Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Chess Clubs to play in Orange

An historic location in the City of Orange will be the site on the third Saturday in July of a special confrontation featuring one of the oldest games played. The century old First Presbyterian Church in Orange will host a chess tournament on July 15 between the Beaumont Chess Club and the Casa De Ajedrez (Spanish for House of Chess) club from Sulphur, Louisiana.

The game of chess dates back over fourteen hundred years. Texts referring to the origins of chess date from the beginning of the seventh century, and the oldest known chess manual was in Arabic and dates to about 840 AD according to chess aficionados.

Modern day consensus regarding the origin of chess is in northwest India in the early seventh century. The game has changed some over the centuries but remains one of the most popular contests for people of either gender, any ethnicity, and for just about any age to learn and play.

The attraction of chess as an abstract strategy game is that it involves no hidden information and no elements of chance. The two opponents in chess begin their game with identical pieces which they must maneuver on a board to capture their opponent's pieces.

The game is played on a chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. At the start each player controls sixteen pieces: one king; one queen; two rooks; two bishops; two knights; and eight pawns. White moves first, followed by Black. The game is won by checkmating the opponent's king which is achieved by threatening it with inescapable capture.

The Beaumont Chess Club and the Casa De Ajedrez have different histories. The club in Beaumont was started about thirty years ago while the club in Sulphur has been active about a year and a half.

An original participant in the Beaumont club is Will Chamberlain who first learned how to play chess in 1957 when he was about fifteen years old. "I kind of quit playing after 1960, and I really got back into the game in 1965 and since then I've played chess pretty steady," Chamberlain remembered.

Casa De Ajedrez was started by Andy Rivera who was born in Puerto Rico and has been playing chess since he was very young. Rivera indicated, "My family and friends were and are still very involved in chess. Coming here I wanted to start a club to share with other people the feeling of joy and love that I had while playing chess with my friends and family in Puerto Rico."

The current director and CEO of the Beaumont Chess Club is Kirk Tribes who started playing chess when he was just about seven or eight years old. By the time Kirk was in junior high school he and his best friend played chess during lunch every day at school.

His chess club sponsor Brenda Tantzen at Vidor High School is who Tribes credits with really accentuating his interest in the game. Tribes praised, "She made me a lot better player because she was rated by the United State Chess Federation, and her assistance helped me win two tournaments back-to-back my junior and senior years."

Tribes ran the Lamar University Chess club while a student there prior to joining his current chess club about twenty years ago. "The Beaumont Chess Club has a lot of rich history to it. There's been many people that have come and gone through the years and the members have met at different places with the club." Tribes informed.

The chess clubs meet weekly for games with members and visitors alike. The Beaumont Chess Club gathers on Thursday evenings at the Food Court in Parkdale Mall and holds tournaments on the first Saturday of each month. Casa De Ajedrez meets at The Village Coffeehouse in downtown Sulphur on the first and third Saturday evenings each month. In addition the club meets at the Imperial Calcasieu Museum in Lake Charles on the second and fourth Saturdays to play chess and introduce the game to novices.

Most meetings draw twelve to fifteen people to play a game or two or three. A newcomer to one of the meetings will find five or six games going on, and visitors are always welcomed to sit down to play a game with someone or to learn the game of chess from one of the helpful members.

New members and new players are introduced to chess at the clubs' meetings. Charles Dupuis has only been playing chess for a little over a year and has found a home with new friends at the Beaumont Chess Club.

The club previously met at Sertinos Cafe where Dupuis was a frequent customer, and he started playing chess there. Dupuis said, "I wanted something challenging, and none of what I was doing was working, so I decided to venture out on my own and try my hand at chess."

The members taught the game to Charles and he was hooked. "I like strategy games and I caught onto chess," Dupuis admitted. Charles has been appointed the Chief of Staff for Executive Affairs and is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the Beaumont Chess Club.

Checkers got boring is why Dacoy O'Hara switched to playing chess. O'Hara recounted that his grandfather persuaded him to try chess which ever since has become his game.

Dacoy has been playing about five years and is steadily improving. O'Hara replied, "I use chess now in my everyday life. I like the pawns, they can be sacrificed for something else and for the greater good. If you move them right you'll achieve success through strategy."

As Rivera pointed out chess can be a family affair one shared with all the members of the household. Michael Hunter is a member of Casa De Ajedrez as is his adult son Sloan who learned the game from his father.

Michael shared that when he was a young boy his family got him interested in chess, but they did not actually have a chessboard or chess pieces, so he improvised. He found a checkerboard which doubled as a chessboard, he used little toy soldiers for pawns, toy cowboys on horses were the knights, small toy cars were the rooks, and a small trophy he won represented the king.

Rivera teaches chess one on one with new players in his club. Another feature of Casa De Ajedrez is Chess With a Purpose on Thursdays.

Every Thursday members go to a retirement home in Sulphur and play chess for about ninety minutes to get the residents involved. "We're always looking for opportunities to reach out through the game of chess," Rivera pointed out.

The game of chess has been popular in the medium of television. Most familiar may be the character Paladin in the series "Have Gun-Will Travel" whose memorable business card featured a chess knight in the middle of it and his holster stood out with an iconic white knight on the side.

A not as well-known television series "Checkmate" starring Sebastian Cabot and Doug McClure aired on CBS for two seasons. The opening and closing theme music for the show was composed by the renowned John Williams.

More recently Netflix ran the miniseries "The Queen's Gambit" based on the novel of the same name about a young orphan girl who reveals an astonishing talent for chess. Despite many personal problems including addiction she rises to the top of the chess world.

Chess has had significant scenes on the big screen in movies. Maybe the most famous was the film also based on a novel in which Harry Potter's best friend Ron Weasley played and won a masterful game of chess in the first movie of the series "The Sorcerer's Stone" to help Harry find the magical rock.

The July 15 tournament to be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Orange will be the result of a challenge issued by the Casa De Ajedrez to other local chess clubs. The Beaumont Chess Club was the first group to accept the challenge in what is hoped to be a recurring event between these two chess clubs and other clubs that have accepted the challenge from Casa De Ajedrez.

Both clubs will choose their eight best players to compete in head to head chess matches. Rivera said there will be a perpetual trophy awarded to the winning club. Plaques can be added to the trophy to show the winning club for each challenge.

The tournament in Orange will be four rounds with each game having a one hour time limit for players to make their moves. A point will be awarded to the winning player for their team and a half point will be given to both teams in the case of a draw with the team achieving the most points at the end of the tournament receiving the trophy.

Visitors are strongly invited to attend the tournament. "We're going to have tables and chessboards available for players who are not part of the tournament that just want to be there. If they know chess or if they don't know chess they can just enjoy the company of everybody. We're wanting to bring awareness of chess to the local community. Hopefully, we can spark new chess clubs to form so we can have more fun chess tournaments together," Rivera concluded.

Chairs will be setup for those wanting to watch the games and there will be free coffee for everyone attending. The neighboring Lutcher Memorial Church building which held its first services in 1912 will also be opened for anyone interested in taking a tour of the beautiful worship facility with its opalescent stained glass windows.

The chess tournament will be held in the Gillespie Building of First Presbyterian Church located on Ninth Street between Green Avenue and Elm in downtown Orange. The chess tournament games are scheduled to start at 12 Noon and go until 6:00 PM on Saturday, July 15.


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