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A Game for Life

‘Game of Kings’ offers great benefits to players both young and old

Known as the “Game of Kings,” chess has been played and enjoyed by millions since the sixth century, and its presence remains today throughout the Front Range and Colorado Springs. Chess enthusiasts gather at various locations throughout our fair city several times a week to match wits, trade pawns and enjoy camaraderie with others who love what many people believe is the most difficult game in the world.

“It’s an art that developed many, many years ago, and it’s never lost its appeal,” says Dean Brown, a member of the Colorado Springs Chess Club who organizes the club’s Wednesday and Thursday games at a pair of Panera Bread locations in town. “It’s fresh, no matter what generation. I can go 500 miles to a chess tournament, and I know a dozen people there who I’ve played.”

Whether young or old, chess is a game for anyone and everyone, one that attracts people from all professions and walks of life. A person may square off against a 50-year-old expert one game and then find themselves across the board from an up-and-coming 10-year-old whiz kid the next time they sit down to play.

“No activity appeals to everyone, although chess is playable by anyone,” says C. Lee Simmons of Rocky Mountain Chess, who runs one of the state’s top scholastic chess programs. “Whether it’s men, women, boys or girls, everyone competes on a level playing field. That’s a nice thing, because that’s not always the case in other sports.”

Yes, chess is considered by many to be a sport. With official world championships being awarded since 1886, chess is a brain-bending challenge that often requires players to perform gymnastics of a mental variety.

For some lifelong chess players, the game is much more.

“To me, it’s actually a very spiritual game,” says Paul Anderson, an expert-rated Colorado Springs player who produces the informative and popular Colorado Springs Chess News. “You have to be patient and exercise a lot of self control, and the intangible quality is that, the better you get at those things, the better your chess gets. Once you learn the tactics and learn how the pieces move, there’s only so much stuff there. It’s basically using the intangibles to avoid blunders during the game that make you lose.”

Like other sports, chess can teach children and adults life lessons they can carry forever.

“Oh my goodness, I’ve gotten so much out of it,” says Buck Buchanan, who runs CSCC and is the state’s delegate to the United States Chess Federation. “It’s just such a wonderful game. The rules are pretty simple, but there’s room for a world of creativity in it. It’s like music in that way.
“You take a few simple things and just go wild with them. It’s just infinite in what you can do. It’s a delight to play; it’s very satisfying intellectually and creatively. It appeals to all kinds of different people.”

For children, it’s a game they can enjoy for the rest of their lives, one that can also provide social interaction and friends.
“It gives you some of the things you’ll find in other sports,” says Simmons, who has been teaching the game for more than 40 years. “There’s camaraderie – kids make good friendships – and anything that keeps the gray matter moving has to be pretty good. A lot of kids are searching for something that they’re lacking and can get involved in, and chess is often that ‘thing.’”

Anthea Carson, co-author of the highly popular chess books “Tactics Time” and “Tactics Time 2” with Tim Brennan, agrees.

“More than anything else, I think it’s fun,” she says. “The fact that there’s all this scholastic chess where kids can play in rated tournaments is really great for the kids. I didn’t have that growing up in Osh Kosh, Wis., so these kids are getting an advantage I never got. And they’re beating us now!”

The CSCC meets Tuesdays in the Acacia Apartments ballroom on East Platte and Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the Panera Bread locations on Powers and North Academy, respectively. Players can hone their skills in those weekly games, while also playing in statewide tournaments through the CSCC network.
Chess is often the “thing” adults find that helps complete their social circle or feeds their competitive desires.

“It took me a long time to develop, and I was in my 40s when I finally got a master’s rating,” Buchanan says. “It’s been a lot of fun on the way. It’s not always the place you get to, but the journey along the way that’s the best part.

“Chess has been a great journey for me.” 

Colorado Chess Websites

Colorado Springs Chess Club: www.SpringsChess.org

Colorado Springs Chess News: www.ColoradoSpringsChessNews.com

Rocky Mountain Chess: www.RockyMountainChess.com

Colorado Springs Scholastic Chess Club: www.csschess.com

Colorado State Chess Association: www.Colorado-Chess.com