Every now and then, I find a club which deserves to do better. One that is a legitimate joy on our campus, yet so few know about. In this story, I will be talking about one such club, the UND Chess Club.
What first amazed me about the chess club was its commitment to community outreach. Despite only having three active student members, they manage to host meetings every single Wednesday. They have found a way to bring in not only professors but alumni and members of the UND community.
One chess player who was around his sixties commented both himself and his children had gone to UND, and it was a joy he could continue to attend chess club as he had for nearly two decades.
Clearly, this is a level of dedication not often seen by our community or our students at UND.
Beyond their weekly meetings, they also often attend local tournaments, serve as timekeepers or organizers and play with pre-college students to keep the love of the game alive in Grand Forks.
Just recently, there was a sizeable tournament in the local library that had strong attendance from the UND Chess Club family. Additionally, the club is dedicated to reach out to new and growing players.
They frequently have advertisements in the student government office, and the boards across the Memorial Union. Unlike most clubs, they actually have a gateway for those interested in learning about the hobby.
When I first walked in and asked about chess as a novice, they immediately opened up a laptop to show me opening theory. Then they spent the rest of the club time teaching me instead of playing.
I also was then offered, plenty of instructional material for new chess players like books on basic opening theory. I also was told that as I advanced, they would continue to offer tools for growth, including books written by some of the best players in the world.
After the game, the club was understanding that rookies make mistakes, and learn by doing rather than being lectured. Once I lost, we put the pieces back to the position where my opponent felt I had made a crucial mistake and the rest of the club joined in to comment on the position and possible moves, in addition to why those moves would be superior. They did this all while cracking jokes using buzzwords such as “Suspicious” or “You played C4 which is explosive.” Even though I didn’t get all the humor, it was clear that they were trying to bring me into the family.
In addition to their outreach efforts, I think it’s important to discuss another key thing about the club, the hobby in question is actually enjoyable. Chess as a whole is deeply relaxing and soothing, and your body gets into a rhythm of thinking and doing at a healthy pace while still offering a challenge.
With any game, there is a feeling of legitimate satisfaction upon checkmating your opponent, and even when you get crushed as I did by someone who plays at candidate master level (better than all but 1 percent of the players), it is still an enjoyable experience.
In our fast paced lives, sometimes it’s nice to focus on one thing, and one thing alone for a period of an hour or so, and has properties that are in many ways similar to meditation, which is both the game and the club’s greatest asset. For anyone interested in learning more about this great game or experiencing it, there is no better starting point than the UND Chess Club.
For those further interested about the club, you can do two things. First, you can stop on by at The Memorial Union, every Wednesday night from 7 p.m. until the time they decide to end. I was told they typically call it quits around 9 p.m., but there always appears to be a one more game mentality. You can also ontact Thomas Devine, the club president.
I genuinely hope if you have the time to, you stop on by for a game of chess and I wish my schedule wasn’t too packed to attend more chess club events myself.
Dave Owen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]