Bringing chess back to life on Augustana’s campus


Club hosts first tournament in six years, reignites interest in chess



Augustana students sat at three long tables decorated with blue-and white-checked chess boards, rules and score sheets, intent on formulating intelligent moves.

Hunched over in their seats, arms crossed, chins resting in their hands, brows furrowed and sweaty, they embodied determination. From the end of the first table, three shining gold and blue trophies motivated the players to do their best.

The chess club recently held its first tournament in six years March 7 in the Morrison Commons lobby. Faculty advisors Sam Ogdie a Spanish professor, and math professor Carl Olimb, predicted holding the tournament in a high-traffic area would increase visibility.

Ogdie and Olimb agreed that the tournament was successful with its roughly 20 participants.

“We had so many people there that people just felt free to come in, play and go,” Olimb said. “We had a lot of casual playing, which we wanted to encourage.”

First, second and third place trophies were awarded to freshman Andrew Villegas, junior Vy Trinh and junior Ryan Stiles, respectively. The club now plans to hold at least one tournament per semester.

“It kind of got a little exposure to the chess club,” Ogdie said. “Everybody knows we have a chess club, but nobody really sees it.”

The chess club now holds weekly meetings in the Commons lobby instead of the Huddle.

Ogdie said he enjoys the game because of the camaraderie it encourages.

“You get to know a person really well even though you don’t talk,” he said. “There’s a special bond; you don’t really feel like you have to know them any more than in that chess game, but you really feel like you know them well.”

Sam Ogdie pullquoteVillegas and Trinh are good friends who play chess outside the club. Though they both learned how to play the game at a young age and were involved on school teams, being finalists in the Augustana tournament surprised them both.

“I was really nervous!” Villegas said. “As I kept playing, I felt more relaxed. I thought I would do well but not actually win.”

Trinh said she likes to attack instead of defend. During the tournament, she tried to calm herself down.

“She started really aggressive,” Villegas said. “I was like, ‘This is not Vy!’”

After 15-20 moves, Villegas began attacking, and Trinh was forced to defend.

“My position when we play the game is to basically make the game last as long as possible,” Trinh said. “I know if I try to attack Andrew, I will lose, so I only defend.”

In the end, Villegas won after having to sacrifice one of his knights.

Trinh laughed. “I kind of realized the importance of the knight during that game. I think it might be even more important than bishop.”

Third-place winner Stiles had never attended a chess club meeting prior to the tournament but decided to play because Olimb offered his calculus 2 class extra credit.

“I expected to go in there and be there for like, an hour, but I ended up being there for four-and-a-half hours, and I had a blast,” he said. “A lot of my friends would walk by and cheer me on.”

After his success, Stiles plans on participating more in the club.

“I can’t imagine I won’t be a regular attendee now,” he said.

It’s the competition and the brain power that draws Stiles to the game.

“When you’re attempting to think through a problem against another person who is also trying to think through a problem, it’s just fun to try to see who can do it first,” he said.  

Trinh said chess was a part of her childhood, therefore a part of her, while Villegas relates the game to life: “Each decision you make will affect the future,” he said.

Just like any other extracurricular activity, Ogdie said he thinks chess is a good way to de-stress.

“No matter how busy and stressed you are, if you sit down for an hour at a chess board, you forget about everything,” he said.

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