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July 30, 2008 > Check and Mate

Check and Mate

Come Participate in the New Fremont Chess Club

By Ethan Chou

In the early days of famed chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, the game of chess reached startling heights of popularity throughout the United States with 25 or 30 individual clubs in California alone. It is a pity, then, that at one point there was no formal adult chess club serving the huge number of people residing between San Francisco and San Jose.

The original Fremont Chess Club was founded by Hans Poschman in the 1960s, and kept running through his incredible dedication to the sport and the people of our community. Following his death in 2006, with no dedicated coordinator, the club languished and was forced to constantly find new locations to hold their meetings. The future looked bleak for the beleaguered group until February of 2007 when Kenneth Zowal became actively involved.

Zowal played chess competitively in high school, but put his hobby on hold in order to pay college expenses by working at a railroad company. Now, decades later in retirement, Zowal has found the time and means to pick up where he left off. Disappointed that the chess club in Fremont was in disarray, he decided to create a new one out of the remnants left by his predecessor.

According to Zowal, in the beginning he literally had to "pick up the pieces from the old club," inheriting several chess tables, boards, and sets of pieces, but little else. He quickly realized that he would have to compete for people's time that would usually be spent on other family activities. Determined to follow through with his plan and with financial support and encouragement of fellow chess enthusiasts, space was secured at the Fremont Community Activities Center at Centerville Community Park in October, 2007. Thus, the New Fremont Chess Club was born.

"Though there are a huge amount of scholastic players... ages 6 - 16 (in the area)... trained by various schools, Fremont lacked an adult (chess) club," said Zowal when asked why he decided to revive the Fremont Chess Club. This community-oriented organization has a broad range of members; from kids as young as 5 to adults as mature as 75. Zowal joked that "anyone who can act like an adult is welcome to play." In addition, chess enthusiasts come from a broad area including Milpitas, Union City, and Newark.

Now, almost a year later, the club is busy organizing events for its members. This past spring, the club became affiliated with the U.S. Chess Federation and plans to hold its first official rated tournament August 2nd and 3rd. By then, Zowal hopes to have many more members in the club so that more people can compete. He also plans to start a ladder-style tournament. Furthermore, the group has invited several guest lecturers over the past few months in the hopes of bettering their understanding of the game of chess. This past June, the organization held an informal "Blitz" competition in which players must make their moves under extreme time constraints. The tournament was won by new member Ed Lewis.

"The game holds a great deal of appreciation in Asia and Europe, and we want to build it up in the U.S. and in Fremont," said Zowal. "We want to promote the playing of the game of chess... and upgrade the image of the sport in California to the level of the 60s and 70s." As Zowal aptly put it, "Fremont deserves a good chess club."

New Fremont Chess Club meetings
Every Friday night
8 p.m.
The "Garage Building", Fremont Community Activities Center
3375 Country Dr., Fremont
(510) 623-9935

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