Calmly observing the chess board, Katie Garvin grabbed a knight and swiftly repositioned it, holding it as long as possible before making up her mind.
For Garvin, who is in Lubbock for the 2009 Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls, the details of the game haven’t changed as she played against her father Monday. However, the setting is different, and it makes for an enjoyable, rare chess experience.
“I really like it here because I love playing chess and it’s outside, and I love outside,” said the 13-year-old from Iowa City, Iowa. “It’s just two of my favorite things combined, basically.”
Garvin occupied one of the seven tables available at the new Texas Tech chess park, the first dedicated chess park at a university in the United States, which opened Monday as young players from around the country, Tech administrators, city officials and students were in attendance.
“It was more fun than playing inside,” said Alisha Chawla, a third-grader from Fremont, Calif. “It was more entertaining because inside it’s like so quiet and all. Outside, it’s warm and you also get fresh air.”
Located between the Student Union Building and the University Library, Tech students can use their identification cards to check out one of seven chess sets from the information desk in the SUB. Those who want to bring their own sets can, too, said James Brink, associate vice provost for heritage consortium for the Natural and Historic Southwest.
To accommodate everyone, there is one table with no benches that is handicap accessible, Brink said.
According to a press release, an anonymous donation of $320,000 funded the park, which was inspired by the New York Central Park chess court, and the funds also are used for scholarships to attract chess players to Tech.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for Tech students and Tech faculty and staff to spend a relaxing time playing chess,” Brink said. “The game does sharpen your intellectual acumen. So this is one of the connections that we try to make all the time with the initiative that we have for chess. We’re looking forward to it being a constant and important part of our campus.”
Susan Polgar, director of SPICE, the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, said when she was growing up in Budapest, Hungary, chess tables and boards were common in parks and outdoor areas.
So to bring something to Tech that is not so common in Texas – and the country for that matter – means a lot to Polgar.
“I’m very glad that I could attract Texas Tech to open such a beautiful facility for all the students and faculty and visitors,” she said. “I’m hoping that it will create a buzz even more for chess than we’ve already did with SPICE and our international and national and local events.
“I think chess is a very positive game. It has only positive elements to it, and I think it’s a lot better way to spend time than some other things like video games or poker.”