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In Your Own Backyard: All the right moves

Chess club members answer to stereotypes, want more females

 by Heather Wells  published on Thursday, March 3, 2005

<em>Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE</em><br>
Aerospace engineering sophomore Chris Sublett, left, and Pinnacle High student Donald Prem match their strategic skills during a chess tournament at ASU on Saturday./issues/arts/692277
Danielle Peterson
Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Aerospace engineering sophomore Chris Sublett, left, and Pinnacle High student Donald Prem match their strategic skills during a chess tournament at ASU on Saturday.
 

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"Saved by the Bell" taught adolescents countless invaluable lessons.

It taught girls the importance of having big bangs like Kelly Kapowski's to attract hot guys, taught guys that with a wink and a charming smile, they too could be a ladies' man like Zack Morris, and that by taking the first initial off their first and middle names, they could be a bad ass like A.C. Slater.

But it also taught viewers about nerds, thanks to Screech, who never seemed to get a date and whose hair was bigger than his head.

ASU's chess club is no stranger to the nerd stereotype.

Clad in the obligatory "Star Trek" T-shirt, Chris Sublett, chess club vice president and an aerospace engineering sophomore, is pretty familiar with the geek label. But instead of denying it, he says it's pretty accurate, at least for him.

"I have a pocket protector [and] I play on the computer all the time," he says.

But Sublett says he is quite aware of the assumptions his attire and hobbies invite.

"I like to encourage the stereotypes," he says. "It makes me look smarter."

Mark Moore, president of the chess club and a pre-business sophomore, isn't as quick to pull out the Trekkie gear and speak Klingon, though. He acknowledges the labels exist, but says he doesn't purposefully perpetuate them.

"People think that we're nerdy and nonsocial, that we don't have anything better to do with our time," he says.

"When I walk through the Memorial Union with my chess pieces and board, people give me weird looks," he adds. "People make judgments too early. They probably don't experience other people besides the ones in their fraternity or their little circle. They only see what they want to see."

And they see is a nerd. What Moore says is the truth, however, is that the chess club is about more than contemplating the next move.

He says the club has become an avenue that connects the community with ASU.

The club holds public tournaments in which 4-year-olds pair up with 40-year-olds, often beating their older fellow players. In addition, some members of the club -- including Moore -- teach chess to children at schools throughout the Valley.

Moore says he teaches at Highland High School and Scottsdale's Sandpiper Elementary School.

Moore has won numerous tournaments, most notably the high school national team championship. But chess wasn't the only activity in which he was involved as a teenager.

His competitive nature stems from playing sports throughout junior high and high school.

"I was more of a jock; I played basketball," he says. "I was the big lifter, but I still played chess. That was weird for people."

He says chess can actually be more challenging than sports. In fact, it is more tiring mentally than anything else he knows.

"When I used to go to play in basketball tournaments, you play in one game and then you feel tired, but then you can recuperate two hours later and be ready to play another one," he says. "Chess is a little different. When I play in the big tournaments for money, they have six-hour games. So, you start a game at 9 a.m. and get done at 3 p.m., and you get a one-hour break, then you have to go for another six hours.

"You have to be focused. You feel brain-dead after one game."

However, the chess club does have something in common with ASU sports.

Just like ASU's football and basketball teams, the club hopes to start its own rivalry with UA in the near future. A tournament is in the planning stages.

When it comes down to it, Moore says he and other members of the chess club aren't that different from other college students.

"I like to have a little fun at night," he says. "I like to party a little ... maybe a lot. I like to hang out with friends, play poker, drink."

And even if their opinions differ on whether a pocket protector is a good investment, one subject on which Moore and Sublett agree is that they want more people to come out and participate in the club.

Sublett, who says being in the club has yet to help him in the lady department, says females would be especially welcome members.

"We don't have any girls in the club," Sublett says with a hopeful smile. "But if any want to come, we'd love for them to join."

The club, which welcomes people of any skill level, meets from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays. Meeting locations are posted at www.asu.edu/clubs/chess_team.

Reach the reporter at heather.wells@asu.edu.



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