After five weeks of meetings, Western’s new chess club has only eight members, but coordinator Matt Osborne said they’re making first moves.
“I’m going to be here until the very end,” the Greenville freshman said. He wants the club to get back to its roots, when Western was a familiar name in chess.
In December 1997, Western hosted the Pan American Chess Championships, a four-day event that attracted players from North and South America to the University Plaza Hotel.
It was organized by Chris Dillingham, who was president of Western’s Chess Club at the time.
“The Pan-American Intercollegiate is known as the World Series of college chess, like the big tournament for chess players, for college chess players, anyway,” Dillingham said.
But Dillingham, now a husband and father of three, lost touch with Western’s chess club after that semester. He was no longer a student and could no longer be president.
The club disappeared in 2000, but about the same time, assistant professor of English Dale Rigby arrived on the Hill.
A chess club member since he was 12 years old, Rigby decided to place an advertisement challenging some student to organize a club at Western. Osborne was an obvious choice.
“About recruiting Matt,” Rigby said in an e-mail, “I didn’t even have to. He organized in high school and was a gift from Caissa (the Greek god of chess) plopped into my lap.”
Eric Adams, busy with term papers and the Campus Crusade for Christ, managed to make his first meeting Thursday.
“I never played until high school,” the Berea junior said. “Once I sat down and actually learned it, and how in-depth the game is, it’s really probably the best game ever, just how intricate everything is.”
Rigby said that sex-segregated chess matches are starting to change across the board. There are three women in Western’s club. During the meeting, Katie Chappius, a senior from Vineland, N.J., joined three others in Bughouse, a variation of chess where four can play.
“I used to play chess in high school, but I was just learning then,” Chappius said. “I really like to play.”
Still, some people have doubts that the chess club can make it.
Radcliff senior Stephanie Ferner said she doesn’t think it will grow any time soon.
“I think a lot of people have an impression of the chess club as being just a bunch of dorks sitting around playing chess,” Ferner said. “. Right now I don’t think that there are too many people that go to Western that are interested in it.”
Former president Dillingham, too, has doubts.
“There aren’t that many people who are seriously interested in chess here (Bowling Green),” Dillingham said.
But Osborne and Rigby have their own strategy.
Osborne already has a mascot, the Knight, and is working on a logo design. Rigby said he means to have a schedule by next year.
They look to organize an open tournament, free-of-charge to entrants, by spring break.
The Student Government Association recently gave $200 to the club after Rigby wrote them a letter asking them for $1,500.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get involved in the community more,” Osborne said. “After we get larger, we’ll be able to do that.”
Adams said he isn’t bothered by the image that is associated with chess.
“It definitely has a stigma to it,” he said. “But I’ve never seen anybody play it and not really appreciate it once they actually gave it a chance and learned it.”
The club meets from 7 to 10 p.m. every Thursday in the basement of Java City. Anybody is welcome to join, regardless of you are a student.
Reach Ryan McBride at [email protected]