It’s a world of secrets, strategy and sweat — and Rafael Navarro is glad he walked into it 20 years ago in Yuba City.

“It keeps you happy,” said Navarro, 75. “You feel like you are learning.”

Beamon B. Hill, director of the academy that he calls more of a club, spoke about its half-century history and how new players like Navarro are welcome.

Hill had a copy of the book “Grandmaster Secret Openings,” one member spoke about the sweat that can develop during a serious contest and Loma Rica resident Damian Fussel, 20, said the strategy he learns help with his studies at the University of California, San Diego.

The Yuba-Sutter Chess Academy meets at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at the Carl’s Jr. Restaurant at 1300 Bridge Street, a block from the Cinemark movie theater in Yuba City.

“It’s an unlimited learning experience,” Yuba City resident Mark Hahn, 63, said of chess. “Just like golf.”

More than a half-dozen games may be going on at once during an academy meeting, said Hill, whose chess roots in this region run back to Marysville in 1964. That’s when he arrived here as a member of the United States Air Force newly stationed at Beale Air Force Base.

Beale has brought many chess players here — but their stay is often short.

“We get some good players from the base,” said Hahn. “And then they get transferred.”

College student Fussel helped start chess clubs at Yuba College and the Yuba County Library in Marysville. That was after Hill had introduced to him to the game as a 14-year-old at the Sutter County Library.

Fussel said chess holds lessons for players even if they don’t prevail. In fact, he added, “It’s better to lose. You learn more.” Unlike athletic contests that allow participants to burn energy, the board game is all about the brain.

“You can’t cool down your adrenaline,” Fussel noted.

Hahn and Navarro pondered moves Monday.

“He forgot about my knight,” Hahn said of Navarro as the two players went on to split a pair of games.

It’s friendly at the chess academy in Yuba City but Hill and others spoke about chess hustlers in Bay Area cities who work players like something out of the 1986 movie “The Color of Money” and its 1961 predecessor “The Hustler” chronicling pool players.

Hahn recalls his introduction to serious chess as a champion of the game at Yuba City High School. He and a friend went to Sacramento to play.

“We were the best in town,” Hahn recalled. “We thought we knew how to play chess.”

Sacramento showed them otherwise, he recalled.

Technology has transformed playing the game by allowing competitors to participate in contests around the world via computer.

Still, Hill, whose early study of chess was through books and who had copies of the magazine Chess Life when the academy met Monday, said print hasn’t lost its promise.

“Some stuff,” he said, “you won’t find on a computer.”

CONTACT Ryan McCarthy at 749-4707 or .