The University of Alberta Chess Club is for players both new and experienced at chess, or just anyone who’s up for some laughs and a good time.
Club executive Jordan Rohatynski runs the meetings on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the SUB food court. The club has a variety of players of all backgrounds, including a nine-year-old player named Ron who “routinely crushes everyone,” Rohatynski said.
“We get people from all walks of life here,” he said. “From engineers to political science to fine arts to geologists. It’s an incredible diversity I just haven’t seen in any other club… Chess is definitely a game that attracts a diverse crowd.”
The club looks very non-assuming — sometimes just three or four chess boards set up outside of the Subway in SUB. Other times it can occupy as many as six or eight tables as more players arrive.
“It’s a very casual setup,” Rohatynski said. “There’s no membership fee required. It’s an incredible experience: it improves the mind, it allows a break in between studies and school, and honestly, it’s the greatest game in the world.”
The chess club offers a variety of ways to play chess. Players can play normally against players of similar skill levels, or you can use clocks to play speed chess – a variant where players only have a limited amount of time to make their moves. The club also enjoys playing “Bughouse chess” (also known as “Siamese chess”), a two versus two version of chess that is extremely fast and wild.
“It’s team chess,” Rohatynski said. “If someone captures a piece, they give it to their partner, and instead of making a move, they can place a piece their partner has given them.”
This can lead to scenarios that would otherwise be impossible in a regular game of chess – two queens bearing down on the enemy king in the midgame, or dozens of pawns swarming the board all at once.
For those looking for a more competitive game of chess, the club also runs tournaments approximately once a month on campus. The biggest tournament is held every February, where the club competes against other Albertan universities in The University Battle of Alberta. The University of Alberta Chess Club has won this tournament seven times since the tournament began 10 years ago.
“This will be (The University Battle of Alberta’s) 11th year,” Rohatynski said. “We’re looking forward to winning it again this year.”
Rohatynski recommends that those who are interested in the club join the University of Alberta Chess Club Facebook page to learn about club events and meeting times.
“(Chess has) been around for 1,600 years,” Rohatynski said. “There’s no way it could possibly disappear by this point. It’s taken the world by storm and it’s captured the hearts of many.”