Midway Chess Club in Newspaper

Jun 15, 2009, 8:21 AM |


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June 12, 2009   Southwest News-Herald - City

Midway Chess Club Prepares For Tourney

The newly-formed Midway Chess Club, which offers free weekly lessons and opportunities to play the “king’s game” in a relaxed atmosphere in Clearing, is already preparing to host its first tournament on Saturday, July 25.

Since Clearing resident William Shehan founded the club a few months ago, the all-ages club  has been meeting at 7 p.m. every Tuesday night at  the “A Place For Us” cafe at 5627 W. 63rd St., and  every other Thursday night at the Clearing Library, 6423 W. 63rd Place.

“This place had just opened and I talked to (owners) Terry Austin and John Coughlin  about starting this, and it just grew from there,” said  Shehan, noting that his is the only Chicago-based club registered with the Illinois Chess Association.

“My very first tournament was last year’s Chicago Open. I found something that I think improves the mind and is a common element worldwide. I have made many friends and am excited about bringing this to our area. We welcome all comers to the meetings,” said Shehan.

The club also competes in the Chicago Industrial Chess League, the only team league in the Midwest. It is listed on the United States Chess Foundation and and Illinois Chess Association Web sites.

On Tuesday evening, about a dozen members turned out for the meeting, including Shehan’s stepdaughter, Mia Pillarella, 15, who has been playing chess for three years, as well as her father, Steve Pillarella of Archer Heights, who just started, and played with the other club members in his first tournament, the Chicago Open, over Memorial Day weekend.

Chess expert Jeff Caveney of the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation reviewed games that Shehan played at the tournament, giving tips on the best moves to make to get out of certain situations. Many members then paired off to hone their skills over a few games.

Mikhail Korenman, a vice president of the Illinois Chess Association, is the club’s main coach, but instructors such as Caveney also visit occasionally.

“Chess seems to be as popular as ever, especially at the amateur level and at the elementary and high school levels,” said Caveney, who visits schools throughout the Chicago area to talk to the chess teams.

It was noted at the meeting that children as young as eight played, and won, at the Chicago Open.

“I like it because you are not as pressured playing in this environment,” said Mia Pillarella, looking around the cafe, which also offers a multitude of other board games for customers to play.

Pillarella has been taking college courses since she was 12, most recently at St. Xavier University.

Fellow club member, Ibn Abney, 20, also of Clearing, also attends St. Xavier and plays on the school chess team.

“I started coming here because I just live down the street, and I just like playing,” said Abney.

Bob Marcowka, another nearby resident, has been playing chess for decades.

But members also come from as far away as Westmont, Riverside, Oak Park and other suburbs.

“Computers screwed up chess a good bit,” said Marcowka. “There aren’t as many teams anymore because people are home playing chess on their computers, but playing against a computer will never be as good as playing against a person.

“I just started but I am having a lot of fun. I find it interesting that there are a lot of similarities between chess and life,” said Steve Pillarella.

The electrical engineer said that during the recent tournament, he found it funny to be playing, and losing matches, to children in elementary school.

Club members are planning to play in the Illinois Open in Lombard, but first is their own tournament, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25 on their home turf at “A Place for Us.”

Players must check in by 9:30 a.m. for the four-round tournament sanctioned by the American Chess Foundation.

Those who arrive late will receive a half-point bye for the first round.

“The entry fee is only $5 (payable in cash at the door). You can’t beat that,” said Shehan, noting that for the city and state opens, fees could be as high as $250. Of course in the Chicago Open, there was a total of $100,000 in prize money.

Players with master and expert rating are admitted free.

Participants are asked to forward their name, USCF number, and telephone number to Shehan at william@midwaychessclub.org.

Junior players (under 14 years old) rated 900 and up are welcome to participate, but must be accompanied by a parent throughout the event.

The tournament will also include lessons,  and food will be available.

Prizes include a DGT 960 folding clock for 1st place; and T-shirts for second and third place.

More information is available on the  club Web site at www.midwaychessclub.org.