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.

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