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Two Different Chicago Chess Venues, Two Different Experiences

June 12th, 2009

Ever since my mental meltdown at the 2009 Chicago Open due to nerves, I’ve been trying to figure out ways of getting more face-to-face OTB chess in. Playing online at ICC is fine, but having a living, breathing, talking person over the board against you is something else entirely.

One way to get that OTB fix was to play more tournaments, so I’ve registered for the 2009 Chicago Class Championships. Another was to try out some of the local chess clubs and events. This past Wednesday I made my second appearance at the Wicker Park Chess Club, which meets on Wednesday’s at 7PM at Myopic Books on 1564 N. Milwaukee Ave in Chicago.

Wicker Park Chess Club

The first time I went a few months ago, the attendance was sparse and my opponents showed that self-taught gigantism of opening and middlegame competence. I muddled through the openings, held my own in the middlegame, and then my opponents turned into children in the endgame. This last time the attendance was much better, and several members brought their own boards and clocks. I played 15 minute chess throughout (no blitz for me, nosirree). I lost two games on initial game jitters, one by panicking against a flank opening ( 1. g4) and one by overlooking a simple combination. The rest I won pretty convincingly, though nobody at the club would admit to being an active tournament player. :-) I had lots of fun against one guy’s Dutch defense. He didn’t much like my 1. d4 f5 2. Bg5, then again, that’s why I stopped playing the dutch.

Overall, the Wicker Park Chess Club was a pretty good experience, and got me my OTB fix. It’s clear that I probably need to look at a few more positions with a physical chess board, rather than on a computer screen.

Touch Move Chess Center

Yesterday afternoon I saw a message go out over the Chicago Chess Meetup Group mailing list. IM Angelo Young was going to be giving a lecture at his Touch Move Chess Center on games from this year’s Chicago Open. Great! It’s way up there on 5639 N. Ashland, but what the heck. You don’t turn down some advice from an IM, right? So I haul all the way up there on the Brown Line and then the #50 Damen bus. Roughly 50 minutes travel time.

As it turns out, only 2 folks showed up for the lecture and Angelo didn’t feel that was enough to warrant giving the lecture. So I played a couple of distracted games against and old-timer. I blundered away two pieces and the exchange for three pawns in a Reti that I tried to treat as a Nimzo Indian, and was able to get back material by storming my pawns through the center and held a NvsR draw. Blech. Then I was up a piece in the second game and just folded like a cheap lawn chair in a completely won position. :-(

Meanwhile the other guy who showed up for the lecture was getting rolled by a Serbian guy in blitz. I had flashbacks to my days of wasting time in Washington Square and the Manhattan Chess Club in NYC and Harper Court in Hyde Park. All this time, Angelo appeared to be playing online poker at his desk in the corner. Overall a disappointing experience. Maybe it’s a better scene on the weekends. Don’t think I’ll be coming back during the week.

Coming up? Maybe I’ll give the Evanston Chess Club a try. It does seem somewhat sad that Chicago doesn’t have a nice, regular chess club somewhere closer to the city, sort of like the Boylston Chess Club in Boston.


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