Chess club seeks to checkmate myths


There is a myth about people who play chess.

It goes something like this: They are male. They are geeks who wears glasses. And they must be geniuses to master the game.

"People have a misguided idea about a chess player -- a nerd in high school," said Annapolis resident Alan Macier, vice president of the Annapolis Chess club. "You tell people there is a chess club and they say, 'Those geeks hang out there.' "

The all-male Annapolis Chess club, which has about 60 members, tries to debunk the myth by offering casual games of chess every Tuesday night, a nationally rated tournament each month and other activities.

"I don't believe there is a great correlation between playing chess and being a genius," said Frank Vogel of Bowie, president of the club.

"I think people say, 'You have to be smart to play chess.' I think that keeps a few people away.

"We promote chess in the county as a cultural, social and competitive service. We try to reach out to the county and show them what a great game chess is, kind of a combination of art, a sport and science."

One of the organization's latest activities was a nationally rated tournament by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) Saturday at Bates Junior High School in Annapolis.

The tournament, "the Second Saturday in Annapolis," at tracted 14 people, including competitors from Easton and Northern Virginia, and ran from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The tournament involved four rounds of 28 games, four games for each player, with the winner getting about $40.

"I think every time we get new people at the tournament, it's a plus. It shows there is interest," said Macier.

"We had five new people come out, and I think it's great," Macier said.

Saturday's tournament was won by Mike Wentz of Crofton, with three players tying for third.

This year marks the club's first-ever summer tournament, done at the request of college students away at school during the rest of the year.

"There seems to be a demand from both the college students and the regional chess players," Vogel said.

"There were enough people asking that I thought it was worth a try," he said.

To attract people who have no playing experience, the organization offers non-competitive games from 6 to 11 p.m every Tuesday at the Roy Rogers in Parole.

The club also has blitz tournaments the first Tuesday of every month in which all the participants play against each other in matches that last a maximum of 10 minutes.

"We are probably better organized than other clubs," Vogel said, "and I think we do more for our members."

The Annapolis Open, however, is the club's biggest event. The event, held April 4 at the Naval Academy's Dahlgren Hall, attracted players from Washington, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland.

First place was worth $150, while second place netted $100.

"There is more activity than in previous years," said Paul Cummings, a club member since the late 1960s.

"The club has picked up a lot of more active members than in previous years. The club is more popular now than it has ever been since I have been involved. People who have come in now and have not played a lot of chess are not uncomfortable."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad