Chess Club thrives in the Zoom Age – The Williams Record


A Wednesday evening of melancholy nostalgia–

Blue-black in autumnal happiness.

Here you hear a calling voice

“Come play chess!”, And that’s it:

Chess club tonight from 9am to 10:30 am @ Eco café, everyone is welcome, no experience necessary! Newcomers / beginners / people who want to learn how to play are especially encouraged to come!

Ren leads a presentation of one of his games at a Zoom meeting. (Photo courtesy of William Ren ’21.)

Students looking for the most pandemic-resistant activity, look no further – Chess Club has you covered. The need for social distancing has forced many clubs to adopt new measures as they cannot hold face-to-face meetings or participate in contact-intensive games and workouts. Chess Club, however, has managed to avoid these problems.

“I was really surprised how many people came to our first meeting… that’s more than most years,” said William Ren ’21, President of the Chess Club. “[I] I felt there were a lot of abilities within Zoom that could be better for Chess Club rather than in person.

The club has taken advantage of the multitude of online chess platforms such as Lichess and which allow members to play against an opponent live online. These websites also offer new game modes where players can play alternative chess variations with different rules. One of the favorites of the chess club is the bughouse, where players compete in teams of two and pass the captured pieces to their teammate for use.

According to Ren, club meetings have a random element, with activities ranging from spontaneous games to chess tips from the club president himself. The move online has been a blessing in disguise of sorts, allowing variations of online chess that couldn’t be replicated in person and giving alumni the chance to come and test their skills. Ren also hopes to potentially invite members of the Williamstown community to join in the future.

In addition to these informal meetings, Chess Club also helps organize events such as tournaments and volunteer activities (including teaching chess at a local elementary school). While the pandemic has made things more difficult, the club has already attended numerous United States Chess Federation (USCF) national tournaments where members compete against chess players of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels. skill. Ren says he plans to contact his Amherst counterpart at some point to hopefully schedule a virtual competition, although the idea is still in the works.

One of the constants of the Chess Club are Ren’s weekly emails, which he sends out to his 340-member mailing list every week. Ranging from poems to random jokes, emails are a creative manifestation of everything that makes the club special. “I love to play chess,” Ren said. “I like to share about it. I love teaching people about it, because it has brought me so much joy in my life.


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