25 July, 2024
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When Brian Willetts lost his wife last year, he was at a stalemate in life and couldn’t figure out his next move. But it was his favourite game, chess, that gave the 76-year-old a new lease on life and he’s using the chequerboard to spread happiness in the community.

A friendly face and a mate to many at Morris Iemma Indoor Sports Centre (MIISC), Mr Willetts sets up in the foyer every Wednesday and Sunday for anyone up for a game of chess and a chat.

“When I lost my wife, I could have sat around feeling sorry for myself, but I wanted to spread happiness,” Mr Willetts said. “What I miss most is not being able to do something nice for her, but now I compensate by doing something nice for people here.”

Mr Willetts said he was a regular at MIISC with his late wife, Diana, for weekly dance fit sessions. “We loved coming here together and meeting so many beautiful people.”

After losing his beloved Diana to COVID, Mr Willetts decided to share his passion for the game with others who visit the Centre.

“I spent the first seven weeks just sitting there playing puzzles by myself, chatting to anybody who’d come over and talk to me,” he said.

The chess club has since grown to include around ten regular players, including two eight-year-olds who are learning the game and sharpening their strategy.

“One of the biggest problems in society today is that people don’t think for themselves, they have other people think for them,” Mr Willetts said.

“There’s no better game to make you think than chess. It’s also a good antidote for old timers and dementia as well. It doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, work out what you did wrong and then you direct it. In chess, you stay in control, not someone else.”

Canterbury-Bankstown Mayor Bilal El-Hayek commended Brian on his dedication to sharing his passion and spreading positivity.

“Brian’s chess club is not just about playing the game, it’s about bringing people together and opening up conversations,” Mayor El-Hayek said. “I sat down over a game with Brian and was inspired by his wealth of knowledge and the many stories he has to share. If you don’t win, you’ll get a lesson in life!”

Join the chess master, Brian, for a game, coffee and a chat at Morris Iemma Indoor Sports Centre, Riverwood, every Wednesday from noon or every Sunday from 1pm. For more information, call MIISC on 9153 0441.

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