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“When people think of prisons, they think of guys lifting weights, but we want to stimulate their minds,” Burris said. “Their spirit is what will keep them from coming back.”

Williams helped organize the tournament rules and supports were put in place for the players.

“We have some real serious chess players,” said correctional keeper Mario Reed. “It helps them relieve stress, do something positive. They can come and show what they can do.

Gary Greer, 31, from St. Louis, learned to play as a child from his grandfather, and he grew up playing with his two brothers.

Chess, like life, shows “the weakest and the strongest,” said Greer, who has been charged with assault. “It’s about how you see a situation and who is there to protect you.”

Jeffery Gautreaux, who fidgets in his seat and often laughs out loud when speaking to a reporter, said chess helped calm him down.

“It really takes you away from yourself,” said Gautreaux, 41. “It’s very therapeutic. There is a lot of balance and a lot of camaraderie.

Gautreaux has been at the center of justice for nine months, after being accused of burglary, but things could be worse, he said. He likes chess to teach him “responsibility”.

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