History of the Midway Chess Club

History of the Midway Chess Club

Oct 10, 2009, 8:32 AM |

Many people have asked me how the club got started. When I look back I wonder that too. Just like a river it started very small and as tributaries joined in (people, ideas and opportunities) we have become much larger. But, the club is not at the ocean yet.

Let, me back track a bit. I started chess as a child and was soundly beaten by my cousin many times. It was very discouraging to me. But, I was given many chess sets from my grandmother from her travels and was exposed to college level players and saw that there was something there that I could enjoy. But, at that time my love was soccer. I ate, slept and breathed it! Until I was injured in the Army I continued to play competitively. After that I was too busy trying to keep a job and deal with life.

About 10 years ago I ended up in Naperville working in Lombard as an engineer, with lots of travel and on-site work. It was at this time that I could no longer continue working through the pain that I was suffering, both mentally and physically. I was fortunate enough to met my darling wife Renee, and move to Chicago, who supported me in pursuing my disability compensation from the Veterans Administration. The company I worked for had long-term disability insurance so we had income and... Well, 5 years later I am still fighting the VA, but Social Security came through in six months. During this time I returned to school on the VocRehab program from the VA and attended Saint Xavier University. I loved going to school and really enjoyed the professors. One day, three years ago, I got an email about the SXU Chess Club and decided to join.

Our first event was a ladder tournament. This was my first ever tournament and I ended up tied for second. I started playing chess online and taking lessons. I was going to class and my appointments at the VA every day but chess was somehow eating up more of the day all the time. I was going to the VA for help with chronic pain and help with my PTSD and had been going to biofeedback and other therapies to help with this and none of them helped but I noticed that when playing chess I was calmer and less stressed. I discussed this with my MD and she felt that perhaps I could use my time better studying chess as therapy instead of the ones they were using as the were not working for me. So my chess life began in earnest.

The SXU chess team did not do much the first year and we had a few meetings. In the Spring of 2008 I was elected as President of the team. During the summer I looked for something for the team to do and found the Chicago Industrial Chess League (CICL). We joined as a team and lost every match, but it was fun. Alas, over the year I was unable to keep up with the full-time schedule due to increased pain issues and had to withdraw in December 08 from the school, just a year away from finally getting my degree. My good friend Cris Abney is doing a fine job there and is captain of the SXU team this year and expect them to do great things.

So, here I am with no place to play chess, except online, when a little Cafe called "A Place for Us" opens up right down the street from me. I approached them about running a chess club in their facility. John and Terry were gracious enough to allow me to do so and thus started the Midway Chess Club.

Why the "Midway Chess Club" and not something else? Well, as a Veteran I knew that In honor of the World War II Battle of Midway, the Chicago city councilunanimously voted to rename the airport Chicago Midway Airport in 1949 and I wanted to honor my fellow Veterans and the communities that surround the airport. So the name was chosen and the Midway Chess Club was born in February 2009. Since then club has grown very quickly with growing pains and mistakes but overall it has been good. On our first night we had 6 people and I brought 3 of them but each week the news got out and we have had people come from all parts of Chicago. We even have one member that lives in Hawaii.

My second goal was to form another team for the CICL, as I enjoyed the competition and friendship and did not want to miss a season. I recruited players and we ended up with two teams. One that is based at SXU and the one at our club. They are both named from the Carrier Battle group from the Battle of Midway. We have the Enterprise and the Hornet. Then NM Len Weber started another new team this year naming it the Yorktown in keeping with theme as they will be calling Midway's facility their home port. This gave us the complete carrier group from the Battle of Midway and expanded the CICL by two teams.

So here I have two teams and a club. I started looking for a coach. I remembered working with Dr. Mikhail Korenman on helping him secure the SXU facility for one of his Scholastic tournaments. So I contacted him about helping the club and as Robert Frost put it, "And that has made all the difference."

Dr. Mikhail Korenman and I met a few times and after talking found that we both loved chess and wanted to promote it in Chicago. We discussed how Chess had helped me with PTSD and how I had approached the VA and offered to set up a program for them but they were not interested. Little did I know that Mikhail had started a program called "Chess For Peace" and had been instrumental to the development of Karpov's Chess School in Linborg Kansas. He immediately saw that we could combine my "PTSD" idea and his "Chess For Peace" idea into "Veterans Chess For Peace"

So he went to work writing Grants and securing a building for us. Our first building was across the street from the "A Place For Us' and Angelo Raimonde spent many hours renovating it. But, before we even moved in Mikhail had secured another building. It is 3100 sq ft of open floor for Chess. The doors opened on Sept 21st and the first tournament was on Sept 26th. It was a good turnout with 30 players. NM Vince Berry donated cash prizes. (Thanks Vince)

So where do we go from here? Well, on Nov 10th we are going to be on WFMT/WTTW for their pledge drive. On Nov 11th we will be at the Jesse Brown VA Hospital for Veterans Day and our Veterans Day Celebration tournament will be on Nov 14th. As for future projects we are working on using our space as a home for the Illinois Chess Museum, Summer and Winter Camps, and hopefully hosting the Chicago's Professional Chess team the Chicago Blaze.

Whew, that was a lot in a short time and I have left out so much. Stay tuned for more about the growth of our club and please contact us if you want to help in any way possible.