The Student Chess Club Rotterdam, a non-university-affiliated students’ sports club with ten members, tried to raise awareness of their sport among students by organising an informal afternoon of chess. And successfully so, because on Tuesday, about twenty-five interested students showed up at the Erasmus Sports Café to play a few games.

A group of students sat at two long tables at the Erasmus Sports Café, fully focused on the objects in front of them. The objects of their attention were not textbooks, but rather game boards with black and tan pieces on them. Placed in between the boards were chess clocks, which reduced the amount of time the players could take to contemplate their next moves and so kept the games somewhat dynamic.

Level of interest

The initiator of the get-together, Business Economics student Johnny Yang, 24, walked around the café welcoming interested parties. He decided to organise the get-together to gauge students’ level of interest in chess. According to Yang, many students play chess online.

However, Rotterdam does not yet have an official students’ chess club. “I intend to establish a long-term chess club here on campus. Particularly if this afternoon of chess turns out to be a hit,” said Yang, who was taught how to play chess by his Chinese father. For the time being he will borrow boards and pieces from Rotterdam-based chess club Onésimus.

Initiator and Business Economics student Johnny Yang, 24, weighs all the pros and cons of his next move. Image credit: Jack Parker

Calming experience

Many of the students attending the event were pleasantly surprised by the game. Take 21-year-old Sandy Molenaar, for instance. “Chess calms you down. I tend to think a lot, and have all these fast thoughts running through my head, and I always want to do things quickly. If you do that while playing chess, you will make mistakes and lose your game.”

At first, the medical student did not want to attend the event, but she was persuaded by a friend. “Initially, I didn’t want to play, but once I actually saw the game, I felt like joining in.”

Meeting new people

Molenaar last played chess when she was twelve years old, with her father. She still remembered the rules. “I’m a reasonably good player. After today, I will play chess more often.” But she will not become a regular player, because her degree does not leave her enough time to do so.

Like Sandy Molenaar, former Econometrics student Erik Essink, 24, had not touched a chess piece for many years before making it to the café. He came across an announcement of the event on Facebook and decided to give it a go. “I just won my first game!” he proudly announced. “But I’m mainly here to meet new people.”

EUR graduate Erik Essink, 24, enjoys a drink while devising his strategy. Image credit: Jack Parker

Taking your mind off things

Just like Molenaar, Essink said he experiences relaxation while playing chess. He does not consider chess a game, but rather a mind sport, which helps you take your mind off things. “While playing, you can stop thinking about your work or your degree for a little while.”

Due to injuries, the EUR alumnus has been unable to play physical sports lately. Therefore, chess is an excellent, less strenuous alternative. “At least you won’t get injured while playing chess,” Essink said with a wink before winning his second and final game of the afternoon.

Student Chess Club Rotterdam