By Katie Loethen
Human intellect, strategy, cunningness, mathematics—these are the things that make Chess an interesting and powerful game. Chess is often referred to as the “game of knights” and is a pursuit that has held sway over the hearts and minds of enthusiasts for centuries. With its origins shrouded in history, this game has evolved into the beauty it is today, weaving together the intricacies of warfare, the beauty of mathematics, and the artistry of strategic thinking. Join me as I describe and discuss the Madison County Chess Association club meeting that I was fortunate enough to Ex’s Lesperence.
Meetings are held every Thursday from 4-9 p.m. at Panera Bread in Alton, Illinois. There, a club filled with passionate members gathers to challenge each other intellectually. The room is filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread and the smell of soups and spices. Members often make effective use of the location by getting themselves something tasty to eat.
This club is open to anyone and everyone, no matter their age, IQ score, Elo rating, or level of experience. Anyone who wants to be part of it can, even bystanders who are just there to get Panera can play too. “Anybody can join. There is no strict rule or members list or anything it is just show up and play,” Allen Deck said.
The environment of the club is a relaxing space that is nicely lit to feel calm, not too bright, and not too dim, with no discussion besides the customers having chats in the distance, only focus and performance of the game. Everyone there treats each other respectfully and kindly, occasionally having a chat now and then. Although, some people would say the environment is too calm. “I prefer playing the intense way to feel the feeling in the soul the urge to win,” Max Cummings said.
However, this club almost did not exist. “We ended up stopping, Covid started, and we were down by just a few members and some of the older members were concerned about their health,” club handler Brad Baldridge said, “We had no idea if the club was going to come back or what.”
Even in the darkest times, there is a hero, Baldridge said, “This gentleman right here, Earl, kept bothering me to restart after Covid, because he is not one that plays online yet, so the only way he was able to play was playing physical, so he finally pushed me to start it back up again.” From that day on, only good things have come.
“We’ve grown immensely since those days, but I still have the original three from when we shut down before COVID,” Baldridge reported.
This shows how close the club members are to one another, willing to stay even after a pandemic. If that is not loyalty, I do not know what it is!