Chess club battles to put people’s preconceptions in check

White moves first, then black. They play with determination and strategy, aiming to win. Every move counts and must be considered with care. The game is what holds their focus, not the surrounding students.

Every day in the library, students gather at the chairs in the center or at a random table to play a game of chess. Junior Joseph D. dabbles in the game.

“I think the amount of comprehension that goes on is interesting,” Joe said. “By that I mean that two people can look at the same board, but have completely different ideas about what’s going on.”

Sophomore Edwin C. also occasionally comes before school to participate in a game.

“I find the intellectual aspect of chess interesting in that it exercises the mind,” he said.

But underlying the game and its players are stereotypes developed by those who do not quite understand them.

“They’re nerds and they think that chess is a sport,” freshman Uyen T. said.

Joe agrees with this nerdy stereotype.

“This seems all too true,” he said.

Edwin, however, takes a different stand.

“Stereotypes involving the social competency of chess players are false,” he said. “In fact, Gary Kasparov, one of the best chess players, was very popular and a great speaker. He ran for Russia’s presidency, but dropped out due to threats from rivals. Stereotypes involving the intellect of chess players are generally true: the game, at the professional level, demands high mental output.”

But regardless of whatever stereotypes wrongly define them, players still participate in and enjoy the game.

“Being called or stereotyped as a “nerd” or any such things has not impacted my game,” Edwin said. “That is mostly because a game of chess demands full focus and anything other than chess moves rarely comes to mind. I also think that the environment contributes to that, because a chess player can feel comfortable when surrounded by students who understand the game or the skill needed to play it.”

To some, chess is more than just a game. Joe considers the strategies helpful in cases of cause and effect.

“The obvious action isn’t always going to be the optimal one to take,” he said. “You have to take into consideration the consequences of it.”

He says he enjoys it when others’ expectations of him are different than the reality.

“People generally think that I’m an incompetent player, so they [treat] me like I’m a scrub. That’s when their pieces start vanishing from the board.”

Edwin finds them helpful with military tactics.

“Strategies in chess are parallel to almost, if not everything, in life,” he said. “The most obvious is real-life military tactics. In World War II, Germany relied on Blitzkrieg, a tactic based on fast invasion.”

Fellow chess player Steve Bolting feels that some strategies from chess can be applied to real life decisions, such as standing up for yourself and facing your opponent.

“I would say when one is under attack, it is often much better to get as close as possible to your attacker than to run away,” he said. “So in daily life, to directly confront an opponent is often better than trying to run from them or avoid them.”

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the choice to face whoever is attacking us directly.”