DePaul Chess Club: Group hopes to instill the universal language of the game among students


Jonah Weber

Freshman David Kalat (middle) participates in a heated match against sophomore Charles Timeyer (right) while members watch.

Chess clubs can presumably be intense, competitive and intimidating. DePaul’s chess club is different, though. The idea behind the chess club is to bring folks together for pure fun, to learn the game and be able to play it with anyone. 

“It’s a universal language, for anyone who knows how to play,” Nick said. 

The Chess Club meets every few weeks, usually in the Arts and Letters building. During this meeting, there were nine members present. 

Across the room two students play, speaking a foreign language, laughing and gasping as each one makes a strategic move. 

There is a welcoming ambience created in the room. Players decipher each other’s moves, they swap jokes amongst each other, give move recommendations and make quick Google searches based on previously made moves. 

One of the founding members of the DePaul Chess Club, Nick, who asked to keep his last name private, sat down to tell the story of how the group came to be. 

“I started the club my sophomore year of college, because I was teaching children how to play as a job for a company called Chess Wizards, where I dressed up as a wizard and taught them how to play, like an after school program,” Nick said. 

This job provided him with the resources to start a chess club here at DePaul.

“They gave 16 chess boards, so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone” Nick said, “I had the chess boards and I’m always looking for people to play with.” And so Nick started the chess club. 

His relationship with the game of chess started not long before they started college. 

After a breakup in high school, Nick was taken under the wings of a new group of friends. At this school, they had half days. One of their new friends taught them how to play. Eventually, they’d join a chess club in high school. 

“What struck me was going to the chess club.” Nick said, “I was kind of an asshole, a bully a little bit. I saw these kids in the chess club who I’d normally bully, like they had rolly backpacks and they were anime kids. I wouldn’t even bully them, but I wouldn’t give them the time of day.” Nick said. 

The Chess Club meets every few weeks, usually in the Arts and Letters building. (Jonah Weber)

Nick continued on about how he was impacted by joining his high school chess club. 

“Then I saw them in the chess club and I saw what they were capable of, and it changed my mind and my life completely. Because I was like, oh everyone has their thing that they are good at, and I feared them.” 

Now, those kids that they wouldn’t have given a second thought to once are some of their closest friends still.

To sophomore James Yeh, chess club is a sanctuary to hone his chess skills and have a great time.

“Chess club is a place to have fun, but it’s also a really good learning experience,” Yeh said.  “You can learn many different things, different strategies, different openings. I want the club to stay welcoming, but I also want a competitive side, some form of chess team so there can be a really good amount of chess players here at DePaul.” 

As Yeh explained, chess club officer, David Kalat and member, Charles Timeyer bantered with each other over an intense game of chess. 

Veteran member Omar Majzoub, who graduated in 2021, comes back for meetings.. He recollected when DePaul competed against UIC in an online chess tournament. 

“We scheduled with UIC first, to see if they would allow it,” Majzoub said. “We found out when they were free, and we did it on, and it’s a timed tournament, and you’d be assigned to a random opponent.”

He explained how the rules in the UIC tournament worked. His opponent had to follow his rule, which was keeping your camera on during the game. Majzoub said, “Like, turning off the camera will result in disqualification. It immediately seems like you’re using a cheat sheet or something.” 

Majzoub explained how the tournament ended. 

“I was running low on time and I had to make some moves,” Mazjoub said. “I lost a piece towards the end of the game, and I got destroyed by my opponent.”

Majzoub confirmed that he would definitely compete in a tournament again. He has a history of competing in chess tournaments, even going to nationals, getting fifth place. 

“I dominated it, then lost one game,” Majzoub said.