Unity in Chess: New York Community Bands Together for The Gift of Chess

The New York chess community united to support The Gift of Chess by contributing to fundraising efforts and spreading awareness about the organization's mission. Photo: Chess.com

A determined group of chess enthusiasts embarked on a remarkable journey through the bustling streets of New York City on the 16th of March, 2024, covering an impressive 13 miles (21 kilometers). Their mission was clear, which is to raise funds and awareness for The Gift of Chess, an organization dedicated to changing lives through the game of chess.

The walk, led by the visionary Russell Makofsky, commenced at the famous George Washington Bridge and stopped at the Brooklyn Bridge. Along the way, these dedicated individuals took breaks to engage in lively chess matches, connect with the local community, and also enjoyed New York’s famous pizza, reflecting the strategic essence of chess throughout.

The genesis of The Gift of Chess traces back to 2021, a time when the world was struggling with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Makofsky‘s initial and ambitious goal, was to distribute 10,000 chess sets to public school students across New York City and Today, their impact has surpassed expectations, with over 75,000 chess sets donated globally and another 41,000 on their way to aspiring players worldwide.

Russell Makofsky. Photo: Tiltify

Beyond mere chess sets, The Gift of Chess is on a mission to create meaningful impact as they focus on initiatives in education, prisons, and refugee outreach, using the game as a catalyst for empowerment, learning, and connection across diverse communities. The recent 13-mile walk in New York was just the beginning of what Makofsky envisions as an annual tradition. Scheduled on March 16—marking both his birthday and the fifth anniversary of FM Tanitoluwa Adewumi’s inspirational story published in the New York Times—this walk symbolizes the enduring power of chess to bring people together and drive positive change.

During the event, notable figures from the chess community, including IM Kassa Korley and board members of The Gift of Chess, Tyrone Davis III, and Ryan Rodrigues, joined Makofsky in his mission. IM Korley, a respected figure in the New York chess scene and a Chess.com staff member, praised Makofsky‘s dedication to expanding chess access, acknowledging the potential life-altering impact for many young individuals.

While the walk took place in New York, parallel events resonated across continents, including Kenya, Nigeria, Gambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Zambia, Uganda, and Ghana. These simultaneous gatherings symbolize the global reach and influence of The Gift of Chess, touching lives and shaping futures through the universal language of chess.

Russell Makofsky summarized the essence of the walk’s purpose, stating, “Chess means so much to so many people… I’m walking with you guys today—for education, for opportunity, for equality, for being heard.” The essence of The Gift of Chess symbolizes hope and change for people worldwide, driven by the enduring passion of chess lovers and forward-thinkers such as Makofsky.


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