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Connect With…Coffs Harbour Chess Club

Meet Coffs Harbour Chess Club – one of our connectABLE project partners. We talk with President Greg Burgess and a couple of long term members about what makes the club inclusive and how playing chess can be a great social outlet for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

Why did Coffs Harbour Chess Club join the connectABLE project?

Greg: We’re looking for more members – it doesn’t matter how old, young or what your ability is. Like other chess clubs, our numbers have evaporated in recent years and technology has a lot to do with that. But playing online and face to face is not the same thing. We play but we also chat and make friendships. There’s a camaraderie here.

Peter H: Some of us have been playing chess together for over 30 years.

Peter W: We need to maintain that and reignite it somehow. The health benefits and social cohesion created by clubs like this are worth their weight in gold.

What makes your club inclusive and open to everyone?

Greg: We’ve had a diverse range of members with various abilities, including people who have needed someone with them to help them move the pieces. The great thing about chess is that you can still play if the mind is willing – we can work around everything else. We’ve had people use braille chess sets and you can always learn to play through notation, which is when you call out where you want your pieces moved.

Peter H: I can no longer see out of my left eye and am unable to drive. I catch buses from Bellingen to come play chess on Tuesday nights. We finish too late for the last bus home so I stay overnight and catch three buses back home to Bellingen the next day. It’s no easy feat, but when you love the game it’s not an issue. Chess is addictive and the good thing is, it’s cheap!

What would you say to people who are interested in joining the club?

Greg: It doesn’t matter if you’re new to chess. Come have a meal, a drink and make a night of it. That’s why we have our casual chess night on Tuesdays – so people can come to learn and play without any pressure. Clubs teach. You learn the theory and how to develop your pieces. You also get to meet different people, hear their stories and learn from them. You need to be prepared to lose and not be disheartened if you do. We have a lot of people come and go because they aren’t winning but you can have some great plays in a game from both sides. Unfortunately there can only be one winner – but that’s how you learn.

Coffs Harbour Chess Club meets at Club Coffs, West High Street, Coffs Harbour on Tuesday nights from 7pm. For more information about joining, contact Greg Burgess on 0423 006 530.

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