24 March 2023

New Eurobodalla club welcomes all to a battle of wits

| Zoe Cartwright
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Two people playing chess

Young contender Jack tackles veteran chess player and Batemans Bay Chess Club founder James Clark. Photo: Batemans Bay Chess Club.

Across a table a child intently eyes off their adult opponent, carefully considering the options available to them.

This is no ordinary stoush between a parent and child – it’s a calculated game, and one that either has a chance of winning.

Both are members of the Batemans Bay Chess Club, whose membership has grown rapidly since COVID-19 restrictions eased last year.

Batemans Bay man James Clark started the club after he found online gaming just wasn’t as fun as playing against an opponent in real life.

The 38-year-old received his first chess set aged about seven and hasn’t looked back.

“I searched for a local chess club several years ago, but the nearest one I could find was in Canberra,” he said.

“I continued to play chess online, along with the occasional game with friends and family over the board.

“I wanted a local club, and as there wasn’t one, I decided to start it myself.”

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A friend, Jason Akmens, donated the club’s first chessboards and clocks, and they began playing at Corrigans Park.

After a few months, to get out of the weather, the group moved to Club Catalina, and haven’t looked back since.

They now have more than 25 players, with weekly sessions ranging in attendance from eight to 25 players, with ages from four to 70 and abilities from beginner to well above average – with age not necessarily translating to ability.

James said chess appealed to many people for the intellectual challenge it provided.

It’s something people from all ages and backgrounds can take part in and helps develop valuable skills that can translate to other facets of life.

People playing chess

Joe Wong battles Oliver Smith as Charli Heron faces off with Gavin Heron. Photo: Batemans Bay Chess Club.

“Chess is a game that requires deep levels of critical thinking, strategic planning, and problem-solving skills,” he said.

“Chess also teaches valuable life lessons, such as patience, discipline, and strategic thinking.

“Although it may seem daunting to begin, starting with the basics and playing with other beginners can help build confidence and enjoyment.

“If people are interested in joining the club, they don’t need an understanding of chess to start.

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“Everyone has to start somewhere, and practice makes perfect.

“We are always willing to help them learn the basics – they are also welcome to come along and just watch.”

James hopes to grow the club in future, with the potential to host official tournaments and stream games live on Twitch, a platform that focuses on live-streaming video games and esports.

To do that, he hopes to find some sponsorship to secure the longevity of the club and invest in more equipment, like electronic wooden chessboards that would enable live-streaming of games.

But for now, he’s happy the club is steadily growing, and they have a home for members to improve their skills.

Batemans Bay Chess Club is held every Wednesday from 5 pm to 7 pm in the Blue Room at Club Catalina, and new players are always welcome.

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