WESTFIELD, NJ — Stop by the Kellogg Room on the second floor of the Westfield YMCA on nearly any Sunday and you’ll see that the national chess boom has reached Westfield.
With members ranging in age from 5 to 83, the club hosted a record 111 players at once for one of its weekly tournaments on June 23.
The rapid growth has spurred directors John Moldovan and Pat Mazzillo to enhance organization with tighter deadlines and add a second computer for registration.
The Westfield Chess Club is a tournament-running organization and does not offer lessons. It runs tournaments with quads, designed to keep foursomes of similar abilities playing each other, with the first-place player winning money.
On a recent Sunday, 94 players were divided into 22 quads of four and a final section of the six lowest rated players. As younger players tend to improve at breakneck speed, the composition of the quads changes from week to week. The directors can also direct the software to not put siblings and teammates in the same section.
“It is not uncommon to see a player come into Westfield as a beginner and work their way up the quads as they improve,” Mazzillo said
One of the reasons for the Westfield Chess Club’s success has been its track record of spawning some of the country’s best chess players. Fabiano Caruana, who played Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship last November, played numerous times at Westfield as a pre-teen.
Current US Champion Hikaru Nakamura, a six-time US champion, was a regular at the club in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A recent graduate of the club is town resident Brandon Jacobson who, at 15, became an international master and currently attends Columbia University.
A new lounge area adjacent to the Kellogg Room has made for a comfortable area for parents and family members to sit and socialize. (The directors try to discourage family members from staying in the tournament rooms.)
While the YMCA does not directly charge the nonprofit Westfield Chess Club for its facilities, the two have benefited from each other.
“As a cause-driven organization that is for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Westfield Area YMCA gladly supports the Westfield Chess Club and other non-profit organizations by offering them the use of our facilities for their meetings,” said Marla Itzkin, director communications and marketing for the YMCA.
Moldovan was quick to mention that the YMCA’s cooperation has also been a major factor in the club’s success and he thanked the people who helped make it happen.
“Chuck Dashiell has been instrumental in securing the spacious second-floor Kellogg rooms and spots for overflow on an almost weekly basis and Monica Tavares has also been very helpful with logistics,” said Moldovan. “We do our best to try and treat all our players with respect and appreciate their loyalty.”
According to Moldovan, there is enough equipment (boards, sets and clocks) for 120 players on hand. For a special event, the club could borrow equipment from the Kenilworth Chess Club and Renna Media to accommodate 200 players.
Based on current trends that may not be that outlandish.
The Westfield Chess Club meets most Sundays at the main YMCA building, 220 Clark Street, Westfield, NJ. Dues are $40 for 12 months or $20 for 6 months. Members of the US Chess Federation may pre-register for an event by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the tournament date, player's name and USCF ID number.
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