler Cravy’s a good player. Taylor Jungmann’s a good player. Michael Blazek and Corey Knebel are just learning, but they are coming a long….. Scooter Gennett, Eric Young and Matt Garza know how to play….almost everybody is playing,” Jeffress says.

“I’ve been learning,” says Knebel, who says he has gravitated to the game because it is something new. “I know where the pieces go and I know a few things, but I’m not winning that often.

Corey Knebel and Michael Blazek are just learning.... so maybe it's understandable why there was, uh, some confusion over this match?

Corey Knebel and Michael Blazek are just learning the game of chess…. so maybe it’s understandable why there was, uh, some confusion over this match?

When they’re not taking a turn at the chessboard, many of the players are sharpening their skills via the chess mobile app.

It’s not surprising that this game has so many players hooked. Baseball is an inherently strategic sport and all of these guys are highly competitive, so it makes sense that chess is a way to challenge themselves mentally while taking a breather from their day to day physical tasks.

“Right now my favorite app is probably the chess app because we’re playing chess…. Everyone here is playing chess so I’ve got to get better at that,” Blazek says.

Jeffress confirms that he, too, cannot get enough of the chess app. “I play every night before I go to sleep.”

 

-Cait

@CMoyer

 

 

 

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