Our Local Club --- a success story

Mar 5, 2014, 3:04 PM |






More travails of a (wanna-be) improving chess player...

Tuesday evening.  Club night!

For the last year I have rarely missed our local club's weekly meeting. And I'm not the only one who looks forward to Tuesday and chess.  By every sign, our club is a vibrant and active community.

Some of this is rather surprising.  You see, I live in a small town (population:  around 25,000) in one of the poorest states in the country. Now here in Vicksburg we have some things going for us --- there is a wonderful National Military Park that draws thousands and thousands of tourists each year.  We also have a large (and I mean large) presence of the US Army Corps of Engineers which adds a large, well educated (and more affluent) contingent of scientists, engineers, and technicians to the local population. It's home for me now. I like it here.

But, you'd be surprised that in a town of this size we now typically have around 15 people show up on Tuesdays to play chess. And they come from all walks of life. Last Tuesday, we had our largest group ever: 20 people arrived, including 4 players who drove for over an hour to get to our club. The capitol city is having a hard time getting clubs to form and survive. The four visitors looked around and said: "Wow!  You've got a great group here!"

So how did we get a club that is growning and drawing people in?  Good question!  Here are my thoughts on this:

(1) This is all the handiwork of one individual who started it all going.  I'll call him Don. Which is a convenient thing to call him considering his name is Don :)  Several years ago, Don (a retiree) developed an interest and passion for chess.  He wandered over to the capitol city and attended meetings at a chess club that was functioning at the time. He was dissatisfied. People didn't want to help him learn. So, he grew frustrated. But that frustration brought about action.

Don began going to a local coffee shop and setting up a chess board. Sometimes people would stop by and they would strike up a game. Don began collecting a group of chess players, and with this he formed the club. Don is still at it. Almost everyday of the week, he at the coffee shop, or the library, or somewhere else playing chess and looking for new contacts. And sometimes people who get involved bring along a friend or two. And before you know it, you have a good sized group!

(2) Don started out wanting to make sure that people get the chance to learn. He acquired some chess sets and clocks and started getting everyone used to playing with a clock. He set up a regular agenda for the club meetings.

  (a) First, there is a chess puzzle for everyone to solve.  Those who get the solution correctly (without any help!) get a certificate for the coffee shop (Don has gone around and gotten some businesses to provide prizes!)

  (b) Then we have a single elimination blitz tournament. I tried talking Don into changing the format to a multiple round, Swiss pairing. Don finally agreed and then I relented. I realized that it wasn't broken (people were enjoying it the way it was), so there was no need to fix it. The winner of the tournament gets a coupon for a free pizza from a local pizzeria. Yum!

  (c) As people lose in the blitz tournament, they begin matching up to play a slower paced game. We standardly play G30;d5 although this isn't written in stone.

  (d) The rest of the evening is slow games.  And Don usually goes around to make sure that people find someone to play.  "Jeff, you go play against John" is a typical "suggestion" from Don. He makes sure that people aren't left out and that everyone is playing.


There are things to improve on, and that's where I can make a contribution.  I try to fill and provide something else that Don isn't already doing. So, I've organized club tournaments (slow chess). I've tried to convince people to start keeping score (but I have a lot of work to do there!).  I got our club enrolled as a USCF affiliate (and we'll be holding our first rated tournament is two months!). And I built a web site for us.

I always look forward to Tuesday nights. There is always something fun going on. Last meeting I was having fun playing an intermediate time control game against a player who is in my peer group. The position had gone bad for me. I had a little friendly banter and then with a few players standing around watching I realized there was no way for me to escape mate. I was discussing the position, and someone mentioned that I could move and check the opponent (it was just a spite check), and agreed, laughed made the move. My opponent moved his King and I saw my chance.  I reached out and grabbed my rook and assertively slammed it down on the other side of the board capturing a rook in the process.  My opponent had the most curious expression on his face: "How did I miss this???" The onlookers were started to chuckle and I'm smirking. Then I start to laugh. I reach out, knock my King over and resign. I had made a (deliberate) illegal move. Everyone roared in laughter as my opponent caught on to the joke :D


Fun times. Good times.


Feel free to drop by and visit us on any Tuesday evening!!! But, since the distance is probably too much to overcome, you can visit us virtually --- drop in and leave us a note at Vicksburg Chess Club


-- Jeff