Check and mate: Vassar Chess Club learns from king

Top-ranked chess master William Fisher plays a simul, where he plays several chess games against different opponents at one time. Fisher came up from the city to celebrate National Chess Day with Vassar’s chess club. Photo By: Jacob Gorski
Top-ranked chess master William Fisher plays a simul, where he plays several chess games against different opponents at one time. Fisher came up from the city to celebrate National Chess Day with Vassar’s chess club. Photo By: Jacob Gorski
Top-ranked chess master William Fisher plays a simul, where he plays several chess games against different
opponents at one time. Fisher came up from the city to celebrate National Chess Day with Vassar’s chess club. Photo By: Jacob Gorski

Imagine the mental strain of a game of chess. Now imagine facing multiple chess games set up on tables arranged in a U-formation. And now imagine playing all of these games of chess against different opponents all at once. For Chess Masters, this requires only a slight strain for their skill. Before you can reach that level though, you would need a lot of practice, and that practice comes from testing your skill weekly with clubs like the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club.

The Stanley Chadwick Chess Club was founded in the 1930’s with the idea of bringing some of the best chess players in Hudson Valley together. It continues to be open to the public, allowing anyone, child or student or adult, from anywhere in Dutchess County, Orange, Ulster, or Putnam, to play alongside them. The club offers free lessons to anyone up through college graduates, participates in nationally rated tournaments, team chess, and inter-club matches, and hosts prestigious guest speakers and simultaneous chess exhibitions from grandmaster or international master level players, and has generally fun chess matches. Professor Emeritus at Marist College Dr. Craig Fisher has been a member of the club since 1973. He wrote in an emailed statement that the club’s connection with Vassar College comes through Betty Daniels. In the late 1960’s, Daniels invited the quickly expanding club to play in Rocky. It was then that they changed the name of the club to the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club. Now the Club meets from 7:30 to 10:30 or 11 in Rocky on Mondays. “None of this would be possible without Vassar College’s gracious support,” Fisher wrote. “So we run many events at Vassar.”

These events are co-hosted by Marist College and the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club, and many of them are held in honor of National Chess Day. When they have had internationally recognized players visit, they usually give a short talk or lesson, and then play a “simul”, or many games played simultaneously against as many players who want to play. This year, although the United States Chess Federation (USCF) announced that National Chess Day was in October, the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club celebrated it on Saturday, and hosted their very own William Fisher. The club has several players ranked in top 5% of all USA players, in addition to many good tournament players. A few months ago, Dr. Fisher wrote, William Fisher added himself to that list. “Last spring he began coming to our Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club because he found it on the internet,” Dr. Fisher wrote. “We are fairly well known in NY State Chess circles. William come up from NYC to play chess with us.” In honor of National Chess Day, Dr. Fisher added, “We wanted to promote a rising star who at 20 years old is in the top .2% of all USA Rated chess players.”

Fisher proved his ability when he played a simul against nine of the fifteen players in attendance, winning four games, losing three, and drawing two. This was his second time taking part in such a strenuous exercise. However, Dr. Fisher, wrote, “While William Fisher is a great player, he has not yet won international acclaim.” It is because of this that Dr. Fisher believes that the turnout was disappointingly small.

Past president and longtime member of the club, Michael O’Connor, took part in the simul, and disagreed. He wrote in an emailed statement, “This event was a good balance with the number of players who showed up. When there are 40 or so, such as at some of the other simuls run by the club, it can take quite a while for the master to play all his other boards and get back to my game. Having 10 or so games meant that each game could be played at a manageable pace.”

In the past, because these guest players are usually ranked in the top two percent of all US players, it isn’t uncommon for them to win the majority of their games. When Men’s Grandmaster Ronen Har-zvi played a simul with the club at Marist in Oct 2009, he played forty games at once and won all forty. Woman’s Grand Master Jennifer Shahade also played a simul on Oct 15, 2005, and of 38 games, won 34, drew two and lost two.

The Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club is a great way to meet and test your skills against people from all around the area, and also to learn more about the game from highly skilled players. Not all of these events are easily accessible, however, when they are hosted at Marist or other off-campus locations. Jayenth Mayur ’16 who is a member of the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club wrote that now Vassar has a way to play chess without having to worry about traveling off-campus. “Unfortunately I didn’t go to the national chess day event, but I was part of the Vassar Chadwick Club my freshman and sophomore year more so than I am now, because now we have our own Vassar student run chess club which meets every Friday at 7 pm in the retreat,” He wrote. Mayur is the captain of the team, while Noah Kulick is the President, and George Beyer and Albert Chung are the Co-Vice Presidents. Vassar’s Chess team is just as involved with the rest of the chess community as the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club. Beyer ’15 wrote in an emailed statement, “while many of our members, myself included, have played in both USCF rated games and tournaments, they can be a bit dry. During USCF rated play, the room must be silent. The Vassar Chess Club is a lighter atmosphere and is geared more towards teaching.” Beyer added, “Additionally, while Vassar-Chadwick tournaments are a useful resource, we play in larger tournaments designed for collegiate players.” In the past, they competed against teams like University of Texas in Dallas or USC in an online collegiate chess championship and placed third. This year, the Vassar chess team is competing in the U.S. Amateur Team East tournament which is in February in Parsippany, NJ.

Chess is not strictly played for the competitive aspects. Mayur has been playing chess since he was five years old. “I like chess because I enjoy solving puzzles and I love the chess community at tournaments,” He wrote in an emailed statement. “Chess has been a big part of my life and it has taught me how to think ahead and calculate quickly,” He added. O’Connor agreed, writing, “the attraction of chess for me is that it is a mental exercise which allows me to shut out the rest of the world for a few hours and concentrate on it.”

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