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Report from the first organizer meeting of the South-West Winnipeg Chess Club

A report by Mark Jenkins following the June 8 South-West Winnipeg Chess Club’s first organizing meeting. Three organizers were in attendance at the first meeting.

The next organizing meeting of the South-West Winnipeg Chess Club will be on Saturday July 20 at 2pm at the 1510 Pembina Highway location. Please note, there are multiple Tim Hortens locations on Pembina Highway, this location is the one next to Tony Romas between Chevrier Blvd and Clarence Ave.

[Note, Winnipeg Chess Association has a tournament July 20, doors 9am at RRC Polytech (Red River) Notre Dame campus. This is a bit of a conflict as a collaboration with these organizers may be useful and other potential organizers may want to play in this event. Stay tuned for an update, we may postpone our organizer meeting]

To get the club started, we would like to hold some chess meetups, tournaments, and/or special events that will be free previews of our new club and a chance to do some fundraising. The original idea was to do this in August, but we may defer. To make these initial events happen, we need additional volunteers, a temporary venue and possibly sponsorship to cover the cost of a temporary venue. Please reach out.

We hope to get the club fully operating on a weekly schedule. This was first considered for September, but may start later. At that time we will probably make a weekly booking of a meeting room at one of four south-west Winnipeg library branches, as they are quite affordable at about $14 per hour and easy to reserve.

The organizers discussed the South West Winnipeg Chess Club being an independent entity and not being a sub-group of an existing chess organization. The upsides and downsides of incorporating early or starting as a volunteer unincorporated association were weighed. These points are worth revisiting.

Community feedback is requested. Of the four south-west library branches, where would you like to meet? What day of the week and time is best? What is an acceptable amount to pay as a monthly membership? Are there additional venues to bring to our attention? Interest in sponsoring?

Please reply with our Google Form.

Additional details

Below is a more detailed report of discussions at our first organizing meeting and Mark’s thinking after.

First, what is a casual chess club exactly? Is it just a place where people play fun games in an entirely unorganized way? Or, should there be more organizing that goes into it such as:

  • special events like simuls
  • education opportunities
  • a system for informing players who will be closer ability such as a ladder?
  • or even low stakes tournaments

And what exactly is the distinction between a low-stakes and a high-stakes tournament? Any event that’s a qualifier for a more prestigious event has some stakes to it. This includes all rated CFC and FIDE rating events where good performance can lead to a high rating and invites to closed events.

Second, if an event has a big entry fee and big prizes, that’s also high stakes.

A low stakes event may not even have an entry fee or prizes. But, if it allows the best players a chance to go head to head for the prestige of being the event winner it can simultaneously be both fun and competitive.

I’m convinced now that a well organized club day can accommodate both fully unorganized or low-stakes organized play. Here’s a possible format:

For the first two hours, invite players to just play in an unorganized way. They don’t even have to play chess, if they want to play bughouse or completely unrelated table-top games entirely, so be it.

In the second two hours, have a blitz tournament, perhaps even just 4 rounds with 16 player swiss sections or 5 rounds with 6 player round-robin groups by level.

The idea is to give strong players a reason to make a quick club visit by offering the opportunity for competitive play on short time. Put the players in small sections by ability so that weaker and stronger players aren’t wasting their time with each other. (they’ll still get acquainted in the casual time or in the big tournaments)

Not all club members need to play in these quick and fun tournaments. A few tables can still be reserved for fully casual play with or without time controls.

The room won’t need to be at a strict code of silence as a CFC or FIDE rated event would rightly call for. In a low stakes setting we should still permit some degree of chatter, including post-mortems.

There is a balance to be had. We should recognize that many players at the lowest levels are not interested in any kind of tournament play or often even in the use of the clock. A well run club should accommodate these players throughout the day, as they are quite numerous. Look at the rating distribution chart for or lichess if you’re unsure how many players this is.

As for the stronger players, though they are few in numbers they are high in their enthusiasm for the game. A great club should attract them with a degree of competitive play against worthy competition. This will heighten the prestige of the club and also attract ambitious intermediate players who would like the chance to meet stronger players in a casual setting.

With a proper rented club room, all of this can be had.

Meeting timing

Next, let’s talk about two interrelated subjects, the balance between youth and adult participation and also the day and time appropriate for club meetups.

First, the timing. Club meetings need to be at a consistent time and place. The natural starting point is one day per week. To maximize the participation of adults, this first meeting time should be on a weekday evening or weekend, as the largest segment of the adult population works during weekday daytime hours.

At our meeting we talked about the downside to weekday evenings for adults with kids. A lot of youth activities are organized on weekday evenings. Weekends can also be busy for families, particularly when sporting activities include tournaments, but on the whole weekends are more open.

When it comes to weekends, I would argue against both mornings and evenings.

Sunday evenings are a gathering time for many extended families, a tradition that was re-enforced for decades in Manitoba with a prohibition on the opening of large retailers after 6pm.

Saturday nights have a strong cultural value with a great popularity for concerts, theatre and film.

Weekend mornings are popular times to sleep in, particularly for a chess crowd known to contain many night owls. They are also popular times to hold worship services.

We believe weekend afternoons are the best place to start. A great club can and should grow to have both Saturday and Sunday afternoons and then evolve to include some weekday evenings and afternoons.

Initially we have to choose one day per week, and I’m going to make the case for Saturdays over Sundays.

I see Saturdays as a transitional day following a work-week with a day job. I’m more inclined to put in the work of organizing a chess club or to push myself to compete with that “work” mentality carried over to some serious leisure.

Sundays I’m more inclined to relax in a less workful way.

Both Saturdays and Sundays feature monthly or near monthly tournaments from the Manitoba Chess Association (CFC/FIDE) and the Manitoba Scholastic Chess Association (Chess N Math) during the school year. There are also other independent chess organizers with Saturday and Sunday events as well.

In the end, I believe there is room to have overlap, a drop-in/drop-out casual chess club meeting and elsewhere, the best, most well run tournaments offered by these other organizations. Folks can decide what they’re looking for.

As a casual focused club, we don’t need to have low-stakes tournaments when there are better tournaments happening in parallel.

Saturdays also offer us best venue flexibility.

On a weekend with a scholastic tournament, we can offer the most enthusiastic families the ultimate weekend combination, warm up at the casual club on Saturday, compete for trophies, ribbons and kid glory on a Sunday.

Ultimately, not conflicting with Sunday tournaments in the beginning is a better growth path. Young casual players are going to be the adult club members and organizers of tomorrow. A Saturday-first approach builds that relationship.

The ideal progression for a young chess player is to play casually first, to enter youth only tournaments second, and to compete in CFC and FIDE rated events with adults last.

Youth Participation

Ultimately, this ties in with a theme I brought up before. Should we limit or discourage youth participation?

What my fellow organizers have told me is “no”. Though many adults came into chess in recent years thanks to the pandemic, The Queens Gambit, and online streamers, the growth of the game is best going to happen by creating as many supportive environments as possible for youth.

How will we keep this in balance?

Two elements were discussed.

First, reserving some tables for players under 12 years of age.

Second, a code of conduct for chess club members that would cover several themes:

  • A healthy relationship between all players, including some specifics about what these means in a chess club context
  • Expectation that parents and guardians are present for their under 12 players, which includes not pressuring them to play and recognizing when their children are bored of the chess and ready to go home
  • Some detail around how the under 12 tables vs other tables work. What are the exceptions for participant flow?


Thanks for reading our long report. Consider attending our July 20th, 2pm organizer meeting at Tim Hortons 1510 Pembina Highway and pardon the short notice. If you can’t make it but would like to help organize, please reach out.

Feedback is requested on our Google form which includes room for comments and exchange of contact.

Starting a South-west Winnipeg casual club, meeting at Mark’s place, Saturday June 8, 2pm

I’m following up on my prior post on growing our local casual chess scene.

To make a long story short, I’m calling an organizing meeting at my home on Saturday June 8, 2pm. This will be specifically to organize a new, south-west Winnipeg group focused on casual chess in a dedicated and booked location. My home is in south-west Winnipeg on a major road with a direct bus route from downtown. I’m not posting my address, but folks can email to express their interest and get a private invite. Let me know why a new south-west Winnipeg group interests you and what you may be able to contribute as a co-organizer.

The time has come for Winnipeg to have chess meetups that are not just in free, public spaces like coffee shops, malls and public library tables. A casual chess club can really take on a life of its own when it has dedicated space where folks can enthusiastically discuss the game.

This is how Rudolf Rocker Chess Club started, with a weekly meetup on the 3rd floor of 91 Albert St.

That was never a group I was able to carry on my own, we had other very committed volunteers.

That multi-use venue was very affordable, but it came at a price. Sometimes our booking was bumped for better paying customers. At times this was with very poor notice that interfered with our special events.

The venue was also not operated sustainably and eventually shut down.

Two of our core volunteers also moved on in life.

In recent years, another meetup was added to the scene with a dedicated, booked space, the chess program at Robert A. Steen Community Centre taught by Jordan. It’s grown to have both an intro day (Tuesdays 4:30-6pm) and advanced day (Wednesdays 4:30-6pm) during the school year (Sept-June).

I must confess, I haven’t had a chance to check out the great work Jordan has been doing, but I might do so soon.

Though it is an all-ages program, the time of day very much makes this an after-school program. Great timing for kids and their parents, but not an evening or weekend slot that works for the maximum number of adults.

As such, there is still a gap to fill in Winnipeg’s chess scene: a consistent, well advertised, booked location for casual chess, with timing suited to a maximum number of adults. Folks might even want to make it exclusively for adults or a hybrid model where we only accept exceptional youth players by invitation/application. We’ll discuss that.

Furthermore, I’ve heard countless times that not everyone is comfortable with downtown (The Forks included). We are a sprawled city. Suburbanites like their space and their free parking.

So, let’s find out if that can translate into action. South-West Winnipeg is home to the largest new residential neighbourhoods, some of the city’s wealthiest districts both historically and currently, and is already an epicenter for a lot of local chess.

Is this corner of our city ready to invest in building a first-class casual chess club?

Can this eventually grow beyond a once per week meetup? Could it even grown to have its own clubhouse?

Booked spaces have financial costs. To be sustainable, I believe this kind of club will need to charge a membership and/or gate cost. The old Rudolf Rocker model of asking for support by donation and holding special event fundraisers isn’t going to work to sustain a higher rent.

Furthermore, we can and should be open to private and business sponsorship, both for cash and in-kind support (equipment, space, food, etc). Potential sponsors are asked to email and to indicate what they would be looking for to offer their support. We’re smart enough to not just ask for a lot of money no strings attached so make these things clear to us.

But, any and all sponsorship can’t be expected to replace the need for member dues. Generally, what the providers of grants and other sponsorship like to see is that other people are also chipping in. Other people’s money is a sign that people care. Sometimes this even takes the form of a matched donation campaign.

I’m also publicly asking the Manitoba Chess Association to consider what its support of this could look like. The chess community can always count on their website being a place to post and the chess association has often been able to provide equipment loans and sometimes even logistical support for community tournaments. The equipment side of things can even support the bootstrapping of a new chess club — fundraiser tournaments could generate revenue to buy equipment and once a club has enough equipment of it’s own it no longer needs to borrow and potentially could even store at a permanent rented venue.

The chess association is also in a position to provide some financial support, which it should consider, but it is never going to just simply write a cheque, no conditions attached. Like any other grant funder, there is always going to be a question of other people’s money going into an initiative and a need to see that there is a real and serious organizing committee putting in the work to make a chess club possible.

Potentially the MCA could even provide the legal and financial umbrella for a new club, if the organizers of a new south-west casual club even want that and if the MCA board saw it as appropriate.

What we can’t expect is the existing group of MCA volunteers to put in the on the ground organizing work. They’re already doing plenty as the local CFC affiliate in organizing tournaments. It’s really great work that we should celebrate and build upon.

What a new group will need is a lot of new people and new energy. I am also not going to carry the load. When it came to Rudolf Rocker Chess Club, I never did. Some had that impression because I did a lot of the public communications. But truth be told, there were other exceptional volunteers in our 91 Albert days that did more. In addition, I alone was not responsible for all the uptick in casual chess that we had at Millennium Library as pandemic restrictions lifted and later at The Forks Market. The most notable credit for that goes to Stefan who has been doing this almost every week for over two years now and there is also a further cast of people that have helped him out.

But here is what I offer.

  1. Initial organizing meetings can be held in my living room, conveniently located on a bus route on a major street in South-West Winnipeg. We’ll probably need more than one! We’ll stop meeting at my place when we start having an actual club in a proper public space.
  2. As a member of Skullspace, I have access to a low cost space downtown to hold fundraiser tournaments with enough tables to seat about 20 players. Obviously a south-west club should aspire to have its events in South-West Winnipeg (duh!) and eventually in its regular venue, but if we need to bootstrap the organization with fundraisers at a cheap downtown venue, then we can do so.
  3. I have control over a bank account that was established for Rudolf Rocker Chess Club. (an unincorporated, non-profit voluntary association). We can transform this into a shared account for an unincorporated association of independent* chess clubs, providing a form of common infrastructure for such organizations. (By *”independent”, I mean any group that is outside the CFC, FIDE, and Chess N Math systems. I think it’s healthy for a chess scene to have both clubs and events inside and out those systems, particularly for lowering barriers to entry.)
  4. I have experience as a organizer of both local chess and other things. Part of that is my philosophy around embracing beginners. In particular, I bring an understanding that low level players do not have a fun time in a casual setting just taking loss after loss against strong players. A thoughtful club doesn’t make that people’s exclusive first experience. Most people don’t learn a lot from just getting hard lessons on the board. These moments sure makes for great chess scenes in TV shows and movies though!
  5. I have a paid account on (Winnipeg Casual Chess and Tournament listing) with 474 followers which I’ve been under-using for advertising local chess. Would eventually like to transfer this to a organization and have the entire local chess scene use it. I may also just drop it.
  6. I’m an information technologist by trade and can offer some assistance in that regard, particularly when it comes to domain names and websites.

What I can’t do is become the next president, secretary and treasurer or other key executive member of a new club. I’m going to help get this started but it will be other people that make it real.

Ultimately I’m an urbanist at heart and more interested in the fun I can organize downtown and in the rest of the inner city. I’m going to help with this to take some pressure off our downtown scene and because I ultimately believe that more chess begets more chess.

The biggest decision a south-west Winnipeg group will have to make is to select a suitable, bookable venue. In my last post I mentioned a homework assignment in that regard: go and see the bookable rooms at the following library branches: Bill and Helen Norie (by Pan Am Pool), Charleswood, Fort Gary, and Pembina Trail.

And talk to some churches and other places of worship. They’ve got the cheapest, most underutilized spaces.

There are also City of Winnipeg community centres, but their spaces are in high demand for sports and other physical leisure programming. What has made Jordan’s group at Robert A Steen CC a success was the organization directly sponsoring their chess program. The after-school aspect may be a key part of that. But, don’t rule anything out. Feel free to approach other community centres in south-west Winnipeg with under-utilized spaces.

Mark Jenkins, April 1 post on growing the local casual chess scene

Note from Mark Jenkins. Below is a post I made on our Facebook Group on April 1, 2024. I’m posting it on the website now to provide some further background before I take the next step on helping start a south-west Winnipeg group. In that regard, an April 27th meeting didn’t happen. The Millennium side of things isn’t really taking off, but I include it to fully show where our thinking was at.

Hey folks. I’m writing to concur with Stefan’s last post. Our meetups at The Forks Market are so great, they’re at risk of being too successful.

We don’t have a relationship with the Forks North Portage Partnership (FNPP). We simply just show up to a free public space and make use of it. This is very much in the spirit of FNPP’s mission statement for The Forks, which says that

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.

No doubt most of us are customers. But we take up tables longer than the average, and at some point the market managers are going to worry this doesn’t leave enough space for other patrons with a shorter stay. You can find news stories of how this happened at a mall years ago in Vancouver.

So, we need to spread out and enjoy casual chess in more places. This will grow the game and make a stronger local chess scene for all of us.

Two main ways we will do this.

Point # 1.

We’re going to try to re-generate interest in meeting at Millennium Library. We know that many people consider it an unsuitable environment, but our hope is to at least attract a niche interest.

We’re going to now call this our Millennium Chess Study Group. At these meetups, we’re going to bring our books and not just play games. In hushed tones we’re going to study, work problems, analyze, go deep on continuations, play longer games and fight for chess perfection.

Millennium’s 4th floor is typically pretty quiet. Keep in mind that the metal detectors are not going anywhere, that there are well trained community safety hosts, and that the city is committed to keeping the Community Connections resource centre open on the main floor (outside the metal detectors), even on Saturdays.

It’s still not perfect there. Last Saturday someone out of sight was talking loudly about the state of the country for a little while. We didn’t care, the chess was more interesting.

If you’re an adult who mostly wants to play others adults, consider Millennium’s reputation to be a feature. Parents with their chess kids will prefer to be elsewhere.

Our Millennium Chess Study Group will be the destination for the serious chess players of all levels who want to work at getting better together.
Watch the schedule. On subsequent Saturday’s, you’ll see Stefan, Erik, Kyle, and myself all take on hosting.

Action plan #2.

It’s time to catalyze a new casual meetup covering a different part of the city. I propose this take place in south-west Winnipeg (south of the Assiniboine river, west of the Red).

Why south-west Winnipeg? First, it is the epicentre of chess in Winnipeg. This part of of the city is home to both the CMU and U of M tournament venues and also features an extensive private program at the Happy Math Learning Center. (shout out to Theo!)

Second, south-west Winnipeg is home to the largest new residential and commercial developments of recent decades.

Third, not only does south-west Winnipeg have the highest concentration of high earners and wealthy neighbourhoods, it also has a strong recent history of being connected to prominent Winnipegers, including at least the last three mayors (Bowman, Katz, Murray).

I also happen to live in this corner of town. As such, I am offering to facilitate an initial organizing meeting in my living room, complete with tea, coffee and cookies. I’m not going to post my address, but you can get in touch, tell me why you’re interested in co-organizing this and you’ll get invited.

Save the date. The afternoon of Saturday April 27th. FB event to come.

I’m going to recommend that folks go with a rented location for this new venture. The other Library branches are a good first affordable choice. You have a homework assignment, go check out the rentable meeting rooms at the following library branches: Bill and Helen Norie (by Pan Am Pool), Charleswood, Fort Gary, and Pembina Trail.

For bonus, check out churches and other places of worship rental opportunities on their off-peak days.

It was cool that we’ve had coffee shop gatherings in this part of town, but it’s time for something more formal. There is money in south-west Winnipeg to cover the cost of a proper meeting room. We’ll talk about how to get the dollars flowing.

Last point, we envision shared infrastructure as a thing to do between the non-CFC affiliated clubs, and we have some of that already in place to to bring to the party. I have a lot more to say about this topic, but it’s a discussion for another day!

April 1st weekend is another super chess weekend.

Another super chess weekend is ahead. I’d like to highlight four locations that have chess advertised in advance:

  1. Best chess event will be Saturday. I highly recommend the Manitoba Chess Association’s 5 round rapid at St Mary’s Road United Church, 613 St. Mary’s Road. Doors and registration at 9:30am, first round 10am. Contact Al McPherson 204-898-8485.
  2. Want to keep it casual? Erik will once again be at The Forks Market 2nd floor tables Saturday from noon-4pm. Stefan will be at one of the above.
  3. The Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association is still meeting noon-4pm at their resource centre 823 Elice Ave with a workshop at 2pm and pizza, pop and snacks at 1:30pm. Remember to use the door bell.
  4. On both Saturday and Sunday in the daytime, there’s a hackerspace festival at Skullspace, 2nd floor 374 Donald St that Mark is organizing. Door is open 9am Saturday, 11am Sunday. Daytime events at the festival are free. There is some limited table space for casual table-top gaming, chess included. There will also be some other table-top game hosts present. Mark has an exhibition display setup for his Saitek GK 2000 he’s calling the Air Jordan of early 90s [dedicated] chess computers. Everyone is welcome to come play this classic machine on the difficulty settings of your choice and to learn more about it. Erik is also hosting casual chess at Skullspace noon-4pm Sunday.

Tuesday Chess at Robert A. Steen Community Centre + tournament March 30

We’re pleased to share there is a weekly, all-ages free chess drop-in class and meetup at Robert A. Steen Community Centre (980 Palmerston Ave) during the after-school hours of 4:30pm-6pm. This is scheduled for every Tuesday from February 28, 2023 to June 20, 2023.

The meetups feature both instructional and casual playing time and are hosted by Jordan Lavallée.

On Thursday March 30th, noon-3pm (spring break for school kids) they will be hosting their first casual open swiss tournament. 5 rounds, 15 minute time control.

Updates are generally posted on the Chess in Manitoba Facebook Group.

Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association has frequent Saturday chess meetups

The Daniel McIntyre / St. Matthews Community Association (DMSMCA) often has casual chess meetups on Saturday afternoons at their resource centre, 823 Elice Ave. Sometimes this has been every week noon-3pm, other times every other week. They’ve been doing this since August 2022.

Running the program is Adam Kostas, DMSMCA Community Programs Coordinator (Greening and Environment) .
greening [at]
204-774-7005 ext 103 .

Check the calendar at the bottom of their front-page or their frequently updated Twitter feed or Facebook pages. Use the doorbell on arrival.

Their classroom has 5 tables (seating for 10 players), plus there is additional seating and round tables in the lobby.

Some events require pre-registration, so be check the event announcements to be sure. Most other events require sign-in, as they need to gauge for funders how much they are engaging residents of the Daniel MacIntyre and St Matthews neighbourhoods.

Make sure to share the word in particular with folks you know in those two West End neighbourhoods to help them get local turnout. If you’re coming from outside the neighbourhoods, make an extra effort to ensure that you’re supporting local residents in having a fun and instructive time, as their attendance is what will help keep this really great community chess program going in the long run.

Upcoming on Saturday February 11, 2023, Alexander Slobidker will be offering a workshop on Paul Morphy from 2:30-3:30pm.

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 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:

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.