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The Open File - Beginners and Clubs

  • NM Zug
  • | Aug 19, 2008

The Open File

by Life Master Mike Petersen (Zug)

Beginners and Clubs

You can always tell the beginners.  They won't be the ones chatting with anyone in the club.  They won't be the ones sitting down banging away at speed chess, or even playing a skittles game.  They won't be the ones offering any light-hearted kibitzing over any of the games or analysis.  No, they won't be any of these people.  They'll be the ones sort of "wandering" around in the club.  They might have their hands behind their backs, as if to touch anything would be the worst of taboos.  They might be standing and staring at the club bulletin board, as if they would discover the secret of the universe in its months-old notices.  They will be the ones staring in awe at a game of speed chess between two low-rated players.  They will be the ones to gaze hopefully into the face of anyone who comes near, hoping against hope for an invitation to play a game.  And finally, they will sadly wander over to the exit and slowly slink out, never to be seen again.

Has this ever happened at your club?  I know it's happened at mine - too many times.  We all complain about the lack of memberships in our clubs, but very few clubs have in place an effective method of dealing with the neophytes and visitors to the club.  The high rated players ignore them, hoping they will not ask for a game.  The low rated players don't notice the new players at all.  They're either too busy playing blitz or trying to get help or analysis from the high rated players.  All are equally guilty.  What can we do?

Well, first, talk about it at your next club meeting.  Devise a method of greeting visitors and neophytes that will make them feel welcome.  Form a committee to establish the existence of a "greeter" whose job is to do just that.  Rotate the greeting responsibilities among ALL members, so that a few don't have to do the work of the many.  Make it a requirement of membership that once every couple of months the member will be the official greeter for visitors and beginners.  Make sure there is a notice on the bulletin board advising all new members and visitors of the activities of the club and what rights they do and do not have as visitors.  Date this notice and keep it current.  You might even have a notice concerning "Advice for Beginning Players."  Included in it could be a short list of recommended books, how much a good chess set, board and clock would cost, how to enter a tournament and how much that would generally cost.  This advice list could go on, but you get the idea.  Many questions beginners have could be answered by just such a notice.  Don't know what to include?  Ask a new member!  They'll be able to tick off a dozen or more areas.  Count on it.

The point is that beginners, visitors, and new members are valuable.  Many times they are "scouting" for some friends who are also interested in the club, but couldn't come down that evening.  A little advanced planning and thoughtfulness can bring big dividends.  Treating these people right sells your club.  Treating them shabbily sells your club out.


Click here for links to Mike's other work on Chess.com


  • 5 years ago


    @gamewarden, don't know if this response is coming too late to help you, but the local club that I too seldom attend has a few younger players.  One is quite good and bests some of the older patzers quite frequently.

    In short, I don't think it would be a problem to bring your son along at all. . .unless the club meets at a bar. . .Wink

  • 6 years ago


    Ah yes, good point..! 

  • 7 years ago


    I am considering checking out some local clubs.  I have a 10 year old son who beats me 50%-60% of the time.  How do clubs look upon having kids show up?  I want him to have a good experience since he enjoys playing.  I know adults can not be bothered with kids sometimes....or is it a fear that a 10 year old may beat them? :)  I guess trying to make contact before a meeting would be good but I was wondering how most clubs operate with kids in general.   Thanks.

  • 7 years ago


    thanks for the adviceCool

  • 7 years ago


    Great advice, I am getting ready to take the plunge and look for a chess club in my area. I will know what to look for, and most of all not to take it personally. I hope I can join one soon, and help welcome new players myself.

  • 7 years ago


    Excellent article, great advice. I've seen first hand many years ago new players show up at a chess club only to be ignored. I would say hello and go back to my game so I was as guilty as any other.

    Seems like we always had three separate groups. One would be the highly rated players, usually 3-4 players who would be deep in analzing a game or playing some sort of speed chess tourney. Wouldn't know if the place was on fire let alone someone new walked in. Second group always showed up together and left together. Never played anybody else. Usually 4 or 5 in this group and the best player in this group was only interested in beating up the same players. Third group was the "rest" of us, hoping to get noticed and maybe playing against one of the better players, trying to learn the game from each other.  And like the other two groups wouldn't look twice at a new player. Needless to say the club slowly disappeared after two years.

  • 7 years ago

    NM Zug

    To burchgsb:

    Wrong area to announce yourself.  Try doing your own blog entry.

    At any rate, welcome...and challenge someone to a game!

    Regards, Mike Petersen (Zug)

  • 7 years ago


    That is me exactly on these message boards and website. I browse around and never play or interact with anyone...so, here goes...hi everybody, my name is Geary and I am a beginner. 

  • 7 years ago

    NM Zug

    Thanks for the great responses, folks!  As a result, I've decided my next column will be advice on how to form a new chess club in an area that doesn't have one.

    Regards, Mike (Zug)

  • 7 years ago


    Years ago myself and a couple of friends new to chess decided to take a look at a couple of local clubs.  The members at the first one basically ignored us, while at the second we were encouraged to go a few times before paying, organise a mini-tournament between ourselves and one member even asked us round to their house in the week to get some tips.  Guess which club we joined.  Enough said.

  • 7 years ago


    Great advice. My first days in my previous club were great: they were welcoming, nice and willing to have me in. After a while they gave me the key.

    After I moved I didn't enroll to any club anymore, but now I am considering to go again. I'll share with them your ideas.

    Thank you Smile

  • 7 years ago


    Shows you how new I am to chess.  I don't usually play other than online.  I knew they had a chess club when I was in high school years ago...but had other interests then.

    Would be interesting to see if there are any players in my area or clubs in my area.

    Or if there aren't any around...any tips on starting a club?  :) 

    I'm thinking ahead here.

  • 7 years ago


    A thoughtful article. I have had this kind of experience at a club, so I appreciate someone pointing out how hard it can be for outsiders to fit in if they are not welcomed and taken care of.

  • 7 years ago



    So true. As with any new hobby or interest, the whole thing hinges on the first meeting at a club. I assume it is hard for the oldtimers to remember the nervousness that a new guy or girl feels when arriving, much like the first day of school.

  • 7 years ago


    thanks for the adviceSmile

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