Webb Weekly Article

The article below was published in Webb Weekly (http://www.webbweekly.com) on April 3, 2013.

Williamsport Club Says, “Let’s Play Chess”By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz

It’s a regal battle of power and conquest filled with kings, queens and even a few dark knights thrown into this calculating battle of wit and wisdom.

The battle is not played out on the boarders of England but on a black and white checked board where the object of the game, the game of chess, is to capture the king or at least give a noble effort.

Since September of last year the Williamsport Chess Club has been making its move in bringing the enduring game of chess to players in the Susquehanna Valley.

“Chess is the type of game, hobby or interest that provides lifelong enjoyment and challenge. From beginner to master there is always more to learn and a great sense of accomplishment as your skill grows and develops,” said Jim Cunningham, the club’s president and one of its founders. “Back in the 1970s, during the Bobby Fischer (who is often considered the greatest chess player of all time) era, chess was very popular throughout the United States. At that time, when I was a young man, we had a very active Williamsport Chess Club. It is our hope to bring chess back to the Williamsport area.”

The club, which has 20 members, meets most Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon in the Lycoming College Honors Hall at the corner of Basin and Fourth streets, where members enjoy this challenging game that has been played for thousands of years.

“Our Saturday mornings gatherings are more casual, with friendly competition in a no-stress setting. We do hope to begin holding several tournaments a year that would be more competitive, use timing clocks, and be sanctioned by the ruling chess organization in the U.S., the United State Chess Federation,” Cumming said.

“We have players of all skill levels, from beginner to advanced and even one master-level player. The better players really enjoy teaching and helping the newer players to improve. Our master-level player, Solomon Francis, often provides a chess lesson for the beginners at our Saturday morning meetings.”

After seeing an interest in the area for a chess club, Cummings, along with Solomon Francis, Pat Murray, Mike Harvey and Alfredo Blas, started the club which originally met at YMCA in Williamsport.

Through the generosity of Lycoming College, the club has not only found a new location but also new members.

“It is exciting to see chess players try to outwit their opponent. Each player, no matter how new they are to the game, has their own style. It is interesting to see how that style impacts the strategy they use in their game,” said Solomon Francis. “I particularly enjoy seeing players learning new concepts about the game. Our hope is that the chess club will not only be a place for people to enjoy a game of chess but also to learn more about the game.”

One of the unique aspects of the club is the varying degree of skill levels the members have, yet all are eager to hone their skills and learn new aspects of the game.

Cumming noted one misconception about the game is the need for amazing knowledge and loads of skill.

“While the top players in the world, as in any activity, often display amazing skill and talent, anyone can learn to play and enjoy the game,” Cummings said. “The Williamsport Chess Club is sort of a next step for growing the awareness of and appreciation for chess in the Williamsport area. Several of our core group of members also started the first student chess club at Penn College several years ago. We see the two clubs as complimentary and hope to conduct some joint club activities in the future.”

Chess enthusiasts and those with a desire to learn, and wish to participate or join the club should simply attend one of the Saturday morning meetings. Membership in the club is open to anyone, regardless of skill level, or age.

One of the club’s long-term goals is to connect with the local schools to try to foster more interest in the game.

The club also provides the opportunity to socialize and make new friends while learning more about this fascinating game and enjoy relaxed, friendly competition. Also, there is some pretty compelling evidence that playing chess improves one’s logic and reasoning cognitive skills. In some European countries, chess is even a required subject in schools.

“One special feature about chess is that it is exclusively a battle between you and your opponent. In most sports or activities, luck, weather, age, height can provide one player a distinct advantage over the other player. In chess, it is just your wits against your opponent. If you lose, you have no one to blame but yourself,” Francis said. “Likewise, when you win, it is a very satisfying feeling because you know you outsmarted your opponent. It is a wonderful game for young people to learn about responsibility and good sportsmanship.”

For more information on the club, visit their website www.williamsportchessclub.org.