The Markosian Library on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus has more than just chemistry and English on center stage for thought. It’s where the SLCC Chess Team hones its skills, and leading the group is one of the state’s best coaches, Grant Hodson.
Hodson is the president of the Utah Chess Association, where he is in charge of all of the nationally sanctioned chess tournaments that are held in Utah, among other duties. Eight years ago, he decided to start a club here at SLCC.
“Simply put, I love chess and believe that all schools should have a club,” he said.
The club recently held the 2010 SLCC Chess Championship, with Dave Larson, who is the club president, winning the title. Anthony Frank came in second.
Despite such a strong coach and good players, the team has struggled to attract a large population of people who want to play. Hodson and Larson make it clear that all are invited and encouraged to play.
Hodson said, “Chess is a great game. Tarrasch, the best chess teacher of all times put it this way, ‘Chess, like love and music has the ability to make men happy.'” Hodson wants to ensure that this statement is not gender biased. He continued, “I know a lot of very strong female players, as well, that love playing–and winning.”
Hodson is not the only one at SLCC who feels this way about chess.
Larson said, “Chess connects everybody.”
In fact, Hodson commented that chess is much like soccer in terms of its appeal worldwide. Some might see the game as one reserved for only a certain demographic, but he assures that all people can find a certain satisfaction from playing.
“The game is uplifting and very challenging,” Hodson said, “You can seldom think too hard at chess. From a competitive standpoint, combative sports result in bruises if you’re lucky, and serious injury if you’re not. In chess, at least if you’re humble, you can have gain without the pain.”
Julian Sirkin, a member of the club, continued the sports comparison by saying, “One bad move can cost you the game,” a comment often made by players of sports like basketball and football. Hodson added that the best of chess players are ones who are physically in shape and who train regularly. That certainly goes against the stereotype that chess players are “bookworms” with no social lives.
Hodson also wants to help students understand that they don’t need to have extensive chess experience to play at SLCC, or even any at all. The club meets each Wednesday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the basement of the Markosian Library, with Hodson giving some training at the beginning of the session. For those who are interested in more advanced chess, they can join the US Chess Federation and join the team on Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. in room 64 in the basement to play “rated” games, which are tracked for individuals to increase their national ranking.
As a coach, Hodson finds it very rewarding to teach others the game he loves. He said, “It is really nice to see improvement. On the one hand I hate to lose, but on the other hand we learn best from our mistakes… It certainly is possible for all players to get better, but it’s a game; it’s fun regardless of the outcome.”
With practice and a little guidance from Hodson, any student at SLCC can find themselves regularly uttering, “Checkmate.”