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Club Spotlight: Chess Club

If you are looking for a community of support, learning, and fun—separate from that in which we already pay to live—the chess club is a considerable option. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 7 P.M., a group of four to six students gather on the first level of Crossett Library to learn from each other and master the game. This collaboration is a pivotal aspect of the club and the first priority of Luis Belloso Figueroa, the group’s organizer. “There are many different levels of skill, and even with those who are not good at it, you can see progress in their skills,” says Luis. “That’s because of the community, bringing everybody that plays chess together to learn from one another,”

The club accommodates all skill levels. Rules are lenientloose, and they fluctuate based on which students are playing and how much of a challenge they wish to encounter. This gives players some wiggle room; they have the opportunity to challenge themselves to any degree they prefer, while also having the choice of playing a more laid back game to focus on learning and adapting to new techniques. 

Everyone has their own method of learning and utilizing game techniques, and all kinds of different approaches are welcome to the club. This is precisely what Luis loves most about the club. “My favorite thing is definitely the different styles of learning people have. Some of us like to have a book of the different openings to know the name of them, as well as endings or strategies.” Other club members stray from reference texts when playing the game. “Some people like to be more intuitive and disregard documentation about what they are doing, and have a more pragmatic view,” Luis says. “Each of them have different advantages and disadvantages, but I think that’s a very diverse learning style that is beneficial to others.”

This collaborative learning environment is valued by all participants, and is what inspires Luis most to expand the club and encourage playing the game. “There was one guy that did not have much experience, but he kept playing and sooner than later he was able to apply the same strategies and see the narratives and vocabulary that was being created. It allows everybody to be in their own variation of skill, at their own pace.”

The adaptable and flexible playing environment poses one obstacle: tournaments require set rules, and therefore may be too ambitious to add to the agenda. “There are specific rules that are visible for everyone to see, but there are also techniques that are harder to discern.” This makes a tournament difficult to orchestrate. In order to do so, all players must have the same skill level and utilize the same playing standards. 

Time limit is one of the elements that would be significantly subject to change if tournaments were to take place. “In the beginning, we played for three minutes or five minutes at a time, but then the clock would run out. Instead, we decided to start the game and keep playing until somebody won or drew,” Luis says. Getting rid of time limitations may have opened the club up to greater opportunities for learning through long-term playing, but the transition makes the idea of a tournament less plausible.

However, the members of the club have the passion and enthusiasm to take on a tournament. Luis and the club are working on developing a tournament agenda that would cater toward everyone’s skill levels and interests. 

“Many students enjoy being competitive. We want to come up with a tournament very soon so we can be competitive while still taking rule variations into account,” Luis says. “This will give people the space to be competitive, while allowing others to still develop their skills.”

Tournament or no tournament, the chess club offers innumerable benefits to those who participate. “It’s a good place to procrastinate,” Luis says. The procrastination the club offers is not the kind students are used to with academics; it is “productively procrastinating,” as Luis puts it. When you play chess, you aren’t idle. You are interacting with others, and cognitive activity is taking place in the brain. The game helps its players be more organized and more strategic in everyday life, both in and out of the academic environment. 

The idea of starting a chess club began two semesters ago when a small group of students playing chess in their free time wanted to expand their hobby into an official practice. This current term is the club’s first as an official group. Before becoming official, they needed to ensure everyone would have the tools and resources necessary to play. The school provides two chess boards, pawns, and two digital watches. “The chess boards are in formalized measurements. Prior to that, I was using my own board sets for everybody to play with,” Luis says.

Games are organized in terms of rotating brackets to ensure that everyone gets the chance to play with each other. Two students play on each of the two boards, and the winner of one plays the winner of the other, and the same goes for those who lose.

However, this rotation is not set in stone. “It is a rule that is not strictly followed,” Luis says. “When one of the students needs a break, then somebody else can come in. If you wish to play, you can ask ‘can I play after you?’ so it’s not always a winner-loser rotation.”

The things Luis emphasizes most about the club: easygoing and educational.

Students who wish to participate in the chess club are welcome to join in Crossett Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 7 P.M. For more information, email Luis at luisbellosofigueroa@bennington.edu.

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