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menu.jpg (13804 bytes)Bishops Chess Club History

"Think Chess: A Short History of the Bishops Chess Club" by Tom Green
appeared in the Winter 1998 issue of At the Library

Staunton-style chess pieces on a green and buff squared vinyl chess board sit on a table near the entrance of Beeghly Library. The set is in almost constant use by Ohio Wesleyan students. At the beginning of the 1996 academic year, Circulation Chief Bernard Derr put a chess set on the Beeghly Circulation Desk and, as time allowed, answered moves of all-comers over the course of the day. Soon the chess set moved from the Circulation Desk to the table where it is today. On Sunday afternoons student and community chess players of all ages gather in the second floor Bayley Room for friendly games of chess and instruction. What explains this interest in chess? Is playing chess an appropriate activity within the library?

Chess offers students the opportunity to compete in a sport that is based on intellect rather than physical prowess with the following benefits:

  • Improves the use of conceptual thinking;
  • Expands spatial thinking;
  • Develops decision-making abilities;
  • Stimulates the use of memory;
  • Encourages putting theory and ideas into practice;
  • Facilitates preparation and study;
  • Promotes sportsmanship;
  • Teaches critical thinking skills; and
  • Provides a lifetime of satisfaction and enjoyment.

The Bishops Chess Club formed during the 1990 Spring semester when a dozen chess players met, wrote a constitution, and elected officers. Tom Wolber, Assistant Professor in Modern Foreign Languages, and I are co-advisors of the club. From the beginning, international students have assumed leadership roles in the chess club. Mansoor Jaffri, an Ohio Wesleyan student from Pakistan, was the first president. Other presidents include Krishna Tateneni, India; Ernesto Morejon, Venezuela; Brendan Kennedy, USA; Kahlid Salim, Germany; and the current president, Nosh Minwalla, Pakistan.

As stated in the constitution, the purpose of the chess club is "to develop an interest in the game among the general OWU student body" and to "give people a chance to play chess at a more organized and formal level." Chess club activities have evolved to meet these purposes. The Bishops Chess Club publishes a newsletter, plays a match with Kenyon College, and conducts chess tournaments. A student-only chess tournament is held annually and there are occasional special events such as a lecture and simultaneous exhibition by a Master chess player.

The club’s first newsletter was published in October 1990. This four-page newsletter reported on tournament results, included five local games and chess news of interest to local players. In the following year the club started publishing two newsletters a year, one at the beginning of each semester. The most recent issue of Bishops Chess Club News is 18 pages in length with 93 games. The club also maintains a page on the World Wide Web at http://www.owu.edu/~tagreen/bishops.htm

In February 1991, eight Ohio Wesleyan students traveled to Kenyon College for an inter-club match. Kenyon mustered six students for this first match. After accumulating a decisive 5-1 lead, Ohio Wesleyan students squandered several opportunities for wins or draws, allowing Kenyon to tie the match. Now chess players from the two schools meet twice a year, once at home and once away. Kenyon leads the series, but Ohio Wesleyan students always play competitively.

The first community-wide chess tournament was held in March 1991. It attracted 16 chess players in an unrated event that awarded trophies as prizes. Alok Gyawali, a student from Nepal, was the clear winner with five wins. The first U. S. Chess Federation rated chess tournament was held in April 1992. Two such tournaments are now held each year, the Trick or Treat Mini-Swiss around Halloween and the Ides of March Mini-Swiss at the end of Spring Break. In 1996 the tournaments moved to their current location in the Benes Room of the Hamilton Williams Campus Center. Last spring’s event attracted 61 area chess players who played in seven sections.

The Bishops Chess Club and the Office of Student Activities co-sponsor a student-only chess tournament on Super Bowl Sunday. Twelve students participated in last year’s event. After sharing first place honors the previous two years, Paul Milliman was undefeated in four rounds. Milliman, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa, typifies a student who achieved superior academic performance as well as high caliber chess. Probably the strongest student chess player to date was Alok Gyawali from Nepal. He made his U.S. tournament debut in the 1990 Columbus Open, where he won his first two games and drew a game against the eventual tournament winner. Alok finished with an Expert provisional rating of 2051. Kalpesh Asher, a freshman from Tanzania, joined the chess club this year with the distinction of a 3rd place finish in his country’s national championship. His 6-2 record in that event included wins against the number one and two finishers.

Last year’s officers expressed an interest in exploring the possibility of a statewide collegiate chess tournament. While events exist to determine the best players from kindergarten through high school, there is no collegiate event. Delaware’s central location and the facilities of the Hamilton Williams Campus Center could provide an excellent venue, and the start of another tradition of the Bishops Chess Club.

In 1995 long-time Delaware chess player Jim Pool donated his chess book collection to Beeghly Library. This generous gift immediately created one of the better chess collections in any academic library in Ohio. No other OhioLINK libraries, for example, have the five-volume Encyclopedia of Chess Openings or four volumes of Encyclopedia of Chess Endings. Other additions include Horowitz’s The Best in Chess and How to Think Ahead in Chess, Chervev’s Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played, and Tal’s 100 Best Games, 1961-1973.

The Bishops Chess Club offers opportunities for Ohio Wesleyan students and Delaware area community members to grow in their knowledge and appreciation of chess. Beeghly Library is providing a unique environment for this development of chess culture.

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Send comments or suggestions to Tom Green
Updated
23 October 2001