Bob Rasmussen, Clubs Committee Chair, is Open for Questions
March 24, 2010
Bob Rasmussen is the president of the Fresno Chess Club, the 2009 Chess Club of the Year. CLO is pleased to report that Bob has recently accepted the additional role as the USCF Clubs Committee chair. Bill Goichberg of the USCF Executive Board said, "This committee rarely had an active chair, but Bob is very enthusiastic and led the rebuilding of the Fresno club from 15 members to several hundred during the past few years, so I am optimistic. Anyone interested in discussing how to build a chess club or joining the committee is welcome to call Bob at 559-708-8100."

Fresno Chess Club members appear on Valley Public TV's pledge drive. Photo by Bob Rasmussen from June 09 Chess Life
Indeed, Bob has high hopes for American chess clubs. He told CLO, "I would like bring chess to the more mainstream than it is. I welcome phone calls from anyone who is trying to grow a club or help to make chess more popular." Bob is not much of an email man, but don't be shy-he really wants to hear from you.  See other contact info on the Fresno Club's official website.  

You may recall the name Bob Rasmussen from Chess Life Magazine, where his club was profiled in the June 2009 issue. You can log in as a member and review the article here.  

Bob believes a chess club, especially those that like Fresno, lack outside funding or a permanent space, must follow the same principles as a business. "The Fresno Chess Club is a proud chess club since 1930. Four years ago we were down to 15 members. We lost a lot of members to the Internet and so we put our heads together and we went over reasons why people might quit going and things we would like to see from a club. And we applied those things and now we have 350 paid members. We believe that building a chess club is pretty much an exact science. If you do certain things, your club is going to grow."

The Fresno club added a Friday night session because it allows more people to come out. It's also important to Bob that members all have comfortable seating and that newcomers are given a warm introduction. Some things that seem obvious to Bob are not intuitive for some of the chess organizers he spoke with. "They tell me how hard it is to talk to newcomers when they're in the middle of the game." Bob says, "and they wonder why it's hard to attract more members to their club", Bob says, "Like any business, the new customer is the one you have to make feel comfortable."

The club outgrew their former location Carl's Jr., so they moved to Denny's. The restaurant's only demand is they spend more than $100 a night. "We spent $400 on the first night." 

Tuesday "Ladies' nights" are a new addition to the club menu. 9Queens Tucson all women chess clubs were also captured in the New York Times. Such evenings, Bob said, end up benefiting both genders. "If the ladies can stick the guys with the kids and the dishes on Tuesday night, they are more understanding when the men want to run off to chess club on Monday or Friday night."
Bob also gives ample credit to the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco and director IM John Donaldson. The club "rolls out the red carpet" on the Fresno club's annual visits to the Mechanics. "John is such a gentleman. He gives us a simul when we go there, without a charge. He's helped show us the right way to treat our members by the way he treats us."

Contact Bob Rasmussen at 559-708-8100, find out more about the club at the Fresno Chess club website and check out the feature Chess Life Magazine article on the club.