First Chess Biathalon, in Jefferson County

2/9/2009 – What a great idea! In an area where there is lots of snow, and where most people are accomplished Nordic skiers, why not mobilise the chess enthusiasts amongst them to take part in a Chess Biathlon. You ski and stop, not to shoot at targets, but to solve chess puzzles. Is this the first time that such an event was staged? It is certainly worth emulating.

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First Chess biathalon staged in Jefferson County

By John Kunz

The weather here in Jefferson County, New York, is most appropriate for Nordic Skiing and chess. I am fond of calling this area the American Siberia. Our students at the LaFargeville Central School are avid chess players and accomplished Nordic skiers. They were game competitors in our first Chess Biathalon.


At the starting line of the First Chess Biathlon

The school maintains a nature trail along the banks of the Chaumont River. We used this two kilometer loop to stage the event. Chess instructors made over-sized printouts of mate puzzles and sealed them in weather proof plexiglass frames. The puzzles were set up along the trails at regular intervals.


A Chess Biathalon station


A competitor making calculations...


...using one of the many calculation tools in her arsenal


Recording solutions

As the students navigated the course, they stopped to write down solutions for the mate puzzles at the different stations. Some worked in pairs, others were solo. At the finish line everyone's course time was recorded. They each turned in their solutions sheets to the trail assistant. For each correct solution time was subtracted from their finishing mark. Incorrect solutions added time to the finish. Skipped puzzles added double the time.


Off on the next section of the Biathlon


The Trail Assitant in typical North Country garb

A great time was had by all. I am curious to find out if we are the first to run such an event. I have never seen anything similar in your coverage. Judging from the response of our students this may be an event with a great deal of potential. This was a healthy youth activity challenging body, brain and spirit.

John Kunz is the Advantage Coordinator, LaFargeville Central School District, a Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County


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