Why do people join chess clubs?
In a new series, Derek Rankine (Club Secretary) interviews Queens Park members new and old and asks them to share their experiences and perspectives.
This month, Derek spoke to Alex Radevic, 36, who works as a software engineer. Alex was born and brought up in Lithuania’s capital city, Vilnius, and now lives in Shawlands, Glasgow.
Alex is one of the Club’s strongest players, finishing 3rd place of 20 in the first Club Championship in 2021/22. At the time of writing, in October 2022, he holds a Chess Scotland classical rating of 1481 and a Lichess classical rating of 1933. He is also a member of the Club Committee.
Derek: What is your earliest chess memory?
Alex: I learned chess moves when I was a child, but I got interested in the game only when I was around 15. I didn’t get to play chess as much as I wished – my parents don’t play, and at school, none of my classmates played either. So mostly I played chess online.
Tell us about your experience with chess clubs in Scotland.
In 2015, I emailed a few clubs close to Glasgow’s west end, where I lived at the time. John McIntyre – President of Phones Chess Club – kindly responded and invited me to join. Eventually, I ended up playing for Phones B team in Division 2 of the Glasgow Chess League for a few years.
After that, I didn’t play chess for some time, as I had other priorities at that point. When I moved to Shawlands in the south of Glasgow, I found Queens Park Chess Club – then known as Govanhill Chess Club – on its Facebook page. My former captain, Colin Paterson, who helped set the club up, also recommended Govanhill to me. So I decided to go along to a session early in the 2021/22 season.
I also went to several meetings of the Thursday Chess Group in Brodies Bar next to Queens Park, including some of their first gatherings in Autumn 2021.
I have played in several chess tournaments in Scotland. I think the 2017 Edinburgh Congress was my first serious tournament, and my most memorable one.
What do you like most about Queens Park Chess Club?
I like the enthusiasm of all members, the willingness to help each other improve, and to involve more people in the game. If I had to pick one thing, it would be the friendliness, and the warm welcome to new members of different ages and backgrounds.
What do you think the Chess Club could be doing better, or differently?
The club could meet more than once a week, and organise its own chess tournaments.
Queens Park Chess Club is known for its friendliness, and the warm welcome to new membersAlex Radevic
Is chess significantly more popular in Lithuania than it is in Scotland?
Yes – partially because of Lithuania’s Soviet past. Lithuania hosted loads of high level tournaments in the Soviet era. Such as, the 1984 Candidates Match between Kasparov and former world champion Smyslov, which happened in my home city of Vilnius. After beating Smyslov, Kasparov played Karpov in one of the most famous World Championship games of all time. These events raised huge interest in the game and chess culture across Lithuania.
Nowadays, in Lithuania, there are a few young grandmasters, both men and women. Worth mentioning in particular is GM Viktorija Čmilytė who won the European Women’s Chess Championship in 2011. She is married to Peter Heine Nielsen, who has coached world champions Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen.
You have a large collection of chess books, in English and in Russian. What do you like about books, compared to digital chess resources?
I like the overall experience of using physical books rather than ebooks, videos etc. I get less distracted and I focus more easily.
If you had to pick only one, what book would you recommend to a newer player (sub-1000 elo)?
Probably, “How to Beat Your Dad at Chess” by Murray Chandler. It is a strong collection of checkmating patterns.
How about a book recommendation for an intermediate player (around 1300 elo) looking to improve their general play?
For general play, Capablanca’s “Chess Fundamentals” is still excellent. It covers the key fundamentals of chess strategy and the most essential endgames.
Lithuania hosted many high level events in the Soviet era, which hugely raised chess interest across the countryAlex Radevic
Do you have any general advice for new Queens Park Chess Club members?
If you are new to chess, and want to improve, play longer time control games and analyse them afterwards, especially the games you lost. Do not rely on an engine too much, but try to identify mistakes yourself.
Also, do not be too harsh on yourself for not winning games; what matters most is experience.
Once you have some experience and are comfortable playing over-the-board, start playing competitive chess. Join Queens Park’s Club Championship and start playing for one for our teams in the Glasgow or Dumbarton league. Our captains this season are Rhys, Caitlin and Jass, and members can talk to them about playing on a league team.
You are particularly strong at King-and-pawn endgames. Do you have any tips on how to convert an advantage in these types of endgames?
A main general principle of endgames – especially when Queens are off the board – is to involve your King as early as possible. The same rule applies to King-and-pawn endgames.
Make your king active as early as possible, centralise it, occupy more space. As for pawns, the creation of a passed pawn makes your chances of winning the game higher.
Do not rely on an engine when analysing games you lost; try to identify mistakes yourselfAlex Radevic
Do you have a favourite chess player, current or historic?
I do not have single favourite chess player. I admire many games of Alekhine, Capablanca, Tigran Petrosian, Fischer, Karpov and Carlsen. These players represent different playing styles, but in my opinion, Magnus Carlsen is ultimately the best player. He combines both the attacking and positional styles of previous generations.
What are your future chess ambitions?
To play good chess, and try to raise my national Chess Scotland classical rating to 1600. To be honest, combining work and family life and achieving significant results in chess is very hard! So I am trying to make realistic aims for now.
Thank you to Alex. Club members will be interviewed throughout the season – click here to see more.