Sunday, May 20, 2007


Chess at Chicago’s all-night party

Some people, I'm sure you realize, think chess players are generally nuts. So what would they say about the folks who showed up at the Chicago Cultural Center in the middle of the night a week ago to push the pieces around while the rest of the world was asleep?

Well, for starters, let’s be honest: not everyone was at home in bed on the night of May 11-12. In fact, thousands roamed the streets of downtown Chicago that evening in search of fun, during Looptopia, “America’s first dusk-to-dawn cultural and artistic spectacle showcasing the vibrancy and excitement of Chicago’s historic Loop neighborhood through musical and theatrical performances . . .” etc., etc.

Isaac with his prize

I’ll spare you the rest of the ad copy so we can get to the point, which is that unbeknownst to many, chess was actually a big part of the highly publicized all-night soiree. Scores of chess players came through the Cultural Center over the course of the night, either to join the 2:00 AM blitz tournament or just play a friendly game.

“Everyone had a great time,” reports Sheila Heiser of Renaissance Knights, authors of the midnight madness. “We had 40 boards out and we were packed all night! When we had to pack up to go some players could have played on for many more hours.” Sheila’s group works frequently with the City to incorporate chess into special events and was tapped to organize play for Looptopia.

Thirty-one players took part in the five-round blitz tournament. The winner was Chicago chess veteran Isaac Braswell, who recently earned an Expert rating. The final standings:

Isaac Braswell 4.5
Mslalm Campbell 4.0
Claude Barnes 3.5
Gabriel Gaster 3.5
Ramon Jones 3.5

The first three winners won a Saitek computer and clock. The others got chess books, and a number of medals were awarded as well. The tournament was free to enter.

“The only entry fee was to set up the chess pieces when done playing,” said Sheila.

Of course, even that can be a challenge at four in the morning.

(More photos here.)

All photos courtesy of Renaissance Knights