All posts by mark

Every Saturday is *chess day*, but Millennium Library is no longer our primary meeting place

Millennium library re-opened on Monday January 23, 2023 with metal detectors and a police presence. Despite the re-opening, we have decided to no longer use it as our primary casual meetup venue.

Based on the success and positive feedback from our recent meetups at the 2nd floor seating area of the Forks Market, that location will now become our primary gathering place.

We are happy that so far that The Forks North Portage Partnership seems to honour their mission statement which says

The Forks shall be developed as a ‘Meeting Place,’ a special and distinct, all-season gathering and recreational place at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, through a mixed-use approach including recreational, historical and cultural, residential, and institutional and supportive commercial uses.

Club co-founder Mark Jenkins considers it important that access to casual, over the board chess be available at no cost to participants. A commercial environmental that requires making a purchase and/or is judgmental of loitering time isn’t suitable for upholding the long the tradition of being a Saturday afternoon chess bum.

That is why, even at our first (namesake) venue, we never charged admission or memberships for casual meetups. Rent was paid by soliciting donations from attendees and holding fundraisers (simuls/tournaments).

This is not to say that nobody should ever hold a chess meetup at a coffeeshop, food court, board game cafe or bar (yay for Little Brown Jug). Please, do organise that, tell us about it, we’ll share the news and you can pretty much count on chess players showing up.

On that front, we’re plussed that a Sunday coffeeshop meetup has become quite popular. (see posts in our Facebook group and pm the organizer)

Commercial settings are good for chess. But, a primary aim for Rudolf Rocker Chess Club group is ensuring no-cost options are always on the menu to keep chess accessible.

And that menu has grown! The Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association (DMSMCA) has also been quietly holding free Saturday meetups at their resource centre, 823 Elice (intersection with Arlington) for about 6 months now!

It’s fair to say that SATURDAY is now chess day in Manitoba. Brandon players meet up the same day. The Manitoba Chess Association has been holding its very successful monthly rapids on Saturdays. Saturday is the biggest chess instruction day for kids at Happy Math Learning Centre, where Theo Wolchock, a former Rudolf Rocker Co-host and organiser is the lead chess instructor.

Don’t count Millennium Library out on Saturdays either. Chess players were meeting up informally there for years before we made gathering an announced thing with scheduled hosts. This is a tradition that probably goes all the way back to when the Cornish Library was the home to the Winnipeg Chess Club.

(For years Millennium library even had a dedicated games room, a legacy that may have been connected to that Cornish history and the fact that Abe Yanofsky [CFC bio] was on city council for so long)

Even with everything that has happened at Millennium Library, it would not be a surprise if some of these people continued to gather on the 2nd floor round tables at Millennium in small numbers. Some people are creatures of habit and just don’t give a fly.

As such, Mark Jenkins is still planning to make occasional appearances to report if this long lived scene continues and to engage in his own study. Mark’s late grandfather was once among the casual chess playing elders there, so this is also a family tradition. Mark’s attitude towards public spaces is “use it or lose it”.

The best guidance if you’re planning to wing it unannounced at any library on a given Saturday is bring a chess set and chess book. (Find one off the shelf under dewey decimal 794, “indoor games of skill”). Study with the pieces out so that other people can recognize you as a chess player.

Depending on Mark’s availability (once every month or two), Rudolf Rocker Chess Club will have parallel meetups, with Stefan and others hosting a larger group at the bustling Forks Market and Mark hosting a smaller gathering at the library. Expect Mark to make appearances at some Forks Market meetups too, including with his signature offer of beginner and novice lessons and a “turn the board around” approach to lost training games.

Parallel meetups are a great response to the interest in chess right now. Induced demand should be the attitude in growing the chess community.

The library as an occasional secondary site will provide a contrast in settings. The Forks Market is a busy place with continuous crowd noise. Millennium Library is mostly quiet.
(though the security presence reflects the reality that it is not a setting without a history of the peace being disturbed).

The emphasis in a library setting will be slow games, hushed voices, quiet study, small numbers, deep analysis and drawn out training sessions.

At the Forks Market we will be the crowd within the crowd.

Rudolf Rocker January Online Swiss starts Saturday January 14th

We’re hosting our first online swiss at a long time control, 40+40.

This will be a multi-day tournament held on:

  • Saturday January 14th, 1pm
  • Saturday January 21st, 1pm
  • Sunday January 22nd, 1pm
  • Saturday January 28, 1pm

To participate, you have to first join our lichess team . We require that you be a Manitoba resident or former resident connected to our chess community, so you need to provide some kind of indication in your join request. If you’ve played in a Manitoba Chess Association or Manitoba Scholastic Chess Association event before, it would suffice to indicate that and tell us the name that you played under.

If you have any trouble joining the lichess group, contract mark@parit.ca. If you’ve tried before, try again.

Once you’re a member of the Rudolf Rocker Chess Club lichess group/team, you can join the swiss tournament.

At the same time on January 14th Stefan will also host an in-person meetup 1-3pm at the Food Hall (central atrium, ground level) of The Forks Market. See the front page for more details on that.

Potentially on some of the other Saturdays we’ll also casual meetup in-person, locations TBA. At some of these we may host an online commentary team commenting on these online games. Stay tuned for more details on that.

Are Chess Meetups at Millennium Library Child Friendly?

(Note, this article is by Mark Jenkins personally. Though Mark is a founding Rudolf Rocker Chess Club hosts and organizer, he’s expressing his own opinion here and not speaking on behalf of other hosts and organizers or establishing any kind of policy)

(Note #2, this was written and published prior to the December 11 murder of Tyree Cayer)

I get inquiries from parents about our casual chess meetups. Other organizers field them too.

A public discussion is worthwhile, are our casual chess meetups at the library child friendly?

I have a few meandering points on this.

Mostly Adults

First, most of the attendees at our meetups are adults. None of our regulars right now are children.

I’m satisfied with that, as I started hosting chess meetups specifically to fill a niche for adults and particularly for the sake of those more interested casual play.

If you and your child are looking for a game at our meetup, you’re most likely going to end up playing adults who are regulars. A few of us are generous with our time and will teach at an appropriate level. Many of our regulars will give hard lessons through competitive play on the board and leave it at a that.

This may not be what your child is looking for on a Saturday afternoon.

Adults can be intimidating without intending to. I remember this from childhood and was recently reminded when one outstanding adult from my childhood passed away.

Kids may not have the attention span or interest to play for hours. Our casual drop in-format can be helpful in this regard. Be attentive and flexible in your plans when bringing a child with you.

When I co-founded Rudolf Rocker Chess Club with a rented room, I even considered making it an adult exclusive place where I could curse over getting checkmated.

In the end, we ended up being open to youth participation. We even had one older minor as a co-host.

There were certainly times where I could have lived without all the running around when kids had lost interest for the day.

The Library as a Unique Public Venue

The library is a different setting. We don’t get to choose who is and is not present. We don’t rent a room. We simply just sit down with chess boards at public tables (first come, first serve basis) and enjoy the game. Everyone is entitled to do that.

We also have to maintain a respectful environment for other library patrons around us.

People were already doing this at Millennium Library on Saturday afternoons before we made it more publicly known.

I really like this about the library. It is the only truly public indoor space downtown where you can spend the day, access the internet, access knowledge in print (including chess books!), set up a chess board, and not be compelled to spend a dime.

The malls don’t count. Coffee shops don’t count. These are private spaces where you are compelled to spend money and not loiter.

I want to loiter.

I want to be a Saturday chess bum.

I have met people from many walks of life and backgrounds while playing chess at the library. It was a similar experience when we had some summer meetups in Central Park.

I consider it a good thing we are visible in public and meet more than just people who find us on the internet. Often these interactions are as simple as “oh that’s chess!”. Occasionally it results in meaningful engagement.

We have even had encounters with people who are not familiar with the internationally accepted rules. I remember one adult with a different take on queen side castling. There was another with a misunderstanding about castling rights after blocking a check. At least one of these people stormed out upset at us!

The Library as a Place Where Social Challenges Are Visible

As a unique public indoor space in an urban environment, the library is also a place where society’s challenges are visible.

The library has for quite awhile had social worker office hours as a day time resource.

In 2017 there was a fatality which resulted in a closure and for which counseling services were needed to be brought in for staff and the public.

In 2019, bag-checks were imposed at the door.

It was a contentious policy. Attendance dropped. There were read-ins and shush-ins. Drag-queens held back their reading sessions for kids. John K Samson wrote a song, Millennium for All and put out a music video.

John K. Samson – Millennium for All from YouTube. (direct link)

As someone who values the library as a public space, I considered if I wanted to keep holding meetups in a space that was less inviting.

I was also sympathetic to the security concerns of staff. I believe that workers deserve the training and supports to have a safe work place.

Ultimately I decided to keep at it. The Millennium branch was still a one of a kind public indoor space and I felt the best way to support it was to keep using it.

After a year the WPL services manager regarded the policy as a mistake and was ready to move on.

As pandemic restrictions lifted and the library branches returned to public access, the security measures did not return.

In April 2022 the Millennium branch embraced further its role as a place to find all kinds of information relevant to the community and opened a community service hub in the lobby, Community Connections, which operates on weekday day times.

That is of course, that not the end of the story.

As John K Sampson sings in that song, “This is where we medicate in bathroom stalls”. I too have medicated in a bathroom stalls. You wouldn’t have seen the AstraZeneca container my pocket to know what I was inhaling.

Not everyone’s trip to a bathroom stall is brief.

Tied up bathrooms stalls in public washrooms are a part of life in downtown Winnipeg. The Millennium branch has 4 floors worth of them.

And unfortunately drug use in the bathrooms isn’t always confined to stalls.

Sometimes security has to deal with people’s behavior in the open areas.

I don’t want to paint an overly negative picture of downtown Winnipeg and the Millennium Library by bringing this up, but I owe it to parents who might not otherwise spend a lot of time downtown to be frank.

Free, public, and downtown is how I like to roll out casual chess. As an adult who is lifetime fan of downtown, I feel safe at the Millennium branch and really enjoy bringing people together there.

It’s up to you as a parent to decide if that’s the setting for you.

Chess for all

When I post that I’m hosting (about once a month), I almost always say that I offer free beginner and novice lessons.

That applies equally to adults who have made the trip, your kids, and even people passing by who take notice and say hi. Chess is a recreation that I’ll freely share and openly invite to anybody into when I’m there. That’s what the library inspires in me

I haven’t noticed a problem with this, but I should none-the-less remind parents that the library is not a place you can park minors who are not old enough to be in public on their own. The library code of conduct covers this.

Other Resources and a Call to Action

The children who might get the most out of our (largely adult) chess meetups would be ones who are already taking the game seriously enough to be contemplating playing in open tournaments with adults. Before investing in such a tournament appearance, a casual meetup is a chance for a youth to see, are they intimidated by adults? Can they handle losing in an over the board setting with a steep escalation in difficulty?

For most children a more ideal setting is one where they can engage with their peers.

We always try to make parents and children aware of the Manitoba Scholastic Chess Association (MSCA) which runs really kid friendly tournaments. Most of these events group the kids into small groups (sections) by ability.

Sometimes they also host more casual occasions and teaching opportunities.

The Manitoba Chess Association also sometimes hosts summer day camps and CFC rated Junior championships.

Similar to how many adults are not interested in tournaments there are also kids who are less inclined to competitive play and would prefer games that are more recreational and even more conversational.

The best casual settings are school chess clubs where available. Middle and high schools sometimes provide opportunities for youths to self-organize these things. In my first few years of high school, there was no club or club room but I would just set up a set in the cafeteria and peers would engage. It wasn’t long before I started keeping multiple sets in my locker to accommodate everyone. At one point I even got hockey jocks into the game.

My first experience with self-organizing dated back even earlier to grade 6. I got peers playing in a covered playground structure and at indoor recess. I tried to conduct a round robin over several months.

Younger kids of course need a lot more adult support to get opportunities going.

For all the children without access to school chess clubs, there’s a gap in terms of casual play with peers.

What I’d encourage interested parents to do is self-organize more casual/recreational public opportunities for their kids to play each other and access instruction, either in partnership with MSCA or as a new organization. Either way, the Manitoba chess community will share the news and help you get the word out.

Millennium for All! Chess for all!
Mark Jenkins 2022-10-23

Three ways to play chess over the board Oct 22 and 23

We’re pleased to share that the weekend of Saturday October 22 and October 23 will be a super weekend for chess in Manitoba.

Saturday 5 round open rapid

The highlight of Saturday October 23rd will be a 5 round open rapid tournament held by Al MacPherson and the Manitoba Chess Association at St. Mary’s Road United Church, 613 St. Mary’s Road near the junction with St. Anne’s road.

Please follow the link for up to date details on the Manitoba Chess Association site. The details we most want to highlight most are:

  • Pre-register by texting Al MacPherson, 204-898-8485. Recommended because capacity at this venue is limited
  • $20 entry fee, no membership required
  • Doors and on site registration at 9:30am, round 1 to start at 10am (don’t show up at 9:55 and expect everything to be fine!)

If you’ve never played an over the board tournament before but are ready to try, we would highly recommend this particular 1 day rapid tournament format as your entry point into the world of tournament chess.

A tournament like this will typically have prizes reserved for players under a certain rating and new unrated players. The swiss format ensures you play all 5 rounds and as it goes on you are playing people who have done as well as you so far. So if your first few rounds aren’t going well, look forward to the opponents you’ll have in the later rounds, your performance in later rounds may be enough to get you an underprize!

Saturday Casual meetup

Though we’d encourage you to check out the above tournament, we know that not everyone is up for a full day of tournament play, so we’re also pleased to share that the tradition of casual meetups on Saturday afternoons at the Millennium Library also continues.

Since we rebooted casual meetups at the library in April, folks have been meeting up for casual chess on Saturday afternoons week in, week out regardless of our announcements.

We’re pleased to recognize Stefan (who has been there every week) as an Rudolf Rocker Chess Club host and co-organizer. Saturday October 22, noon-4pm will be the first casual meetup where we announce him as host.

We’ve equipped Stefan with with some extra chess sets, so you don’t need one to enjoy our meetup, but feel free to bring a set if you have.

The Millennium Library hours on Saturday are now 10am to 5pm. It’s common to see the chess meetups go past 4pm. It’s a casual meetup, come and go as you please.

If you’re really pumped about casual chess in the library, feel free to also show up early, set up a set, study a chess book of your own or from the library’s collection, and you never know if somebody else will take notice and want to play or join the study session.

Renovations on the second floor are nearly done. This past Saturday, staff were setting up shelves again and mentioning the 2nd floor may re-open as early as Wednesday.

So, the wood grain round tables on the the second floor will probably be the best spot for chess meetups again, as was the case for many years.

Sunday — Sectioned K-12 5-round tournament

The Manitoba Scholastic Chess Association has their 2nd five-round sectioned K-12 tournament exclusively for school age kids. Location is the Belltower Café in St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba.

Registration with a $15 entry free between 12:15 and 12:45pm. Tournament is run by Jeremie Piche email: jeremie.piche@scholasticchess.mb.ca.

These tournaments are really kid friendly. Players are grouped into groups of 6 players by ability and guaranteed 5 games. Only the top group has to play with clocks from the start, games in the lower groups only have clocks added to them if they’re going slow. Prizes are medals and ribbons for everyone.

The University of Manitoba has COVID-19 heath and safety protocols which includes mandatory mask use. This applies to all students, parents and guardians at the tournament.

Sunday Casual meetup?

Nobody has announced a open casual meetup for Sunday October 23rd, but we’ll gladly post it here if they do. Millennium Library once again has Sunday hours, 1pm-5pm… so make it happen folks.

Casual meetup Saturday October 15, 2022

We’re returning from our hiatus and having a casual chess meetup at Millennium Library on Saturday October 15 from noon-4pm.

Mark Jenkins is hosting. Feel free to ask him for free beginner and novice lessons.

Our usual meeting spot, tables on the 2nd floor appears to still be under renovation. As such, we’ll meet at study tables on the 4th floor. Check back for location updates.

Location update: Mark is at a study table on the west side of the 4th floor. That’s to the left when exiting the elevator or stairs.

Taking player names for consideration at our first invitational.

The Rudolf Rocker Chess Club will be presenting our first invitational tournament in September or October 2022.

This will be a 5 round, CFC rated swiss with 10 players, a long time control, an entry fee, cash prizes, and over the board play.

preview image and link to our poster
(A preview of our poster, click to see the full pdf)

The event will be held at a private location in downtown Winnipeg in September or October. It will be held on three consecutive days consisting of two games played on a Saturday, two on a Sunday and one on a Monday evening.

Though this is a by invitation event, we are also welcoming the application of players for our consideration. We are primarily looking to invite players at the expert level and above, but strong class players are welcome to put their names forward to help us ensure we have the necessary 10 players.

Please apply by email to Chief Organizer and Arbiter Cory Letain <cletain@yahoo.ca> . Mark Jenkins will be acting as an assistant arbiter.

We will be finalizing our invitation list around Tuesday August 23rd.

We also encourage Manitoba players to have private matches. Once our event roster is finalized, you can let us know if there are specific players you would like to share your contact information with. In this way, you may still be able to arrange an alternative opportunity to play with some of our invited players.

In addition to this over the board invitational tournament, we will also hold an online swiss on lichess with the same long time controls. For access, join our lichess group. When applying for lichess group access, indicate your connection to Manitoba or prior connection to chess in Manitoba.

Millennium Library second floor undergoing renovations

Millennium Library is undergoing floor by floor renovations starting with the 2nd floor on Monday August 15th. Closures will be approximately four weeks per floor.

Study tables on the 4th floor may be an option for casual chess gathering.

At this time we don’t have a further August meetup with a host scheduled, but you may find other casual players at the library on Saturday afternoons none-the-less.

Global News coverage.

Winnipeg Public Library project info an updates.

Current text at the top of most library web pages:

Notice: Notice: On Monday, August 15, Millennium Library will begin renovations to replace carpet tiles and lighting. The library will remain open while work is completed one floor at a time. Renovations will start on the second floor, followed by the first, fourth and third. Access to certain collections and services will be impacted as each floor closes in rotation. The project is expected to be complete in late 2022. Please visit our project page for collection and service information during renovations.

August 13, 2022 meetup cancelled

Mark Jenkins was to host a casual meetup on Saturday August 13, 2022, noon-4pm but became unavailable as of Friday August 12.

Though no formal host will be present, we have helped establish a strong tradition in the last few months of casual chess at the Millennium library 2nd floor on Saturday afternoons. As such, you are likely to still find other players in that time period.

Without a host bringing sets, it will help to bring a chess set if you have one.

Our next casual meetup (in August) will be scheduled soon.

June 18 casual chess meetup — 2nd floor Millennium Library

Our next in-person casual chess meetup will be Saturday June 18 from noon-4pm at the 2nd floor of Millennium Library. Exact location is the round tables with chairs, walk left after exiting the elevator or climbing the stairs. See the area that I circled below in blue on the floor plan.

This meeting will be co-hosted by Mark Jenkins and Cory Letain. During the first two hours, Mark will be exclusively available for playing and offering free lessons to beginner and novice players.

The Millennium branch no longer has invasive security screening on entry.

The City of Winnipeg strongly recommends masking at city facilities. Mark Jenkins will lead by example by wearing and and also bring free KN95 masks for anyone who would like. You can expect though that many players will be unmasked.

Next casual meetup Sat April 30th — location Millennium Library

It’s time to restart casual chess at the Millennium Library.

Our next in-person casual chess meetup will be Saturday April 30th from 1pm-4pm at the 2nd floor of Millennium Library. Exact location is the round tables with chairs, walk left after exiting the elevator or climbing the stairs. See the area that I circled below on the floor plan.

These are the tables that used to have chess boards on them. They don’t have boards on them right now, but I’ll be bringing chess sets.

We are pleased to share that the Millennium branch no longer has invasive security screening on entry.

The City of Winnipeg strongly recommends masking at city facilities. The event host will lead by example in this regard. Free KN95 masks will be available for players at this meetup.