Kevin Fite Shares His Passion for Chess with Local Students

evin Fite admits he’s never been the best chess player in the world.

Even though he’s been playing since his older brother taught him when he was eight, he’s never really mastered it well enough to compete.

But you don’t have to be super good at something to love it. And you don’t have to be an expert in something to pass that love on to others.

That’s why, in 2001, Fite had the idea to teach his students at the now-defunct Duffield Elementary-Middle School in Detroit to play. After all, it helps boost math and standardized test scores and improves critical thinking skills. Plus, if you get hooked, it’s just plain fun.

The first two students who joined the group were called nerds, geeks and other negative names Fite is too ashamed to repeat. But soon after, a basketball player and a cheerleader joined the team. Suddenly, playing chess was deemed cool. So many students joined that chess club he had to expand and found a home for the Detroit City Chess Club at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where dozens of players of all ages come at 6 p.m. Friday evenings.


The team has become the nation’s largest and most successful chess team, winning local, regional and national tournaments. It has touched at least 500 students’ lives, but who’s counting?

"It makes me feel good, of course, but it’s not about me," Fite says. "I’ve had people in my life who helped me, so I’m returning the favor. What art or activity can handle a smart person, a not-so-bright person, or a person that has all kinds of social ailments than chess? Where else can you see an 80-year-old man from another country playing a little kid in Detroit?"

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