Daytona Hometown News Article
By Michael Salerno For Hometown News DAYTONA BEACH - The silence was palpable at the Peggy Schnebly Recreation Center on a recent Wednesday evening. Although there were several people in the room, the only sound was an occasional "clink, clink" of game pieces against boards. Heads were down and pairs of eyes were focused on the challenge in front of them. Legs shook - an outward manifestation of the brain's rapid internal movement - while next moves were contemplated. Then, calls of "Checkmate" ring out, breaking the silence. Chatter fills the air as players talk to their challengers about the game. Winners offer tips for improvement. This is the template for the Daytona Beach Chess Club's weekly gatherings at the Schnebly Recreation Center, considered a haven for the Central Florida area's top names in chess. "This is the nucleus of chess in the Daytona Beach area," said Paul Tomaino, manager of the chess club. Mr. Tomaino has 60 years of experience as a chess player. He estimates he spent more than 15 to 20 years on board as a member of the club, which was founded about 50 years. The meetings consist mostly of match play rounds of chess, played in accordance to game standards set by the United States Chess Federation. "One of the things we do here is just promote chess," Mr. Tomaino said. "We try to have some kind of test function here every Wednesday and what (we do) is just a quick chess tournament in accordance with the USCF rules." He organizes the club and participates in match play and tournaments. He tries to get in five rounds during club meetings, which serve the purpose of motivating and preparing members for regular chess tournaments. "We have people coming as young as 9 and as old as 80; novice and expert players," Mr. Tomaino said. "Anybody's welcome." The most recent tournament, the Northeast Regional Quick Chess Championship Open, was held Aug. 14 at the Schnebly Center, with the winner seated in the state championship in Orlando. Club member Tony Cipollina said tournaments attract people from as far north as Jacksonville, as far west as Gainesville and as far south as Port St. Lucie. His father introduced him to chess at age 4, but despite his lifelong experience in chess, he has only played competitively for a brief time. "I didn't know there were any competitive tournaments until I met Paul in 2007," he said. Among the tournaments he won include recent back-to-back wins in tournaments at Daytona Beach and Palatka. As a promoter of local tournaments and chess instructor at Sacred Heart Catholic School in New Smyrna Beach, Mr. Cipollina's students regard him as a "chess hero" because of his love of the game. "I'm not a grandmaster or anything, but I'm someone they know who wins," he said. "I play any tournament I get the chance to and I'm finally getting to win. Everybody here has helped me." He disregards the stereotypes of chess clubs being nerdy because chess is a "rounding" activity that brings together people of varying ages, nationalities and backgrounds. He cited the example of a power weight lifter who was also a grandmaster at chess, and said he himself was a weight lifter in high school. Another club member, George Arbuckle, compared the thrill of chess to that of a sport - and, indeed, many enthusiasts would like to see chess become an Olympic sport. "It gives you an adrenaline rush," he said. "There's great excitement in finding a critical move. ... It gives you an advantage in winning." Besides the club, there are several other outlets for local chess enthusiasts. Mr. Cipollina runs a Saturday club at Barnes & Noble on International Speedway Boulevard, while club member Steve Lampkin has a club "mostly for youngsters" that meets at the Port Orange Regional Library on Tuesdays and Fridays. Mr. Tomaino would like to find a space for the chess club to use on Saturday as a venue for more tournaments and for teaching chess. Mr. Cipollina believes chess can help improve children's performance in school because the game involves aspects of memory. One of his students, 13-year-old Alejandro Salazar, is currently the youngest members of the chess club. He has won two trophies despite having only three months of experience playing the game. "I play chess in school, but they don't play chess right," Alejandro said. Mr. Cipollina said he is such a fan of chess because "anyone can play" regardless of age or physical capacity. "What I love about chess is that you can play it anytime ... and you can always improve," he said. "You can take it as far as you want to. There are no limitations." The Daytona Beach Chess Club meets Wednesday nights from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Peggy Schnebly Recreation Center, 1101 North Atlantic Avenue. For more information on the club, visit www.daytonabchcc.org or call Paul Tomaino at (386) 239-9485 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (386) 239-9485 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.