It is early 1984, and I am sitting across the board from one of the top-rated women chess players in the state. Susan Smathers was a high school student just like me, and she was intimidating. I still remember the newsboy cap she wore, her eyes barely visible under the bill, and her long hair draping down toward the board. I lost that match before she moved the first piece. I was a 16-year-old bundle of raging hormones, and I was sure I had just found the next love of my life. It was the only match I lost in that tournament. I finished with three wins, one draw, and one loss. I took third place in the Novice Division of The Tennessee Scholastic Chess Tournament 1984. Susan finished in first place, with five wins and no losses. I can’t remember all the names of my classmates from the Class of 1986, some I went to school with since 6th grade, but I remember the name of the girl I faced across that chessboard for about 15 minutes, in 1984.
Why am I waxing nostalgic about a chess match from almost 40 years ago? My youngest son graduated from White County High School this year, and my sister and brother-in-law from New Hampshire came to visit. My brother-in-law was teaching one of my great-nieces how to play chess. Eventually, I played and beat my teenage daughter and my graduating son. I began to remember how much I loved playing chess. I remembered James Burden, his daughters, and the other teens I played with. I remembered that match with Susan Smathers. Then I remembered a Facebook post I made a short while ago about things I would do if I won the lottery or a vast sum of money. I mentioned chess a couple of times in that post. At that moment, I realized I didn’t need millions of dollars to promote chess in White County. Instead, I need to get busy and get organized. Today, I made a phone call to James Burden, my chess mentor. He gave me great ideas on where to start, and talking to him convinced me I must do this. I am going to start/restart the White County Chess Club.
I will organize, find a place to meet, and get a list of interested individuals. The club will be open to anyone of any level in White County, from never played to Grand Master. We will enforce a Code of Conduct because it will be available to anyone. I have been researching successful clubs around the United States and consulting the United States Chess Federation and the Tennessee Chess Association. I will establish a set of written bylaws that all the initial members will vote on. I will act as the organizing member until the club holds official elections. The club will be an affiliate of the United States Chess Federation. We will not require members to join the USCF or TCA, but we will assist any member who wishes to join either organization. I hope that each White County school will establish a team with the assistance and support of the White County Chess Club. I have high hopes and am excited.
I still have work to do, and this article is part of that work. This article is my first attempt to officially present this idea to the community. If you are interested in learning, playing, teaching, or supporting chess in White County, please get in touch with me so that I can keep you informed. You can reach me by phone at (931) 256-6154. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to establish the club this summer before the new school year begins. I want to foster a love for chess in White County. Chess builds friendships, confidence, and brain power. Chess helps you think for yourself.
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