Frequently asked questions and also ones we think are worth answering in this format.
- What’s with the club name?
- Are minors welcome? / Can I bring my chess kid?
- Why not meet in the suburbs, where the parking is free and where I feel safer?
Q: What’s with the club name?
A: Our original venue was a multi-purpose space at 91 Albert St. called the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre that we would rent Saturday afternoons. That venue was named for notable social anarchist Rudolf Rocker.
It was the venue that was trying to make a political point with their name. As a chess club we were focused on making sure people had a good time with the chess. We were just too lazy to come up with our own name so we named our chess club after the venue. At the time we were just trying to say, “come for chess at the Rocker”, first and foremost to the community that was present at and around that building. In the end, we found most of the interest in casual chess came from the broader community.
The venue eventually became defunct but we’ve let the name stick to us.
Our club isn’t political, but our approach to chess does illustrate the power of self-organization and limited formality. We’re not incorporated. We don’t have a member roll or participant registration. Since 2018 we even stopped renting a venue and have mostly just enjoyed free public spaces.
Our leadership team is titled “co-hosts and co-organizers”. Casual pairings are largely made by our attendees just talking to each other. (though you can ask our hosts for a suggestion on who to play with and sometimes our hosts will suggest pairings or just mixing it up).
Q: Are minors welcome? / Can I bring my chess kid?
A: Our meetups are largely attended by adults, the population we’re most interested in serving.
We meet in free public spaces, so we couldn’t exclude anyone even if we wanted to. So the short answer is yes.
Some of attendees our are friendly and will warmly share their chess knowledge with anybody, any age. Others will only offer hard lessons on the board. Few would refuse to play.
If you chess kid has never lost over the board before and thinks they’re king of the hill because they can beat all of their relatives and classmates, we can show them the depth of the difficulty curve.
(though we have beginner and novice level adults in attendance who are great competition)
Kids sometimes find adults intimidating. The ideal situation for a young attendee would be already having a large enthusiasm for chess that this isn’t a concern. Perhaps they are even considering playing in open (any ages) tournaments that also mostly have adults and they’d like to see what it’s like to play with adults.
For most kids, environments where they can play with peers are probably better. We really recommend the K-12 tournaments held by the Manitoba Scholastic Chess Association . For most of their events they group youth into small groups by chess ability, which is really kid friendly. The main exception is their annual grade championships. (grouped by grade)
Ideally, kids will get access to casual chess at school, either from a formal club or informally. If your child’s school is a chess desert, you might be able to get a club started. This may even be an opportunity for your chess kid (particularly teenagers) to stretch their own capabilities to learn how to organize and get peers playing.
Club co-founder Mark Jenkins had his first experience organizing casual chess at age 12 when he ran a recess round-robin over several months. In high school, he would just sit with a chess set in the cafeteria and would engage people who inquired. Even some hockey players ended up learning how to play each other with great beginner enthusiasm. Eventually Mark had to keep several sets in his locker to keep up with the lunch-hour interest.
It would be pretty cool if there was a youth only casual chess club/meetup available outside of schools. There’s a gap here, we’d encourage parents to get together and fill it. We’ll be happy to share the word.
This question was also addressed in an earlier article, Are Chess Meetups at Millennium Library Child Friendly? (Somewhat out of date now as Millennium Library is no longer our primary venue)
This hasn’t been a problem, but it’s worth noting that our meetup is not a form of free child care. Only minors who are old enough and capable of being to be in public on their own should be left/arrive unsupervised.
A final point, some kids may not be able to sustain their interest in chess over many hours. Our drop-in casual format is great in this regard. Check in with your youngster and/or observe if they’re engaged or disengaged. Plan for the possibility of a shorter visit. Be flexible.
Q: Why not meet in the suburbs, where the parking is free and where I feel safer?
A: We’ve always been a downtown chess meetup. After we stopped renting a room and started meeting at Millennium Library, we were intersecting with an informal tradition of library meetups that was already there and probably goes all the way back to the days of Winnipeg Chess Club and the Cornish library.
Many of our attendees live downtown or near to it. For them, downtown is the most convenient and accessible place to meet. If we met in a suburb, we’d be making ourselves less available to some people.
We’d also miss out on all the chance encounters we have downtown with people who are not deliberately showing up for chess.
If you’d like to see a casual chess meetup in a suburb, organize one. There is a lot of interest in chess right now, this is the time to do it.
Don’t worry about stretching the chess community thin. Think induced demand. The more clubs, the more chess players there will be.
Mark would suggest that the broad suburban part of Winnipeg that should first get a chess club with a focus on casual play is south-west Winnipeg. A longer call for action article is coming on this subject. Though we’re focused on our downtown meetups, we may be able to offer a little bit of help beyond our usual offer to share the word.
There is enough money floating about in south-west Winnipeg to make a dedicated room rental viable. The library is once again renting out its meeting rooms, including those found at the Bill and Hellen Norrie (Grant ave), Charlsewood, Fort Garry, and Pembina Trail branches. Churches also have a tradition of being cheap rentals.