April 15, 2022 | LIFE | By Rhetta Power | Illustration by Iris Guo

Not much was happening on West Campus on Saturday, April 9. It was a warm and windy day. Students passed by the JLK McHugh Commons, seemingly unaware of the joyous fun happening right above them. This joyous fun was happening at the chess tournament, an event put on by the chess club. The event drew participants varying in experience and skill level for a cheerful, chess-filled time.

Folding tables, chairs, and white-and-green-vinyl chessboards were set up for the 16 competitors, the pieces on the boards amalgamated from different sets. The event was birthed from the chess-obsessed minds of Alex Neumann-Loreck ’23 and Jack Brangham ’23, proud chess club members.

Club president Anudari Sharavdorj ’22 helped make the magic happen. The event took around four hours, but time seemed to fly by for those in the tournament. The top finishers of the event were Brangham, Allen Alford ’24, and Neumann-Loreck. Prizes were gift cards to local Colorado Springs eateries and establishments.

Although not everyone would consider four hours of chess to be an ideal Saturday afternoon, Neumann-Loreck stated that he could play chess “forever.” He likes the excitement of the game, and finds it never gets boring because it “requires constant engagement because you could win or lose on any move you make, so every move is important.”

His favorite strategy is the Halloween Gambit, an aggressive opening in which White sacrifices a knight early on for a pawn. Neumann-Loreck’s comments on the game’s engaging and ever-changing nature are why he finds chess to be so fun.

Although chess can be a source of entertainment, some psychological studies have also found that chess can be shown to improve visual memory, concentration, spatial reasoning skills, critical thinking, self-confidence, and problem-solving.

This might be part of the reason why chess, and versions of chess resembling the modern game, have been played for over 2,500 years. There is dispute over the origin of the game, but some historians believe that the modern form of chess evolved from chaturanga, a game played in Northwestern India in the 7th century AD. The game spread in different directions, both geographically and conceptually, reaching China, Japan, Korea, North Africa, Spain, Iceland, and England.

The game was banned at points throughout history by kings and religious leaders, but by the 15th century, it became known as “the royal game” and was associated with knowledge, wealth, and power. The pieces and rules of the game have gradually evolved over time, a major transformation in the game occurred when the “counselor” became the “queen,” creating the most powerful piece on the chessboard.

In 1834, leading French and English players participated in the first recorded international chess event. This game led to the formation of the first international chess tournament in 1851. Since the 1800s, chess tournaments and championships have proliferated, alongside the development of chess theory and strategy.

A major development that has impacted the current landscape of chess-playing and competition was the introduction of the digital chess database in the 1990s. Chess Grandmaster Judit Polgár spoke with journalist Shane Anderson about the ways in which the game of chess has changed since the advent of the digital age. She stated that “players are becoming more like computers because they work with the engines all the time and the engines are becoming more human.”

The differences between over-the-board chess and online chess are formed by the domains of play. One main difference is the accessibility and ease of playing, as the only thing needed to play online chess is internet access. However, online chess also comes with potential issues that do not appear in OTB chess, such as a lack of arbiter supervision and the opportunity to cheat.

The chess community views the two games as separate largely for these reasons, and considers the environment of play to be a crucial component of the game.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online chess boomed in popularity. Neumann-Loreck credits the time of the pandemic for his re-connection with the game, and it seems that many players across the globe share this sentiment.

An article published by Forbes in 2020 stated that Chess.com experienced five years of growth in three months at the start of the pandemic and that daily registration numbers for Chess24.com tripled. Chess channels on platforms like YouTube and Twitch experienced huge jumps in views, and understandably so. Online chess allows beginners and pros alike to improve their skills and engage in chess-loving communities and conversations.

Although online chess is a great way to meet chess-lovers, if you have an interest in making the in-person acquaintance of chess-loving peers at Colorado College, consider joining the chess club! They meet Mondays at 6 p.m. upstairs in Worner.

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