Chasing Chess: Searching for a Game

Written By: Jake Witt

Sporting nearly one billion worldwide players, over half of these are adults who play regularly, chess is one of the world’s most popular hobbies. Despite this resounding popularity around the globe, organized chess is nonexistent in Lenawee County. A number of students around campus are familiar with the game, yet you will rarely observe an over the board clash occurring. Those interested in competitive chess best look elsewhere, as the nearest recognized clubs are in Hillsdale, Ypsilanti, and Jackson. 

Playing online chess is great, but nothing tops the emotional rush of playing over the board. Such an activity is definitely possible on a college campus, as schools across the country boast both chess clubs and teams. While Adrian College cannot be compared to all other schools across the nation, examining similar local schools reveals that organized chess could be a reality here. 

Hillsdale College, located about 30 miles west of Adrian, is a private liberal arts college with an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 1,400 students. Their campus chess club meets weekly and allows for 15 students to talk about and play the game they love. Club President Nick West provided some details regarding the typical Friday afternoon for this organization. A meeting will typically begin by 3:00 pm and it will kick off with members playing games of various time controls including: rapid (10-30 minutes), blitz (sub-5 minutes), and bullet (1 minute or less). Following the playing session, members will utilize the remaining time to host discussions about opening preparations, endgame tactics, or analysis of games played by Grandmasters.

Adrian College has established a reputation of introducing extracurriculars for the purpose of driving enrollment. Might chess be next? The United States is filled with scholastic and regional clubs, and Michigan is no exception. This demonstrates a clear pool of potential prospects for what could be the College’s next novelty. The Corporate Esports Association (CEA) supports the Collegiate Chess League, an online chess league for college students. This league is open to any organized collegiate group, be it team or club. Should AC wish to adopt this historically popular game, there would be no issue finding competition.

While the Collegiate Chess League hosts a number of skill-based divisions, only a fraction of chess players play at the level expected in competitive play. That said, where are the regular chess enjoyers supposed to gather? Lenawee County is seemingly an anomaly for those seeking to pass the time playing this popular game. This problem is a reality for many, as I would estimate at least two percent of our student body plays, some quite regularly. The majority of those players who I have had the chance to speak with established clear interest in the emergence of a local club, whether it be community or school based. While this endgame is not necessarily one which the College itself must undertake, this presents an opportunity for connection with the local community in a brilliant way.

Chess may not be for everyone, but there is no reason those who enjoy it must search for it. Adrian College is blundering away potential revenue, Lenawee County is missing out on community connection, and Southern Michigan is missing out on fitting in with the rest of the civilized world. As someone who loves this wonderful strategic game, I just want the chance to have somewhere I can play regularly with individuals who share my passion. Why are AC students and Lenawee residents forced to chase a draw in what could be a winning game?

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