As part of the run-up to the March 2nd & 3rd Virginia Queens All-Girl State Championship, Old Dominion University made a bid to host and formed a university chess club with Chess Author, Dr. Ray Cheng.
The club took off, but the university had no space available for our event weekend so Norfolk State University took up the torch and is carrying it all the way.
NSU will host the Queens Championship with GM Susan Polgar who will play a simul and blindfolded exhibition (for more on that see www.NICEchess.net).
I just got the word that as of this week NSU has officially re-formed its chess club with Dr. Yuri Barnakov. The first note I got from Yuri casually mentioned was, “I believe ODU now has a chess team and we could play them.” Uh-huh. Anybody besides me catch a whiff of brimstone on the air? This is going to get interesting since ODU’s new football team has eclipsed the NSU team in the papers for coverage. Somebody, somewhere is going to figure out that a battle of wits among universities could actually mean something more than how fast you run or how hard you physically hit.
I read somewhere that parents send their kids to college to get an education, improve critical thinking, visualization and memory function so they can excel and provide for their families and communities. Showing you have great minds on your campus could just catch on.
Here at ODU, football has taken over the hearts of local fans (I live within shouting distance of Foreman Field deep in the heart of blue and silver territory and whoop with the best of ‘em), but I believe chess is about to take over their minds.
Ok, maybe most sports fans don’t know anything about chess, but they know about sports and how to be fans. Let’s start there.
So the next step (shhhh come closer to the screen because this is a chess secret that has been too well kept) is to get them informed and amped about their schools’ new sport – chess. Nobody outside the chess community knows chess is a sport. This goes for the sports section reporters as well as the potential fans.
I think we need blitz games. Clocks slamming. Skittles areas where (and I am just guessing the origins here, you can have beer with skittles and watch with interest).
Yes chess is serious, but when Fischer played the whole world gathered in pubs and byways to follow the thrilling action. If fans can follow the rules of football, rugby and even Australian football (my personal favorite) then chess is not an impossible challenge.
I want to make our current chess stars into public superstars again. Never again should a championship chess team take a backseat to a losing football team on campus. If our culture wants to worship winners then it’s time to worship the real gladiators, the ones who are not getting brain damage from hitting the turf too often. In the process maybe other teams will improve their strategic thinking as they follow our players.
GAMING the GAME: What would be really awesome and cross-sports-cultural would be if some bright young game designer would make a program for chess with characters representing each piece and hook it to an electronic playing board. Each move would play out like a battle to which new fans can relate.
That way we could have big screens in the skittles areas, or on campus for a local feed into the student centers where fans could see their intellectual gladiators hack and slash and fight in real time in their school colors and virtual uniforms.
Spectators would all have to learn to play chess in order to follow and once they understand what they are seeing the level of respect and championing goes up.
Seriously, if Wii can turn you into a tiger cub how difficult could this be to create?
Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing the first clash of intellectual titans on traditional boards from NSU and ODU. The ODU team has been volunteering with my students at Lamberts Point and have found a place in my heart for that, but i am going over to NSU to meet their team and I can’t play favorites. This is going to be interesting.
I will begin posting individual player profiles here for each team. maybe I’ll find a cartoonist to gameize them for their profile pics? Hmmm. Stay tuned for details on matches and other competitions.