DePaul students compete in scrabble, chess intramurals

This isn’t your standard intramural sport. No, leave your athletic prowess at the door when you enter this arena, this odyssey of the mind. If you can’t think on your feet and make snap decisions, you stand little chance against the members of DePaul’s intramural chess team.

The same goes for the Scrabble team. While not currently in session, it boasts participants who possess a similar skill set, and a roster of competitors who try all they can to one-up their opponents.

If you’ve stopped by the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center any time in the last few weeks, you may have noticed a few chess games occurring at the tables next to the Bean, near the racquetball courts. This is where the players participate in their matches.

“We’re an intramural, not a club,” said John Washo, assistant director of intramurals at DePaul. “We fall under the same umbrella as flag football and intramural basketball.”

But the players don’t compete for a common goal – it’s more like every man for himself. While the chess and Scrabble squads are referred to as “intramurals,” the goal is to win in a ladder-based tournament format.

“It used to be a round-robin style, but we’ve changed it up this year,” said Washo. “In order to kind of level the playing field, we’re doing a format that matches players up based mostly on skill level.”

In a round-robin style, each player tends to play the other at least once to determine the winner. But in a ladder format, the players are stacked, as if on the rungs of a ladder, and can choose to compete against any other player at any point. If a player on the second rung loses to a player on the fifth rung, the two switch places and the tournament continues until play is stopped.

Unfortunately, enrollment for the chess and Scrabble squads is wavering.

“We’ve got nine for chess right now, and Scrabble couldn’t happen this quarter because there weren’t enough applicants. We usually get enough for both,” said Washo.

The trouble finding participants is not for lack of trying. There are signs all over the Ray, and there is a lot of word of mouth that helps the teams get publicity.

“People can register through our website,” said Washo. “We can acclimate as many as we want.”

Perhaps its the social stigma of participating in a highly intellectual sport. But there’s no doubt that these teams are as impressive as any athletic intramural at DePaul.