The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Blunders and banter: GV students create community through chess

Courtesy | GVSU Chess Club

Every Sunday from 4-5:30 p.m., a sense of focus and community permeates the Kirkhof Center lounge area across from Java City Coffee. Here, Grand Valley State University’s Chess Club provides a a place for chess enthusiasts bring their boards, game pieces and clocks to engage in friendly competitions with their peers.

The group encourages players of all skill levels to attend, with instruction provided on various aspects of chess, such as openings, defenses, endgames and how each piece moves. The club hopes to cultivate community through the game. 

GVSU Chess Club President Sam George said chess is a mental game with an even playing field, so those with a lack of experience shouldn’t be discouraged from playing.

“Chess is just a game where you play with your mind, there is no advantage or disadvantage,” George said. “It is just your mind against someone else’s. There are no other variables, so it’s really easy to bring everyone together.”

At the most recent club meeting on Feb. 25, four separate games were played simultaneously among the group’s rotating members. Despite the small number of players, the close-knit community and camaraderie within the club has flourished.

The social aspect of chess is also important to the club’s players. Caleb Kipp, Chess Club’s vice president, said the group could just as easily host their weekly meetings online, but instead chooses to meet in person for over-the-board games. Kipp said being face-to-face with other players contributes to the communal identity of the game, which has, in some ways, faded due to the popularity of and other free chess websites.

“(When you play chess) online, you don’t actually see the person’s face, so in-person is actually way better because you can see everybody,” Kipp said. “It doesn’t really matter who you are or what your physical abilities are. Anybody can play, and anybody at any level can work their way up,”

George said he began playing chess after watching Netflix’s chess miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although he has experience and practice under his belt since that time, George said he does not believe in the notion that time is the determining factor of a player’s ability. 

“There’s not really an advantage to playing for a while,” George said. “You can play for years and still be at the same level, or you can start and be really good. It’s really easy for anyone to get into (chess) and enjoy.”

Looking forward, George said he hopes more students will take an interest in the game, and expand their mind through friendly mental warfare.

“For better or for worse, you can only blame yourself and your own mind,” George said. “Most games have other variables or something where you’re like ‘oh, that was just luck,’ but chess, at the end of the day, whether it’s good or bad, you can only blame yourself.”

George said he took over as Chess Club president last September when Nate Welsh, the club’s former president, stepped away. The organization aims to create a more personal chess experience for students at GVSU. George said he recognized the importance of everyone being together in one room, which was impossible when he first developed a love for chess during the pandemic.

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