Tucked into a bright corner of the children’s section at the Lewiston Public Library, Cheri-Ann Parris calmly uses her left hand to make an “L” to instruct Asma Hassan, 12, on how a knight moves in the game of chess.

“See, it can only move like this,” Parris said, twisting her hand at many angles to show the different “L” patterns on the board.

Parris, 23, of Lewiston, grew up on the Caribbean island of Barbados, where she started playing chess at age 11. By age 14, she had defeated all of the females in her secondary school.

“I guess it was another challenge for me,” said Parris, who had already become a competitive squash player at age 11 and had represented her country for the sport on many occasions. “I think I had the fundamentals, for the most part. But I was so prone to competition, that I wanted to try it out and try to beat as many people before I was exhausted and moved on.”

By age 16, she placed third in the Barbados Chess Nationals for competitive females.

The next year, in 2008, she represented her country in the Chess Olympiad.


“It’s like the Chess Olympics, but the Olympic Committee doesn’t like to admit new sports very easily,” Parris said. “It was a blast. Just at 17 to have that opportunity to not only represent my county — because at that point, I was a little numb to it having represented my country since I was 11 for squash — but to come into a different arena as a chess player, it felt so, it felt so, I guess, inspiring in the sense that I knew I had the ability to reach this level in another sport.”

In 2009, Parris moved to Lewiston to attend Bates College and play squash. She continued to play chess, but moved away from competitions and didn’t even join the Chess Club.

She was simply too busy.

After graduating last May with a double major in anthropology and biology, she volunteered at the Lewiston Public Library doing what she really likes to do best — helping people.

Most Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m., she is at the library, teaching children how to play chess or playing checkers with them until their attention wanes.

“Chess always lives with you,” she said. “It keeps your brain alive.”

At home, Parris plays chess on a homemade board fashioned out of painted plywood and Play-Doh pieces.

“It was a way to remind myself it’s a public game,” Parris said. “Anyone can make a chess board, and anyone can play chess. I think one of the most important parts of the game is that it is so accessible. Basically, all you need is a … board and some stuff. As long you have that logical, strategic frame of mind, the sky is the limit.”

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