Women urged to take up chess

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Gaining skill . . . Otago Chess Club members Maggie McCormick (right) and Dallin Heperi study the board during a chess game at the club's Maitland St clubrooms. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The noble art of chess is something that can be learned by anyone, and Otago Chess Club is hoping to add diversity to its ranks.

The club, which has been a popular meeting place for Dunedin chess players of all ages since the 1870s, is keen to attract more women members.

Otago Chess Club president Bob Clarkson said the club had recently put out the call for women to give chess a go, and was putting aside Monday nights as “ladies’ nights” at its Maitland St clubrooms.

Tutors would be on hand to offer guidance to players of all levels.

“We are really trying to encourage women to come and meet us and .. what we do as a club,” Mr Clarkson said.

There were women playing at the top levels of the game in other parts of the country, although Dunedin had not had a serious woman contender at national level since Jackie Sievey became New Zealand women’s champion and represented the country in the 1980s, he said.

“We would like to see more women playing at that top level.”

Just playing chess at any level was good for the brain.

“Chess is really an art form, and it can be quite the mental challenge,” Mr Clarkson said.

Otago Chess Club’s woman player Maggie McCormick has dabbled in the game for her whole life, but took it up more steadily after meeting club member Dallin Heperi.

Through regular play and guidance from the experienced Mr Heperi, she has progressed to intermediate level.

“I enjoy having something to focus on. Chess is a great hobby,” she said.

“I have learned a lot of strategy since I began playing more regularly, and that makes it even more fun.”

Founded in the early 1870s, the Otago Chess Club became an incorporated society in 1875 and has been permanently based at 7 Maitland St since 1962. It is the oldest chess club in New Zealand.