Playa Vista Chess Club founder Ben Eubanks emphasizes imagination over victory
By Alyssa Bruell
A few blocks from the L.A. business offices of some of the world’s biggest digital media companies, 20 kids sit quietly at the Playa Vista Library, not on their phones or tablets but playing chess — on a physical board, with wood pieces you have to move with your hand.
The Playa Vista Chess Club meets every Wednesday to give children a free, safe and educational afterschool activity. First through sixth graders match up against one another in free play and then receive a lesson from provisionally-rated chess player Ben Eubanks.
A practicing realtor by day, Eubanks is used to a competitive environment. But unlike the high-stakes world of buying and selling real estate, Eubanks says chess is one of only a few legitimately “fair games” with a truly level playing field.
“My arsenal as a chess player is exactly the same as my opponent’s. We both start with 16 pieces each, and all 16 pieces are exactly alike. In cards or dominoes, your hand is up to chance — it’s luck, basically. In chess, there’s no luck involved,” he says.
There are, however, emotional and creative components to the game
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere,” says Eubanks.
Longtime chess club member Ty Rutledge credits Eubanks with helping him become a more successful and well-rounded person.
“I wouldn’t have gotten into Loyola High School without chess or Ben. He has been a role model to me,” he says.
One aspect of the game that Eubanks overtly downplays is winning.
“A parent asked me to explain the difference between winning and losing to her child, who’s about 9. I asked him, ‘How to do you feel when you win?’ He said, ‘I feel happy.’ ‘How do you feel when you lose?’ ‘I feel sad.’ My response was that you should feel the same after both games, whether you win or lose, because if your emotional response is solely based on winning then you’re not going to have a satisfactory outcome in this game.”
These are some of the life lessons Eubanks hopes his students will glean from the game.
“I’ve lost thousands of chess games, and as a result I have an even keel toward things in life. Whatever happens today, I have to do my best. I have to survive. I’m not going to take it so hard if I lose or be so thrilled if I win that I lose sight of the long-term message of life,” says Eubanks.
Cathy Rodriguez, the mother 7-year-old twin boys Canaan and Caleb, has brought her kids to chess club for two years.
“Chess club has taught my kids about respect, how to have good sportsmanship, shake hands and be civil to each other,” she says.
The boys just say it’s fun.
The Playa Vista Chess Club meets from 4:15 to 5:15 Wednesdays at the Playa Vista Branch Library, 6400 Playa Vista Drive, Playa Vista. Call (310) 437-6680 or visit lapl.org/branches/playa-vista.