Mega chess arrives in Rockport

By Jenna Lookner | Oct 03, 2012
Photo by: Jenna Lookner Lexi Smith, 10, of Appleton makes the inaugural move on Rockport's new mega chess board on Sunday, Sept. 30. Smith's opponent, her grandfather Jim Lea of Rockport, was instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.

A small group of Rockport town officials, community members and chess enthusiasts gathered Sunday, Sept. 30, for a ribbon-cutting and official debut of Rockport's new mega chess board.

Gathered under colorful umbrellas and foul weather gear, the well-prepared group seemed to take the uncooperative weather in stride. Chess pieces were wheeled up a path to a grassy clearing overlooking the Rockport Marine Park where the 10-foot by 10-foot concrete chess board has been placed. Jim Lea, a resident who initially proposed the mega chess board, noted the stunning vistas from the site, jokingly referring to Rockport as the "Pebble Beach of mega chess."

The future goal is to store the chess pieces in a locked box near the chess board. Lea said he envisions the mega chess board operating much like a club, but open to anyone. Members of the Rockport Chess Club will register and pay a small, refundable deposit to obtain a key to the box so they can access the chess pieces at will. Lea said he hopes the box and key system will be implemented by the end of October.

The deposit and key system is also conducive to engaging visitors, allowing them an opportunity to participate and return their keys when leaving the area.

"The more, the merrier," Lea said.

Lea said he first encountered mega chess boards in public spaces while traveling in Europe, he thought the spot overlooking Rockport Marine Park would be an ideal place for a board. He approached Rockport Town Manager Bob Peabody, who sent him to the Rockport Harbor Committee for approval, which he subsequently received. Previously published reports indicate the Rockport mega chess board has been in the works since April.

The approximately two-foot-tall mega chess pieces were purchased from and cost $500 including shipping, Lea said. He has received a number of donations from residents in Rockport Village neighborhood, but said he is still fundraising to cover the cost of the pieces. The town handled the installation of the board and Lea painted it.

"It was a nice, flat space and no one was using it," Lea said of the board's location. An existing picnic table near the chess board provides an ideal spot for a picnic dinner and game of chess on a summer evening, he added.

Dan DeLuca, vice president of Maine Chess Association performed the official ribbon cutting on Sunday. Lea said DeLuca is hoping to encourage the city of Bangor to install a mega chess board, too.

"It's amazing how much interest there is in chess," Lea noted.

Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at

Rockport Harbormaster Abbie Leonard stands with Rockport Town Manager Bob Peabody shortly before the ribbon cutting ceremony for a new mega chess board at Rockport Marine Park. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Lexi Smith, 10, talks chess with Jim Lea and Maine Chess Association Vice President Dan DeLuca. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
The mega chess pieces are approximately two-feet-tall and are weighted on bottom to keep them in place. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Sisters Fiona Smith, 9, and Lexi Smith, 10, of Appleton were enthusiastic about the mega chess board. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Bringing the mega chess pieces down a short path to the harbormaster's office for storage was a group effort on Sunday, Sept. 30. Soon there will be storage for the pieces located near the board. Keys to the storage box will be issued to those who sign up and pay a small, refundable deposit. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Jim Lea, left, and Maine Chess Association Vice President Dan DeLuca. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Lexi Smith, 10, of Appleton stays dry at the unveiling of the mega chess board in Rockport on Sunday, Sept. 30. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Fiona Smith, 9, of Appleton, was dressed for the rainy weather on Sunday, Sept 30. Smith is the granddaughter of Jim Lea, the Rockport resident who spearheaded the chess board installation. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Maine Chess Association Vice President Dan DeLuca performs the ribbon cutting for Rockport's mega chess board as Rockport Town Manager Bob Peabody, left, and Jim Lea look on. (Photo by: Jenna Lookner)
Comments (2)
Posted by: William Spear | Oct 04, 2012 19:39

What a great thing for Rockport. I grew up in Rocport. I was just there last month after having moved away 40 years ago. I learned how to play chess in high scool. I was inspired by my girl friend's mother who could play Jacks like nobody's business. I learned how to play chess, juggle, and ride a unicycle becuse of her. Not very well but enough to say I can.

Bill Spear

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Oct 04, 2012 07:48

So COOL!!!!!!

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