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It's like a game of chess.

Each play, a calculated move setting up

another, two or three moves ahead.

The analogy is used in football, basketball and baseball. It often applies in politics, law, family life and personal relationships.

Everything is a game of chess.

And how do chess players see their sport? To some, it's the perfect form of escapism.

"I think that's exactly right, it's all about escapism," said Jim Spencer, a 65-year-old Hudson resident who moved to Florida from Ohio many years ago.

Spencer, along with a dozen or so retired colleagues, meet every Monday and Friday at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson for an unofficial chess marathon. The group, which sets up shop on the benches next to the basketball court, begins play after noon and goes until dark.

"Most of us here don't have much to do and playing chess really challenges our minds," Spencer said. "It's very soothing, very relaxing. Sometimes we've been out here until midnight."

The group, put together by Bayonet Point resident Donald Kocher, has been meeting at the park the last four months and has attracted its fair share of curious onlookers. Some have turned into participants.

"We are open to everyone," said Kocher. "We like to get some of the young folks involved in the game. In that way, we can teach them a lot about the game."

And what's the first thing to be taught?

"I guess the first thing would be to realize that chess gives you the time and place to put away your problems; to focus on something abstract," Spencer said. "It allows you to forget whatever problems you might have at that minute."

Spencer and Kocher are manifestations of a new era in the game's public image. Traditionally, chess has been the pastime of intellectuals, the game of the snooty, a mental war fought in the quiet halls of academia.

Not any more.

Chess has experienced a renaissance. It has moved from the quiet solitude of library cubicles to the breezy sunlit environs of park benches. What was once an indoor game for a few is now an outdoor game for all.

"Chess is making its way into the mainstream," Spencer said. "The evidence is all around."

As proof, he points out that chess boards are popping up on school buses, roadside benches, beaches, work places and seedy bars.

"I think the United States Chess Federation and a lot of the retired folks have a lot to do with that," said Matt McCaw, 15, who lives in Dublin, Ohio, but is visiting his grandparents in Beacon Woods. "They have helped spread the good things about the game. It's only going to get more popular."

McCaw learned about the afternoon outdoor chess marathon from Stan Opalka, 83, a neighbor of McCaw's grandparents. Opalka brought McCaw to the park last Friday for a trial run. He promptly whipped McCaw, checkmating him in less than half an hour.

"It was one critical move _ the fork _ and it did him in," Opalka said. "I attacked two key pieces with two pawns and he had to make a decision which one he wanted. That really made the difference."

"That's the best thing about chess," McCaw said. "You really have to concentrate. One false move and the game is over. If you want to play properly, you have to concentrate."