They come with a common purpose.
Astrophysicists, business managers, college students, teachers, musicians, retired seniors, engineers, salespeople and others arrive with equipment in hand, eager to battle their opponent. It's time for the Newark Chess Club's weekly matches.
“Many people don't realize chess is a competitive sport,” said John Anderson, vice president of the Delaware State Chess Association and former president of the Newark Chess Club. “It is competition at its best. There is no game like it.”
The Newark Chess Club is a forum that brings local chess players together to practice, learn and compete for national rankings. It is the only club to offer weekly rated games in the state. It's a chapter of the U.S. Chess Federation.
The Thursday night games are great competitions, said Anderson, and feature some of the best players around.
“Chess is a mental battle, not a physical battle,” said Brad Thomas, president of the Newark Chess Club. Thomas plays about 100 tournament-level games a year. He's a highly rated player and is on his way to winning his third Delaware grand master title this year. His other wins were in 2005 and 2009.
Anyone can learn the game of chess, as the rules are fairly simple. It takes a lifetime to master it. The game does not discriminate because of age, gender or physical abilities.
“At 65, chess keeps my mind going,” Anderson said. “For kids, it helps them to focus and learn to tune out other things.”
The great thing about playing with a chess club is that players are matched by their ratings and skill levels. There's a place for anyone to learn the game and compete with their peers.
“The game is about great visualization,” Thomas said. “Chess develops mental toughness.”
Anderson and Thomas said chess is about strategy, tactics, and controlling the center of the board. It's a battle to prevent your opponent from gaining position. If your attack is blocked, you retreat and must quickly think of something else.
“Through training, you build the mental energy needed to help you win,” Anderson said. “A good chess player looks many moves ahead, You look at the whole board, and at patterns, to calculate moves.”
The Newark Chess Club uses the Swiss system of competition to determine ratings. At the end of the five-week tournament, the results are calculated by a formula and the results are filed with the U.S. Chess Federation. Players move up and down in ratings depending on how well they played during the tournament.
Winning competitions takes practice. It takes being challenged on a regular basis to refine your skills and improve your game. That's one of the things Thursday evenings are about for the members of the Newark Chess Club. Once the match is complete, the players can analyze the battle, determine what they did correctly and where things went wrong.
Many club members also participate in chess tournaments throughout the region. Both Anderson and Thomas have played tournaments up and down the East Coast. Monthly tournaments in Maryland offer players three games of chess in one day, with cash prizes for the top finishers.
“Chess is a lot like life, because in life, if you make a wrong decision you will have a bad day,” Anderson said. “In a chess game, if you make one bad move, you will probably lose the game.”
The Newark Chess Club meets at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays at Union United Methodist Church (345 School Bell Rd., Bear, Del.). For more information, visit newarkchessclubofdelaware.com. More information about the Delaware State Chess Association can be found at delawarechess.org.
At the end of 2014, members of the Newark Chess Club and Delaware's chess community were stunned with the news of the tragic death of David Owocki, 25, the Newark Chess Club's best player and its champion for the last two years.
To honor his memory, his family is sponsoring the David Owocki Memorial Chess Tournament on May 23.
“Being chess players, we would treat him like royalty,” said John Anderson, vice president of the Delaware State Chess Association. “He was very special to everyone here. David would stay after finishing his game with his opponent, and they would review and analyze the game thoroughly. Many times they would stay analyzing the game until late at night.”
The tournament will be held at Union United Methodist Church (345 School Bell Rd., Bear, Del.). It will be a quad tournament, where four people of similar ratings will play each other in three separate games of the course of the day. The person in the group of four with the highest aggregate score will win a cash prize. The tournament will be open to all UC Chess Federation members (you can register online prior to the tournament), from novices to rated players. Details are available on the Newark Chess Club's web page.