USCF Home Chess Life Online 2008 July St.Louis Chess Club Opens
|St.Louis Chess Club Opens|
|By Steve Goldberg|
|July 21, 2008|
It was a spectacular opening for what promises to be a spectacular chess club. At the media cocktail reception the evening before the official opening of the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center , dozens of local media and chess aficionados were treated to tours, an abundance of free food and drinks, a talk by philanthropist Rex Sinquefield and a lecture by local Life Master Bob Jacobs. The complimentary valet parking was a nice touch as well.
Invited guests were greeted with a personalized name tag, a media kit and a sturdy pocket magnetic chess set. Pleasant servers continually roamed the three floors of the magnificent club, offering various delicacies to the guests.
Approximately 6000 square feet in size, the St. Louis Chess Club is situated on a busy street in a tony, hip part of urban St. Louis bustling with activity. On the sidewalk outside the front doors sit about half a dozen stone chess tables, ready for a game at any time. Inside the club, there is an airy, open feeling with large windows and excellent lighting. On the main floor is a reception desk where visitors can be greeted. The walls on both floors are adorned with flat panel displays of video art created by artist Diana Thater. These LCD/plasma monitors show re-enacted historic games in progress, on boards that appear to be floating, with hands periodically appearing on-screen. The week before, the club had an art opening which included a visit by Thater, which will be dicsussed in an upcoming article in Chess Life Magazine by CLO editor Jennifer Shahade.
There are also large wall-mounted plasma screens which are connected to eight separate DGT chessboards, each connected to a computer able to relay live moves to the screens. In addition, there is a large lecture area in the lower level, equipped with a 52” plasma monitor that can be utilized for audiovisual presentations.
This lower level also contains a chess library of books and DVDs, a lounge for comfortable reading, and a full kitchen for events such as our cocktail reception.
On the upper level is a large playing area, and a boardroom containing comfortable easy chairs for kibitzing or relaxing. The warm tones of the room, coupled with the soft rugs and sunlight streaming in the windows, ensures a comfortable space for players or guests. The club provides free wireless internet access so a favorite tournament can be followed online or a parent can occupy him- or herself while a child plays in an event at the center.
Throughout the club are attractive, tasteful furnishings. It seems clear that no expense was spared in producing a dignified décor appropriate for our classic game.
The club’s existence is primarily due to the generosity and passion of one man, Rex Sinquefield. Known in Missouri for his dedication to the advancement of educational initiatives, he explained his reason for opening this beautiful chess and scholastic center. “Kids who get into chess benefit in all sorts of ways,” he said, noting that the main purpose of the center is to support scholastic chess. However, “St. Louis has lacked a centralized resource to teach kids and to teach teachers.”
The First Move program of America’s Foundation for Chess has begun to be utilized by a few schools in St. Louis, and it is the goal of the St. Louis Chess and Scholastic Center to increase this presence. Part of the club’s mission statement notes that the group “is committed to supporting those chess programs that already exist in area schools, while encouraging the development of new programs within regular school curricula.”
Toward the end of the evening reception, Life Master Bob Jacobs presented his well-attended talk entitled “Historical Sidelights in Chess.” Among the many interesting tidbits he offered:
· The second book ever printed in English, in 1476, was The Game and Play of Chess
· Advice from Lucena: only play after your opponent has had a great amount of food and drink
· A fascinating story of the role that chess may have played in the British losing the Revolutionary War
· Most of the nation’s founding fathers played chess, with Benjamin Franklin foremost among them; some of his games reputedly took place in women’s restrooms in France
· The story of three members of the 1939 British Chess Olympiad team who were instrumental in breaking the German “Enigma” code during World War II
The new St. Louis Chess and Scholastic Center is certainly one of the most impressive chess centers in the U.S., with many tournaments and lectures already planned. But one aspect it shares with chess clubs everywhere. As founder Sinquefield stated, the club is “where egos are shattered on a daily basis.”
For more information, see www.saintlouischessclub.org , or call (314) 361-2437. For more photos, check Steve Goldberg's blog at, www.scholasticchess.blogspot.com.