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U of C Chess Club: Success in the Sport

By Nazeefa Ahmed, June 9 2022

Chess is one of the only board games that has transcended time. While Monopoly boards and rubix cubes get pushed to the back of the closet after a couple of years, the chess board and all of its logical intricacies capture millions of brilliant minds. The U of C chess club is a group on campus that enthusiasts can join to be around those who love the sport equally. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Talha Lodhi, the junior executive of the U of C chess club, introduced the club and what it stands for.  

“We are a club that brings people of all skill levels to play chess together,” he said. “During the fall and winter semester, we meet online every Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to compete on Lichess. It is a free-for-all tournament as well.”  

Lodhi described how his love for chess grew during key online tournaments and shows during the pandemic. 

“I have been playing chess since I was a kid, but back then, it was usually an on and off thing,” he said. “I started playing more after the 2020 PogChamps tournament and watching the Queen’s Gambit. That peaked my interest more as a chess player.”

The U of C chess club’s first organized tournament was against the University of Alberta, in which Lodhi was involved in and helped the club win. They have plans to compete against other institutions in the future.

Lodhi described what had drawn him into the game and joining the club. 

“Chess is more of a battle between your plans and your opponents’ plans,” he said. “Another thing that fascinates me is table bases — which is when a chess board can be solved with a certain number of pieces. Right now, any seven pieces that someone puts on the board, chess can be solved. There are also some board patterns that need 200 moves to checkmate, which is crazy.”

Over the years, many books have been written about the game, from opening principles, to organizing a good queenside defence. While those books are geared towards more expert players, Lodhi discussed what skills are foundational for those beginning the game. 

“To be a good chess player, you need to have a solid understanding of the different openings,” he said. “You need to be aware of the different pawn structures and endgames that arise from those openings. One thing that differentiates someone like me from a grandmaster is that they are very good at endgames.”

Like any sport, chess has international competitions that determine who is the best in the world. The FIDE World Championship is held annually under the International Chess Foundation. Lodhi has many grandmasters that he looks up to, such as Magnus Carlsen who is a five-time World Chess Champion, three-time World Rapid Chess Champion and five-time World Blitz Chess Champion. 

“Personally, I really like Magnus Carlsen because he is known for trying to create winning chances in a drawn endgame, so that is an attitude of never giving up even if it looks like a draw,” he said. “Aishwanand Anand is also an Indian grandmaster and five-time world champion who is known for his opening preparation. To some extent, you could say that I have taken inspiration from that since I know quite a bit of opening theory myself.”

Playing in the weekly tournaments is free for anyone, but officially joining the club requires paying a small fee. More information about the club can be found on their Instagram @chess.ucalgary.

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