When Zachary Wiedrick was eight years old, his father Jim Wiedrick told him that if he could beat him at chess, Jim would give him $100.
After about a year of trying, Zachary earned the $100.
Jim and Zachary still play chess often and Jim estimates that these days he is beaten by his son, now 14, three times out of four.
“Oh yeah, he’s that much better than me,” Jim says.
Zachary says that initially the $100 was his motivation to learn. But by the time he beat his dad the first time, he was hooked. He says chess has taught him strategy, tactical thinking and logic — and it’s fun.
“It’s been a good way to connect with my dad,” he says.
Jim, who has four kids, values this connection with his son. He started playing chess a few years ago as “my dementia prevention exercise,” but now he’s into it for the enjoyment and the social connection with other players.
“It’s cool to have one common activity with your kid that you both like,” says Jim. “And I actually think it’s cool that he’s way better at it than I am.”
Jim and Zachary are both regulars at the weekly get-together of the Central Kootenay Chess Club at the Nelson Seniors Centre, where the Nelson Star visited a group of five players on Dec. 17.
Don Antonsen, a veteran regular at the Saturday morning event that has been going for more than 20 years, says that the pandemic interrupted it for a while, and the numbers have not yet climbed back to the regular 10-15 people. Sometimes the group holds a tournament if there are enough players.
There are lots of reasons to drop in and play, Antonsen says.
“We’re inside. It’s warm. It only costs a dollar. There’s no pressure. You can come down and have a game – one game, two games, three games. There’s food and stuff here, free coffee. It’s a good outing.”
Sean Buzash says he was introduced to chess as an adult 10 years ago. He says it’s popular to play chess online, but he prefers to play “over the board” (in person with real chess pieces).
“It’s just such a social thing,” he says. “It’s a puzzle, you’re trying to execute a plan. And every every game is different. It’s really like art.”
He said the group is for all ages, and before the pandemic there was a player in his eighties who often sat across the board from 10-year-olds.
The internet has opened chess up, and there is now a chess celebrity culture.
“But there’s absolutely something totally different about playing over the board,” Jim Wiedrick says. “And I actually crave that. I like playing over the board more than I like playing on my phone.”
Richard Philips says he learned chess in high school where he got a reputation for playing “a very interesting game but being easy to beat.”
Now, much later in life, Philips says, he plays under “the illusion that maybe I might get better someday.”
This could actually happen, he says, because in chess, “the possibilities are pretty much endless.”
The chess club meets Saturdays at 9 a.m. at the Nelson Senior Citizen’s Association, 717 Vernon St. in Nelson. The group can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.