The giant chess piece outside the St. Louis Chess Club in the Central West End grew even bigger this spring to regain its title as world’s largest.
It’s a fitting play as the club celebrates its 10-year anniversary on Tuesday.
Since its opening gambit back in 2008, the St. Louis Chess Club has hosted numerous national and global tournaments while also sponsoring school clubs and summer camps. In 2011, the World Chess Hall of Fame relocated to St. Louis, right across the street from the club.
The presence of high-profile chess tournaments and players has had a ripple effect in St. Louis. At a club-sponsored chess camp last week at Saint Louis University, students huddled over boards as grandmasters watched over them, calling out challenges or offering tips.
Darien Jones, 10, said he enjoys the “war-goes-on” mentality during a chess match.
“You can take multiple pieces to get checkmate and get them out of the way so they won’t get in your way,” Jones said.
Jones and several campers said they got into the game at school. For others, it was an older family member who taught them. The club’s executive director, Tony Rich, picked up chess as a way to pass time waiting to get picked up from high school.
“Watching the club grow over these last 10 years has been not just fun, but kind of inspiring for St. Louis as well,” Rich said.
He said highlights over the past decade have been hosting international tournaments and showing St. Louis the reach of the game. As for the future, he said getting more kids involved in the game will have an impact.
“You’ll see these students whenever they do graduate, will have higher test scores, better attendance records, better behavior. And they’ll be better members of our community.”
Young players can be drawn to the competition, the strategy or just the beauty of executing moves, he added.
The club hosts adult events, too. And it’s involved in a study on chess’s ability to slow or prevent dementia at Saint Louis University.
The chess club is hosting a tournament this week. It’ll break for anniversary festivities, which will include painting a MetroBus, free chess matches and a happy hour in the shadow of the world’s largest chess piece.
Normal-sized chess boards and pieces can be elaborate works of art, too, which can inspire and motivate players. The club has its own set.
But Rich said you can gauge the passion of a chess player when they’re using a tiny travel board with small, magnetic pieces.
“That’s how you know whenever a chess player has really caught the bug,” he said.
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