Cranbrook’s destiny as a chess playing hotbed is on track.
A Cranbrook chess club, formed early in 2016 has been greeted with an enthusiastic response, and now the Club is launching the Cranbrook School of Chess, which will run all summer and continue afterwards.
“We want to create opportunity for youth — elementary through college- and university-age — to discover the game and help place Cranbrook on the map of national and possibly international chess,” said Dekkers, one of the club and school organizers.
The new club has 40 players on the roll at present “Everybody’s not always there every night, but it’s a very nice attendance.” Dekkers added that the Cranbrook club is larger than the Calgary Chess Club.
The school is currently in the recruiting stage. “We need to have 10 students enrolled before we actually go forward. We plan to have the first school meeting Monday evening, 7 to 9 p.m. The intention is to run it every Monday throughout the summer — as a summer program.”
While the school will be held Monday nights, the Cranbrook Chess Club itself runs every Wednesday evening in a public access classroom in the Cranbrook Alliance Church. Members represent all age groups and abilities.
“We’ve got several members who are just below the Master’s level — so really high,” Dekkers said. “They would love to try to get Cranbrook and the national and possibly even the international competition point.
When you start as a younger player — in your teens or even in elementary school, that’s where you’re going to discover talent, and if those young flexible brains start to engage in the game and they really have a talent then they can soar really high, incredibly fast. That’s what we want to achieve as well — that we’re going find several players like that as well.
But Dekkers says it’s important to remember that the beauty of the game is that anyone, at any level, at any level of talent, can enjoy the game.
“Because at anyone’s level it’s an equal match, and equal challenge. As long as you match your opponents properly — and we have enough player variety to do that — then you can have a really fun game.”
Dekkers references a 2013 film “Life of a King,” based on the story of Eugene Brown, who learned to play chess in prison. When he got out, he wanted to help children discover the game as well, and went on to found a prestigious chess school in Washington, D.C.
“Because the game shows you, very strongly, the consequences of cause and effect. You make this choice, this will be the outcome. You think early on in your life that something isn’t important, it’s going to haunt you 20 years down the road.
The game of chess is very suitable to teach those life lessons — to have a play, to think it through, and how a mistake can become a real problem, or something that looks like a minor detail can actually very important.
“It’s a very healthy game. You can’t go wrong with playing chess. You can’t lose your money at it, you can’t become addicted, you don’t develop dangerous habits. You’re playing with other people, it’s relational.”
The club uses a common ranking system — a statistical process of seeing how well one plays, in comparison with others, determing probabilities of the outcome of each match and expressing each outcome with points.
“With the ranking already in place — and we have played 500 games now together — we have a very accurate idea of where everybody ranks,” Dekkers said. “And the ranking is a beautiful thing, almost a straight line when you graph it out. That means a novice chess player can come and play with other novices, and a lower intermediate player can come and we have several lower intermediate players. And if an advanced player comes — almost at Master level — then we have advanced players as well to play against. We have players of all levels.
“As a co-op, of course, all rankings over time start to increase, because you’re all together and you’re paying attention to your game and your development. So everybody gets better.”
For more information on the Cranbrook Chess Club and the upcoming Cranbrook Summer Chess School, check out the website cranbrookchess.com, or Cranbrook Chess on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We feel that if we create this, and it’s successful, then it could create an avenue for a number of youth who are interested in it,” Dekkers said.