Chess club offers drop-in activity for all levels

Photo by Denette Watson
During Thursday’s chess club meeting Al Turner (front row left) awaits the next move by Russell Andres (right). After a few moments of observation, George Mayrand (back row left) prepares to execute a move against Keith Gaddis.

Sunday Times Newspapers


Six members of the Alex McNeilly Chess Club gathered at Bacon Memorial Library, 45 Vinewood St., to face off in a few games of chess.

The chess club is a drop-in gathering where players of all ages and experience levels meet from 7 to 8:45 p.m. Thursdays to enjoy a game against a new opponent or old foe.

Al Turner, 83, the club’s organizer, started the club five years ago to teach children how to play chess. Since then, the club has evolved to include players of all ages and acts as a social gathering.

“I’ve been playing chess for a long time,” Turner said. “I play and teach people to play because chess has been a passion of mine since I was 18 years old.”

Turner named the chess club after former member Alex McNeilly. According to Turner, McNeilly purchased six new chess sets and donated them to the club because he was bothered that the club did not have adequate equipment to meet the needs of its members.

McNeilly has since left the club but the chess sets he purchased are still in use today.

Turner teaches basic strategy and tricks on how to win games. Each week he challenges members to solve a chess puzzle.

“Chess is a game of observation,” Turner said. “The most observant player is going to win.”

Turner reinforced that statement when playing against 10-year-old Jackson Sarna.

“You missed a good move,” Turner told Sarna.

He reset the pieces.

“What do you see?” he asked, challenging Sarna to make a better move.

After a few moments of observing the pieces on the board, Sarna made a new move. Much to the delight of Turner, Sarna made the better move.


Russell Andres, 15, joined the chess club because it sounded fun and because he needed something to do for the summer. Prior to joining the club he played mostly at home against his dad or on the computer.

“I don’t win much but I’ve learned new moves like castling and en passant,” Andres said.

Member Keith Gaddis, 57, is coined by Turner and other members of the club as their best player.

Gaddis estimates his player rating about 1,900 and classifies himself as an expert. He said he has several years of experience including playing competitively in college and in the 1992 U.S Open Chess Championship.

Now, Gaddis only plays casually and to socialize. At one point, during Thursday’s meeting, Gaddis played three games simultaneously, alternating between boards while his opponents decided their next moves.

“Chess is an equalizer,” Gaddis said. “No matter who you are, what you look like or what your physical capabilities are, if you make the right moves you will win.”

Member George Mayrand, 76, has lost his fair share of matches to Gaddis, but for Mayrand, playing chess establishes a degree of camaraderie. He believes chess is a good exercise for the mind that forces a person to concentrate and think outside the box.

“If you don’t take the game too seriously (like I do), you can actually have a lot of fun,” he said.