Batavia resident and avid chess player Kevin Larsen has had some free time on his hands lately, so he decided to start a chess club in Batavia.
This comes just as the game of chess seems to be making a comeback. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the game lags in popularity in spite of a record number of players worldwide -- possibly due to the absence of an appealing personality to represent it.
A promising candidate is 22-year-old Norwegian player Magnus Carlsen, who is the top-ranked chess player worldwide. Larsen has not followed Carlsen too closely, but he agrees that an appealing personality as the "face of chess" might, in part, be what the game needs.
"If people see someone young and cool playing chess," he said, "they might be more interested."
Furnished with United States Chess Federation regulation boards, clocks, and scorebooks, the "Batavia Community Chess Club" is for novices and chess buffs alike.
"As long as people have fun with it, it's fine with me," Larsen said. "But I do hope to get people who are interested in coming every week and want to get better at chess by studying and competing."
He would like people to use clocks so that competitors have equal playing time, as well as scorebooks so they can keep track of their progress in the game and discover what they need to work on.
So far, 13 people have said they will come to the first meeting this Thursday from 6 until 8:30 p.m. at the Richmond Memorial Library, at 19 Ross St. in Batavia.
Club meetings will take place every Thursday during that time frame. All ages are welcome, but young children should be accompanied by their parents.
Larsen said it will be easier if everyone who is interested comes at the same time, since otherwise people might have to wait 30 minutes to an hour for someone to play against. But people are welcome to walk in at any time between 6 and 8:30.
Because "Batavia Community Chess Club" is being run with the support of the library, it is open to the public at no cost. However, Larsen said he will accept any donations to pay for equipment upgrades, clocks, and funding for the NIOGA Library System so they can purchase more chess-related books.
Chess has been touted as a tool for helping people to sharpen their concentration, build patience and perseverance, develop critical and analytical thinking, and improve planning and management skills.
Larsen rejects the stereotype that you have to have a high IQ in order to do well at chess.
"It helps," he said, "but if you have a good teacher and are willing to study, you'll do fine. I've read scientific literature about people who had below-average IQs but were high-ranking chess players."
Right now, Larsen has only a couple of volunteers helping with the club. When he gets more, he would like to have people available to teach the game.
For more information and to contact Larsen, visit www.bataviachess.org.