NewsPositively San Diego


Chess club at San Carlos Library kept going by brother and sister

Mila & Luke Cepurac Chess Lesson.PNG
Posted at 9:48 AM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 15:36:57-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – A brother and sister are positively on the same track when it comes to chess, hoping to keep the game going at a San Diego-area public library.

Luke and Mila Cepurac have been working to revitalize the chess club at the San Carlos Library.

Luke, a student at Harvard, said he was running the program, adding, “We set up the tables and everything, and we’re like, ‘Oh no, that’s not enough boards.’ We thought it would be fine and then more and more people would come in.”

Mila, an 11-year-old heading into middle school, helped recruit players, telling ABC 10News that she spread the word about the club at her school and “convinced some of my classmates to come over to the chess club.”

The two learned the game from their parents and enjoy sharing their skills, even creating online videos to help other players when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In one clip, Mila demonstrates how game-ending moves can come from clear across the board in chess, as she slides a bishop along a diagonal, explaining, "It opens up a lane for the bishop to travel across the board and put the king in checkmate."

Chess has seen a burst in interest since last year's Netflix series "The Queen's Gambit," with millions more now playing the game online. But Luke and Mila are ultimately focused on promoting a game that's face-to-face.

"I like the online format, it's good," said Luke, "but it's always felt to me like it had a wall. Like you don't know the other person, you can't see them. It tends to feel kind of disconnected."

Whereas in person, he said, "It's just a matter of, 'Hey, hi, how are you? Let's play a game of chess.'"

Luke said playing together also makes the game easier to teach and learn. And excelling is just a matter of practice.

"Like some sports," Luke explains, "where you're limited by are you tall, are you fast enough, can you become strong enough. It's [chess] something where anybody can just play it with other people and just get better, like exponentially."

Luke began his freshman year at Harvard last year, and while spending more time away at college, Mia plans to pick up the reigns on keeping chess going at the San Carlos Library just as soon as it's deemed safe amid the pandemic. She's confident there will be plenty of players ready to take part.

"Chess is very popular in my school now," said Mila. "The kids at my school they love it."

Brother and sister then chiming in together on the usual schedule when the game is allowed to return: "5 (p.m.) to 7 (p.m.) every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at the San Carlos Library!"

Luke said when applying to colleges, recruiters -- including those at Harvard where he was ultimately accepted -- noted they were very impressed by his volunteerism related to chess.