Wachusett Chess Club members have a passion for the game

Sentinel & Enterprisesenlandenterprise.com
Posted:   12/03/2012 07:01:39 AM EST

By Scott Bremer
Special to the Sentinel & Enterprise 

FITCHBURG — George Mirijanian arrives an hour early and finds the switch beside the door in Room C159 of the McKay Campus School. 

Narrow tables placed in rows, 30 swivel chairs around those, a coat rack, and a school clock five minutes fast flicker into view. The room has neither windows nor decoration. 

Mirijanian, a former president of the Massachusetts Chess Association and program director of the Wachusett Chess Club, is a writer, educator, and chess expert. 

“A friend of mine from high school taught me how to play when I was 15,” he says in his radio announcer’s voice, gently tugging the beard that brushes his plaid collar. “That was 1958. I caught the bug. It’s a passion — an addiction.” 

In his 1750 treatise, The Morals of Chess, Benjamin Franklin warned that the hobby easily becomes an obsession. Many enthusiasts have gone mad in pursuit of the perfect game. Harry Nelson Pillsbury, a Somerville native and contender for the World Championship, had a nervous breakdown following an exhibition of blindfolded play and attempted to throw himself from a hospital window. Former world champion Wilhelm Steinitz spent months in an asylum for the insane after losing his title. On Chess Chat, the monthly Fitchburg Access Television show he hosts, Mirijanian once described a good player who managed to quit: “He gave up chess cold turkey. … He was engaged to a woman who said, ‘It’s me or the game.’ It takes a very strong person to do that.” 

Andrew Paul of Leominster arrives shortly after George and me. At 25, he is one of the club’s youngest members and joined recently. 

“Why don’t you two play a fun game before the tournament begins? A ‘fun game’ is what we call a game that’s not officially counted,” George Mirijanian explains. “Really, they’re all fun.” 

“What’s your rating?” Andrew asks, setting up a board. I do not have one and think he will clobber me because he does. George explains that everyone in the club has a rating, a calculus of cumulative wins and losses. If you win a game, you gain points — a lot of them, maybe 30 if you prevail against someone with a high rating. Lose a match, lose points, particularly if you play against someone with a low rating. 

Andrew Paul: 997. George Mirijanian: 2009. Bobby Fischer, considered one of the greatest players of all time: 2,785. Members of the Wachusett Chess Club are “point proud” and like comparing ratings and seeing theirs go up — a testament to how many games they have played and how skillfully they played them. 

“I’ll play white,” I tell Andrew. White gets to go first. Most players regard this as an advantage. We both open with the same move — scooting the pawn out in front of the king, more-or-less protecting the center of the board and creating an opening for the bishop and the queen.

Full article here.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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