With a growing membership and recent big tournament win, the UC Davis Chess Team is on the rise.
Last month the club’s team, the UCD Knights, prevailed as champions of the Sacramento Team Chess Championship. The tournament saw many of Northern California’s best teams take each other on in a nail-biting competition. Eight teams competed in seven rounds of simultaneous games over a series of weeks.
“It was a nerve-wracking experience,” said Ryan Leung, club treasurer, adding that their win came down to a slim margin.
Nevertheless, their performance caught the eye of local United States Chess Federation Life Master Michael Aigner, who congratulated the team in his chess blog too. His own team was placed in fourth place behind the UCD Knights.
The club’s B-team, the UCD Bishops, came in sixth place, yet their captain Daniel Huynh, an electrical engineering senior, is quick to point out the positives.
“Every member of our team had fun and learnt a lot,” he said.
For Leung too, there is more to chess than winning or losing. For him, it’s the club’s atmosphere that makes it so enjoyable.
“No one has yet mastered the game fully, and that feeling that everyone is working towards the same goal is rewarding in itself,” Leung said in an e-mail interview.
The club boasts a diverse group of members.
“We’re not your stereotypical nerdy bunch,” said Leung, a senior civil and environmental engineering major, emphasizing that chess isn’t just for “geniuses.“
For 15 years Leung has played chess and recognizes the challenges the game can hold for beginners and experts alike. But Leung said chess is a game anybody can try, and the club caters to all levels of ability.
The club boasts members ranked as “national masters,” a rating awarded by the United States Chess Federation to players who play competitively at a consistently high level.
Club Vice President James Heiserman attained this rating playing for the UCD Chess Club.
A sophomore neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, Heiserman is quick to credit the club with helping him attain this high level of play.
“Without them I wouldn’t be playing at the level I am today,” he said.
As well as boasting top rated players as members, the club caters to beginners too.
On Thursdays they offer game sessions as well as game analysis, organizing chess lectures and seminars in which the club’s more experienced members, like Heiserman, give tips and guidance.
On Fridays the club holds special events such as tournaments and round robins for members to gain competitive experience.
For Leung, such circulation of knowledge has been helpful in improving his own game.
“I have been learning chess for the past 15 years, but at the chess club my learning has been much more rapid,” Leung said.
Furthermore, the knowledge that members have gained is not limited to the chess board, Leung said.
“Most if not all of our members believe that anyone can be brilliant at the game, or anything else in life, just as long as you have the interest and passion for it,” he said.
The club’s more competitive members meanwhile have their eyes focused on future competitions.
“The club has an enormous potential to flourish into a nationally recognized organization,” Heiserman said. “There are team tournaments designed for colleges and if the chess club were to compete in one of these I feel we would be very successful. It’s only a matter of time before we compete in something bigger.“
The UC Davis Chess Club meets every week on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Memorial Union’s Fielder and Garrison rooms.
CHRISTOPHER BONE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.