Chess club plays on, 40 years later
Port Huron Times Herald
• March 27, 2009

Tossing around names such as Fischer, Spassky and Kasparov the way guys at a bar compare football greats, a few men get together Thursdays at the Palmer Park Recreation Center to continue a 40-year tradition.

Lon Rutkofske, 62, of Marysville formed the Port Huron Chess Club in 1969. He has done his best to promote chess.

As a teacher and then director of curriculum for the Port Huron Area School District, Rutkofske stocked all the schools with chess sets.

The club will supervise the district chess tournament from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Port Huron High School.

People enjoy the game for different reasons.

“There’s patterns and movements, and there’s a certain beauty to chess, and I see it as an art form sometimes,” said club member Bill Wingrove, 60, of Burtchville Township.

“Size, gender — none of that makes any difference. It’s an equalizer,” Rutkofske said.

Maurice Azar, 16, of Marysville has played since age 5.

“It just looked cool with all the pieces,” he said.

Now he appreciates the strategy.

Alan Gregg, 64, of Croswell thinks chess’ modern popularity peaked after the 1972 World Chess Championship match between Bobby Fischer and defending champion Boris Spassky. Fischer won and remains the only American world chess champion.

At its peak, the club had 120 members, including a few masters — determined by tournament scoring systems.

Now, they’re down to five or six regulars.

“It’s time,” said Alan Gregg, 64, of Croswell. “Everything’s changed; people don’t have the time anymore.”

The club members hope their presence at the tournament Saturday will pique young people’s interest, but they would welcome anybody who’s willing to give it a shot.

“If you’re just looking for something that’s easy and simple, chess probably isn’t for you,” Azar said. “But if you’re willing to take the time to play, I’d say go for it.”


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