Boise State University’s chess club makes chess accessible to both new players and skilled veterans.
Chess gained immense online popularity during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to safety regulations, players had to stick to online games until recently. The chess club on campus offers a great way to play over-the-board games.
Senior electrical engineering major and club president Ty Pfost reestablished the club in September 2021. Since then, it has grown to over 40 members of all different skill levels.
“We basically have everyone from every rating level,” said sophomore political science major Diego Cowmey. “We have people who’ve never played before and just want to get better, and we have full-on experts.”
The club pushes to be beginner friendly and have in-person meetings that serve as a social experience, which encourages new and returning members to learn, experiment and improve, according to Pfost.
Senior elementary education major Ashley Hardy says she enjoys her time at club meetings for this reason. She mentioned trying out crazy moves that often cause her to lose the game.
“I’m one of the players that play for fun,” Hardy said. “We help people learn by going through different strategies, talking about different openings and working on endings, and just playing together because you learn more as you play.”
The club is very beginner friendly. Pfost says everyone is willing to teach and play newcomers.
“We especially want people to try out the game and learn how to play because it is intimidating,” Pfost said. “People always associate it with intellect and knowledge, but it just comes down to practice.”
A common misconception about chess is that it’s “very mathematical,” as Cowmey put it. The truth is, there’s a variety of ways to play.
“Chess for me is like a good argument. You’re constantly questioning your opponent’s play and asking questions about their position and they’re asking questions about yours,” Cowmey said.
Cowmey is one of the more experienced players that enjoys competing. Recently the club entered Chess.com’s North American Collegiate Esports league (NACE) tournament, a competition for college clubs around the country.
Pfost says the club hopes to do more online and in-person tournaments in the future for players who like to compete.
For now, Boise State’s chess club is looking for anyone and everyone that is interested in chess. The members say that one of the best parts about the club is the new people and experiences it offers.
“I think over-the-board, in-person games [are] the best way to find enjoyment in the game,” Pfost said. “Having someone to talk to, seeing their actual face, commentating on the game, messing around a little bit is just a great way to get better, and to meet people and to experience the game in a whole new way.”
There are plenty of interesting stories about the history of chess that the members share during the meetings too.
“For example, there’s an opening in chess called the orangutan opening which got its name from a grand master who went to a zoo and had a monkey, apparently, play a move for him, and that’s how that opening gets its name,” Cowmey said.
The future looks bright for members of this young club. They are excited to be here hanging out and playing chess at Boise State.
“On Friday nights I could do anything else,” Pfost said. “I could go to parties or hang with my other friends, but I actually want to be at the [chess] club.”
The club meets in the Bronco Lounge inside the Student Union Building, behind Subway on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Fridays at 7 p.m. and has a Chess.com page.