An explosion of interest in the historic game coalesced into a record-breaking day at the Warren Armory, where over 100 players from the region gathered.
The largest chess tournament held in recent history occurred over the weekend at the Warren Armory.
A rainy Saturday within an historic building that resembles a rook served as the perfect setting for the most recent tournament held by Ocean State Chess, a volunteer non-profit group that strives to promote the game throughout Rhode Island.
The event gathered 112 players and their families to Warren, featuring players from New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, from as young as five years old to senior citizens.
“It was the largest chess event ever held in the East Bay, and one of the largest events in Rhode Island. We don’t usually do more than 100. This was really great to have it in June, and in Warren,” said Frank DelBonis, president of Ocean State Chess. “We had a gentleman from New York who drove three hours to be there. I asked, ‘Well why did you do that?’ He said he wanted to play in the castle.”
DelBonis said that June is usually a slow month for chess, but to see this level of interest at this time of year demonstrated the exploding interest in chess that he has witnessed since the pandemic began. He attributed the increasingly popularity of Chess.com (a virtual chess website), and the hit Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” as contributing factors into the game’s recent success. Both were cultural phenomena during the lockdowns.
“We’re seeing numbers in general that we’ve never seen. It’s surpassed the Bobby Fisher era,” DelBonis said. “I never thought in my lifetime we’d never see that again, but I think we’ve actually passed that.”
DelBonis said he and Ocean State Chess were incredibly grateful to Ray Deacon and the Warren Armory for hosting and helping promote the event, and to Blount Boats for raising a portion of the award money. The event doled out over $700 in cash prizes and trophies. Additional money raised from the tournament goes towards Ocean State Chess an their mission, including buying chess sets for school programs.
“The venue is beautiful, it has historical significance for Warren and Rhode Island and people really enjoyed attending. There’s a lot of excitement,” DelBonis said. “This also was a boost for the Warren economy. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Those interested in chess or the Ocean State Chess mission should check out their website, or email Frank at Frank@OceanStateChess.com.