Jedi’s chess legacy will live on

FALLEN KNIGHT: Gisborne chess champion Shane ‘Jedi’ Fitzgerald (left), portrayed by Xavier Horan in the film The Dark Horse, passed away on Wednesday.
Picture by Kirsty Griffin

ONE of the last torch-bearers of Gisborne chess master Genesis Potini’s method of chess teaching has passed away.

Ngati Porou chess champion Shane ‘Jedi’ Fitzgerald died on Wednesday in Gisborne. He was 39.

Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Potini, who lived with bipolar disorder, launched a chess club called the Eastern Knights for underprivileged youth in Gisborne.

They were made famous in director James Napier Robinson’s 2014 movie The Dark Horse, in which The Dead Lands actor Xavier Horan played Mr Fitzgerald while Cliff Curtis took on the role of Mr Potini.

Mr Fitzgerald flew to Los Angles to teach Mr Curtis how to play chess, while the New Zealand actor worked on a TV series.

During filming of The Dark Horse, Mr Fitzgerald acted as chess consultant.

He had lived with cancer since 2012. His involvement with the film helped him deal with his condition, his partner Tania Kiwara told Maori Television.

“It was the biggest highlight of his life and a positive moment for him. He got to hang out with Cliff Curtis on Venice beach and play chess.”

The Dark Horse producer Tom Hern said Fitzgerald was “eccentric, brilliant and passionate.”

“He could have easily had a whole film made about him.”

Friend and fellow teacher of the Genesis Potini method, Noble Keelan, who was played by Outrageous Fortune star Kirk Torrance in the movie, describes Mr Fitzgerald as a humble, happy-go-lucky man.

“He was someone who was good to be around. He was really good at teaching kids.”

Shortly after the release of The Dark Horse, Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Keelan taught chess under the banner Eastern Knights Legacy.

The duo wore yellow polo shirts emblazoned with the club logo — like those worn by Eastern Knights Chess Club members in the film — when they went out to teach children how to play chess.

Employed under the Tairawhiti REAP and GATE educational programme, they tutored and inspired students from schools at Whangara, Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Ruatoria, Hicks Bay, Manutuke, Nuhaka and Wairoa.

The legacy lives on.

ONE of the last torch-bearers of Gisborne chess master Genesis Potini’s method of chess teaching has passed away.

Ngati Porou chess champion Shane ‘Jedi’ Fitzgerald died on Wednesday in Gisborne. He was 39.

Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Potini, who lived with bipolar disorder, launched a chess club called the Eastern Knights for underprivileged youth in Gisborne.

They were made famous in director James Napier Robinson’s 2014 movie The Dark Horse, in which The Dead Lands actor Xavier Horan played Mr Fitzgerald while Cliff Curtis took on the role of Mr Potini.

Mr Fitzgerald flew to Los Angles to teach Mr Curtis how to play chess, while the New Zealand actor worked on a TV series.

During filming of The Dark Horse, Mr Fitzgerald acted as chess consultant.

He had lived with cancer since 2012. His involvement with the film helped him deal with his condition, his partner Tania Kiwara told Maori Television.

“It was the biggest highlight of his life and a positive moment for him. He got to hang out with Cliff Curtis on Venice beach and play chess.”

The Dark Horse producer Tom Hern said Fitzgerald was “eccentric, brilliant and passionate.”

“He could have easily had a whole film made about him.”

Friend and fellow teacher of the Genesis Potini method, Noble Keelan, who was played by Outrageous Fortune star Kirk Torrance in the movie, describes Mr Fitzgerald as a humble, happy-go-lucky man.

“He was someone who was good to be around. He was really good at teaching kids.”

Shortly after the release of The Dark Horse, Mr Fitzgerald and Mr Keelan taught chess under the banner Eastern Knights Legacy.

The duo wore yellow polo shirts emblazoned with the club logo — like those worn by Eastern Knights Chess Club members in the film — when they went out to teach children how to play chess.

Employed under the Tairawhiti REAP and GATE educational programme, they tutored and inspired students from schools at Whangara, Tolaga Bay, Tokomaru Bay, Ruatoria, Hicks Bay, Manutuke, Nuhaka and Wairoa.

The legacy lives on.

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