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Hedge fund consultant Aksia brings chess to Brooklyn school

Aksia employees and MS 582 students played chess on Fridays during the school year.

If you're lucky enough to score an invitation to Aksia LLC's annual summer cocktail party in New York on July 24, you will be urged — gently and enthusiastically — to donate to the firm's chess partnership with MS 582, a Brooklyn middle school.

Employees of the New York-based hedge fund consultant decided last year to focus the firm's philanthropic efforts on a single cause: Adopt MS 582 and bring chess to students enrolled in grades 5 to 8.

The school serves an underprivileged student body. Every student at MS 582 is eligible for food assistance, for example, said Lynn O'Connell, a senior analyst in operational due diligence at Aksia, who initiated the chess program.

Aksia was matched up with MS 582 by the New York City Department of Education, said Ms. O'Connell, stressing "we thought we could help these kids by using chess as an equalizer."

The school had a fledgling after-school chess club led by a teacher, but Aksia helped ramp up the program by engaging Chess NYC, a chess education organization, to send a chess coach to the school twice a week.

Aksia also provided students with chess sets and two or three (and sometimes more) employees who went to the school on Fridays to play chess and hang out with the young chess enthusiasts.

"The project was about building a partnership with the school, and chess was a great way to get started. It's an intellectual way to have fun," said Patrick Adelsbach, partner and head of Aksia's credit strategy research.

Aksia's future plans include sponsoring a chess tournament in New York and possibly scholarships for students to attend Chess NYC's summer camps, raising hopes for a big fundraising success at the summer gala.