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Maine School Custodians Help Make Chess Teams Real Life "Queen’s Gambit"

HAMPDEN, Maine — Students at Weatherby Elementary School in Hampden, Maine, may seem peaceful enough.

But start a war on a chessboard and these villains — with their knight moves — become royal pawns in chess for anyone who dares dethrone their king.

Thus they became the new Maine State Chess Champions. In fact, the only thing more unlikely than their success is where they found it: in the broom closet.

School custodian David Bishop played chess as a child. So, when he found himself cleaning the halls outside the Wetherby Chess Club a few years later, he said he was drawn to the game, just as he had been as a child.

“And at the time I really had no idea how to teach,” Bishop told CBS News. “I’ve never done that before.”

“I didn’t really think he had a good background to do it, but he obviously does,” one student said.

“His name is Mr. Bishop, which is pretty cool,” added another.

The chess club has become a community of tightly focused small minds who play like real kingdoms. And while none of them are masters here, Mr. Bishop ends up convincing each of them that they have potential.

“What I tell them is, if you love it, you’re going to be better than our best player,” Bishop said. “They say, ‘No, it can’t be.’ I say, ‘Yeah, if you love it, you’re never going to give up and you’re going to get better as the months and years go by.'”

Some may mistake their job description for a box, who they are and what they do. Bishop sees it differently. He said when they asked him to light up the school, they never said how.

“I found my purpose,” Bishop said.

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Steve Hartman

Steve Hartman

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