Why do people join chess clubs?
What are they looking for?
What is it like to be part of Glasgow’s Queens Park Chess Club?
This is the first of a new series of articles seeking answers to those questions, and providing multiple perspectives on Queens Park Chess Club.
Derek Rankine (Club Secretary) interviews members new and old and asks them to share their experiences and insights.
First up is Rhys McCrosson, 23, a University of Glasgow statistics graduate who lives in Crookston, Glasgow. Rhys won the first Club Championship in 2021/22. At the time of writing, in summer 2022, he is the Club’s highest rated player with a Chess Scotland classical rating of 1481 and a chess.com rapid rating of 1805.
Derek: What draws you to chess?
Rhys: I started playing chess when I was a bit younger. The first thing that stood out for me was actually the geometry of the game. Then I saw it appear in different TV shows and movies, and when I was a child, I honestly just liked how the characters that played chess were portrayed.
Nowadays though, the main attraction is the fact that it is truly a game that is open to all regardless of your background. The game is rigid, tough and almost scientific – yet so aesthetically pleasing to look at.
How long have you been playing?
I’ve been playing on and off since I was around six. My Dad, and my Mum’s friend Laura, both tried to teach me the game. I didn’t really play much until I was eight, when I played my Dad most weeks when I went to visit him. I joined the chess club in my Primary School in the south side of Glasgow when I was nine, and I participated in School tournaments between the ages of 10-11.
I quit chess on the last day of Primary School, despite being my School’s number one player, after being heavily taken for granted at the prize giving ceremony (super petty stuff – I know! I was a child though…)
I didn’t play much again until I was 13-14, when my friends encouraged me, and I decided to play my Dad every few months. I really started playing regularly again around fifth year of school, when I was 16 years old, on the worst apps you could imagine. By this point, I was playing most days.
By the time I started studying at the University of Glasgow, I’d fully adopted the game again. I was playing pretty much every day, sometimes for more than an hour a day, mainly as a way of procrastinating from my seemingly never-ending workload! I continued playing nearly every day until the end of my degree, when I reached 1500-1600 rapid on chess.com.
When did you join Queens Park Chess Club – and why?
Shortly after finishing my degree, in the summer of 2021, I stumbled upon Queens Park Chess Club under its former name of Govanhill Chess Club. I went along to one of their outdoor chess sessions at the Queens Park boating pond on a Sunday morning, and then to Wellcroft Bowling Club where the club meet during the week, and I’ve been a regular member ever since.
I had actually wanted to join a chess club for a while, but because of the pandemic and everything being shut, I just didn’t have the option. When I found out about Govanhill Chess Club, I decided to go ahead and check them out. I felt I was finally strong enough to start taking the game a bit more seriously and the club was so local to me – at the time I was living in Eglinton in Glasgow, close to Queens Park. It was a perfect fit.
I would encourage new members to set small, realistic goals. Chess is hard. You’re not going to improve from 1000 to 2000 in a year.Rhys McCrosson
Was winning the Club Championship your personal highlight of last season?
It’s hard to say really. It probably was the highlight of the season for me, but I also had some decent games that I was pretty proud of (amongst many that we don’t talk about…).
One of my favourite games of the season was against our south Glasgow neighbours, Cathcart. I was on board #1 with the black pieces. I was fortunate enough to face the King’s Gambit, an opening I am highly confident playing against. I hit my opponent with a lesser known side-line that they were clearly unfamiliar with. Let’s just say, white’s opening didn’t exactly go as planned.
What do you like most about Queens Park Chess Club?
The diversity of the members. It’s that simple. The diversity was the first thing that struck me when I joined, which makes sense, given Govanhill is a remarkably diverse community. It’s this diversity that demonstrates the fact that chess truly is a game for all demographics and backgrounds.
Another thing I really appreciate is the incredible democratic approach that the Club Committee takes towards decision-making. This is entirely in line with my principles. I recently decided to join the Committee, become a team captain, and help manage its social media on Facebook and Instagram, and its clubs on chess.com and Lichess.
What do you think the Club could improve on?
While I think the Club is generally good on diversity, I’d really love it if it could improve its female representation. It’s not entirely the Club’s fault – many women simply don’t play chess, for multiple reasons, but I think it’s mainly because of historical biases that have culminated in a very male-dominated game.
Things don’t need to be like this. Hopefully the club can become more proactive in attracting women to the game, because I like to think everyone connected to chess in Glasgow and Scotland would agree that it could only be for the better.
Do you play, learn and improve, outside of the Club?
Yeah, definitely! I spent years playing chess without a club. At this point, I’m pretty used to teaching myself things. There are a number of online videos and website resources I use to support my development.
What could the Club do better? It could be more proactive in improving its female representation.Rhys McCrosson
Do you have any chess aspirations for the coming season?
The aim is definitely to try and retain the Club Championship title, although if someone more deserving wins in 2022/23, then I can only use that experience to improve my game.
Aside from this, It would be pretty nice if I could lead my team to a promotion to Division Two in the Glasgow Chess League, but it remains to be seen what level of opposition we will be facing in Division Three.
Queens Park Chess Club is taking in lots of new members on the back of summer outreach activity across the south side of Glasgow and online. Do you have any advice for those coming to a Chess Club for the first time?
Honestly – make realistic goals.
Some people just want to come, play a few informal games, have a drink and a good chat, and we completely welcome that. Other people come to the club with the intention of improving their game.
For the latter, it can be so easy to start engaging with the game and setting yourself the goal of going from, let’s say, 1000-2000 within a year or two. The truth is – it’s not going to happen. Chess is hard, man. It’s better to set yourself a series of relatively small goals like going from 1000 to 1050 by the end of a period of months, and then 1050-1100 by the end of another few months, and so on.
Just enjoy the game and learn to appreciate the good times when they come. Don’t get bogged down with every single loss because, statistically speaking, you’re going to lose… a lot. You’ve got to learn to lose before you can learn to win.
Thanks to Rhys for making the first move in this interview series. Look out for more member interviews throughout the 2022/23 season.