By Brittany Glassey and Abigail Wolfenberger
Black fold-out tables streak across the rectangular room like thick pedestrian lines on a county road. Young men sit in rows across from one another, their cautious hands dangling above the 32 black and white plastic pieces. Harrison Termotto sits down on the far right end of the first table and shakes hands with his opponent. As the clock starts to tick down, Termotto stares meticulously at the red and white checkered board in front of him. His arms fold at his chest and rest between the ridge of the board and the end of the table. He sits with an expressionless face and a motionless body, except for two leering eyes that scurry along the 64 squares.
Fourteen members of the Stony Brook Chess team gathered in the Student Activities Center to compete against one another in a Blitz tournament on April 1st. Players competed in six round and had only 10 minutes to beat their opponent.
“Blitz chess isn’t like regular chess because people make mistakes due to the time constraint,” David Mayer, the vice president of Stony Brook’s Chess Club, said. “One can be in a losing position and still win the game. The idea is that you both have the same amount of time to think about the board, waste too much time and you risk losing the game.”
Blitz chess is just one of many styles of tournaments that are popular, some can take up to hours or even weeks, like the World Chess Championship.
The tournament will be hosted in New York City for three weeks this coming November. Two grandmasters will compete in 12 rounds for a prize-fund of $1 million. The championship is predicted to attract a global online and television audience of more than one billion people, according to the World Chess Federation.
Games are not only popular over-the-board but also online. In fact, all types of chess have become increasingly popular on mobile devices for many reasons.
“I can play against a computer that’s rated above 3000 on my iPhone, and I can learn by getting defeated by that chess engine,” Mayer said. “Also, I could be waiting for an elevator and play a game of bullet chess, one-minute round chess.”
Chess.com, one of the biggest chess websites, has over 14 million members, with at least 20,000 people actively playing at any given time. Membership increases by the thousands every day. In just four days, April 1-4, Chess.com gained almost 29,000 players.
But online chess also brings some negatives aspects, like cheating.
“You can download for free these chess engines that would probably be as good as the best player in the world on your phone,” Harrison Termotto, Chess Club president said. “If you’re in a tournament, you can go to the bathroom and put this position into your phone, and then it shows you what your best move is so you can go back and play it.”
Termotto does not condone cheating in any way and is simply describing ways it is done. Cheating is taken very seriously in the chess community, especially with sites like Chess.com.
“This is indeed a hot button issue in chess, whether online or in person,” Chess.com representative Shaun McCoy said. “Unfortunately, we’ve realized that any information we give out on the subject helps cheaters avoid our chat detection. For that reason we keep our information very close to the chest,” he continued.
The website does provide an entire informational page on cheating that tells its users how to report a cheater and what the consequences may be for that individual.
“We close their account immediately; all games in progress are awarded to their opponents,” Chess.com said. “In many ‘first time abuser’ cases, we offer a chance for admission and apology. If this is given, we will sometimes allow the opening of a new account; however, never is a user convicted of Fair Play abuse allowed to open the same account again.”
Cheating is one of the many reasons why online chess will never eliminate over-the-board playing Margarita Lanides, director of the Long Island Chess Nuts, a scholastic chess club with over 2,000 members and 50 after school programs, says.
“There will always be over-the-board because there is no interaction, and it is also easier to cheat if you are playing over the Internet,” she said. “You don’t know if someone has a computer running next to him and he’s plugging in their moves to see what the next best move is, so you have to take it as face value you don’t know for sure.”
The live-action of OTB is what makes it in many ways more appealing that online, Chess Club Vice President David Mayer said.
“There’s nothing like sitting across from somebody and watching them try to figure out what they did wrong or the thrill you get from slamming the clock down after you make a move,” he said.