Chess Club charter: training minds outside of school

Annika Bjornson | Staff Writer

Two students sat in concentration across from an advanced chess player, who ran back and forth from each board with ease while other students looked on. This was the third official meeting of the new chess club, which became chartered by an ASWU Assembly vote on Feb. 6. Cameron Rutherford, a junior from Sydney, Australia, was inspired to create the club after a friend encouraged him to share his passions with the campus community.

Rutherford first developed his interest in chess after spending a summer in Colorado at an IT internship, when he joined a family-owned club and began to enjoy the activity. After two years of playing basketball for Whitworth, Rutherford decided to use his time to focus on other passions and began to look into creating a club on campus. He generated interest by word of mouth, over social media, and by playing against passing students in the HUB.

Rutherford discovered that a previous chess club had existed at Whitworth before, which proved to be a valuable resource since there were still ten chess sets left over. He casually discussed the possibility of regenerating a club with ASWU in December, and then officially applied in January. A month later, the club was ready to begin.

Currently, about thirty people are on the weekly email list and have expressed interest. Lessons are run between 5pm-7pm in Westminster 100 on Thursday evenings, and tournaments are held on Sundays. The lessons are structured around the level of experience for the attendants, often involving warm-up practice matches or strategy discussions using the website chess.com. Tournaments currently remain within the Whitworth community, but the Rutherford hopes that they might eventually expand. “The long-term goal is to get rated by the United States Chess Federation,” he said.  In the meantime, his focus is to generate interest and gain momentum so that the club might be able to get funding for tournament prizes.

Senior Mak Karge, an experienced player and friend of Rutherford, expressed excitement for the new club. “Before chess club, I only knew two people who played chess here and I was hoping to find some more competition, so it’s been fun,” he said. “It’s been good to find more people who know how to play.”

When asked why they liked chess, the club members responded that it was a positive brain activity. Freshman William Anderson said, “I like the puzzles and thinking. It’s sort of a nice getaway from class.”

Senior Ronny Banh summarized it this way: “It’s a good way to train your mind without doing school.”

As senior Meiyah Neely engaged in a ten-minute warmup round against Rutherford, she explained how she came to chess club as a beginner. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to learn how to play chess because my dad collected a lot of chess pieces and boards and whatnot, but I never thought that I’d learn because my dad never taught me,” she said. “Then I saw [Cameron] sitting in the HUB playing a whole bunch of people and I was like, ‘I want to do that.’”

Membership has steadily grown in only a few weeks. Rutherford expressed hope that more people might join to try something new. “Clubs are looking to meet with you; you just need to be looking to meet with the clubs, because a lot of people just don’t go to [them],” he said. “They don’t push themselves out of their boundaries, so you might find something you are interested in that you just don’t know about.”

As the club continues to grow and bring in players of varying levels of experience, Karge looks forward to more potential competition. “There’s all these people who keep saying they’re really good at chess, but they never show up, so if they actually think that they’re good, show up,” he said. “Put that in the article.”

Those looking to learn more about the club should contact Cameron at rrutherford20@my.whitworth.edu or attend a Thursday meeting at 5pm in Westminster 100.