Article and photo by Andrew Christ

When the Midland Public Schools are in session, the Midland Chess Club meets at Midland High School (1301 Eastlawn Drive) on Monday nights beginning at 6:30. Typically, at a meeting you will find five to ten players, several of whom have been regulars since the 1970s. You might find them hunched over their boards, chin in hand and an expression of deep concentration on their faces, or mentally calculating strategy before deftly moving a piece and punching the button on the chess clock. Each member usually brings a chess set, and no one sits around waiting for a board to open up, and while one or two members might bring a chess clock, usually games are played without time restrictions.

The Midland club is not affiliated with the U.S. Chess Federation—the governing agency of chess clubs in the U.S.—but some of its members, including President Howard King, are members of the USCF. In addition, members of the Midland club abide by USCF regulations during the annual Midland City Chess Tournament and, at all times, prefer to play with tournament-sized sets.

Since 2005 the Midland tournament has attracted ten or so players each year. Of these players, one or two go on to compete in Lansing, Grand Rapids, the Michigan Open and other USCF-sanctioned tournaments. By doing so, these players earn an official chess rating assigned to them by the USCF.

A player's rating is a rough indication of the player's ability at the chessboard. A rating of zero to 999 is assigned to a Novice; 1000 to 1199 indicates Beginner, and so forth. The very best Grandmasters have ratings between 2700 and 2800. I estimate that the members of the Midland club have ratings no less than 1700-1800.

At this time, the USCF does not assign ratings to players whose games are conducted online. Clearly, this has not discouraged players from enjoying the game online. Sign on at any time to such Websites as Chess.comLet's Play and the Free Internet Chess Server, and you will find thousands of players with a wide range of ratings. The sites usually allow players to choose non-rated games as well. Time to get started. Game on!

© Andrew Christ, 2010