Custodian Coaches Champion Chess Team

Custodian Coaches Champion Chess Team
  • “The Queen’s Gambit” boosted interest in the game of chess.
  • School custodian in Maine become chess coach for youths.
  • Kids compete at national championships.
  • David Bishop says chess is good for students.

( – In 2021, the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” sparked a renewed interest in the game of chess. In fact, Michigan Journal of Economics reported an online chess server almost tripled its monthly membership after the streaming service aired the program, which follows fictional chess prodigy, Beth Harmon. The game itself has been around for nearly 1,500 years, but the mini-series was credited for increasing the number of players as well as boosting the sport’s audience numbers. In Maine, one mild-mannered and unassuming custodian seems to have found inspiration as well.

New Career

David Bishop is a full-time custodian who used to work in the telecommunications industry. When he transitioned into his new job in 2013, he didn’t know that Reeds Brook Middle School had a chess club. Once he became aware some of the students enjoyed the game enough to join a group, he began volunteering to help them learn the strategic and often complex game. He later added George B. Weatherbee Elementary School’s chess team to his coaching schedule.

Bishop has been playing chess since he was a kid, playing with his siblings and learning about the different pieces and the roles they play on the board. Watching the competition between American grandmaster Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in the ‘70s only cemented his interest in the game.

Fortune quoted Bishop as saying it was “humiliating and demoralizing” when his young students beat him, enthusiastically yelling, “Checkmate!” However, he realized that only meant his teachings were working and the players’ skills were “getting stronger.”

Team Success

Recently, the custodian/chess coach represented his state at the national championship in Texas. His middle school team came in eighth place out of 52 teams. Bishop’s elementary school team also recently competed in its national competition in Maryland.

Twelve-year-old Eli Marquis said learning new moves helps him get better and keeps his interest in the game. He said the more you practice, the better you get. Another player, Eddie LaRochelle, believes chess is just like other competitive team sports. He said players have to practice to improve and work together to win.

Coach Bishop called chess a “workout for the brain,” stating he believes chess is really “good” for the kids to learn and master.

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