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Honors students play chess  during the inaugural Honors Chess Club meeting on April 23. (Photo by Briana Philippi)
Honors students play chess during the inaugural Honors Chess Club meeting on April 23. (Photo by Briana Philippi)

Honors Professor Hosts Inaugural Meeting for Chess Club

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Honors students made their way to the UNLV Honors College Lounge at approximately 4 p.m. for the inaugural meeting of the Honors Chess Club on April 23.

Students worked diligently in the honors computer laboratory as they anxiously awaited the arrival of Professor Joseph Rhodes.

Unlike other events that the Honors College holds that result in an abundance of students in attendance, Rhodes brought together approximately 15 students to unite within the chess-playing community.

At the start of the meeting, Rhodes, the coordinator for the Honors Chess Club, presented everyone with the basic idea that the club is to help get people to fall in love with chess. However, that was not Rhodes’ entire purpose.

“I was looking for a way for honors students to develop a sense of community and get together and make new friends that did not involve physical exertion, or activity, or the money it costs to run the Tough Mudder, and the dedication it costs,” Rhodes said.

The Honors College annually unites to race and complete in the Tough Mudder, but not all participate.

“Not all of us are physically capable, or mentally capable of doing those sorts of challenges, so I wanted to create an event for those of us more “nerdier” honors folks,” Rhodes said. “It’s more about getting to know each other, hang out and play games, and eat pizza for free.”

Although Rhodes was the mastermind behind the concept of an Honors Chess Club, he deflected the credit.

“The credit goes to Dean Meana,” he said. “She is very good about if you have an idea of making the honors college better and doing something for honors college students. She is very supportive of it financially and with the facilities. The second I mentioned it to her…she was like ‘go, do it.’”

Open to players in the honors college of any level, Rhodes said that people are going to be paired up with other players of similar skill level. There were a variety of students present that were experienced in the game of chess, and a handful of beginners. With some beginners present, there was a brief lesson on the history and introduction to the game of chess.

“It seems that no matter how good you are, you worry you aren’t good enough to come to a chess club,” Rhodes said. “I think that’s because in high school we imagined the chess club being the kids that were state champions in chess.”

Of the chess players present that heard about the event in one of their honors classes, freshman Connor Wooten expected about six students to show.

“At first I thought he would get a bigger audience since it’s the Honors College, but it’s a better turnout than I expected,” said Wooten, an experienced chess player.

Faculty and staff within the Honors College briefly made appearances from their meetings and commented about the immense turnout.

“It looks like we may have to order more chessboards,” Rhodes jokingly said upon seeing the turnout.

Among the experienced whose expectations were surpassed was freshman Henry Park. When he first heard about the idea of a chess club, Park was skeptical.

“I’m actually pretty surprised because I believe the Honors College is smaller than my high school and more people showed up [in the Honors College],” Park said.

Although chess is viewed as a nerdy game, the honors students took time to laugh during their meeting about the honors stereotype.

“As an Honors College student, it’s a sin if you don’t play chess,” said Tyree Fry, another honors chess player.

Unlike some of the other players that heard about the meeting through email or their classes, sophomore Christine Taing stumbled upon it while entering the Honors College Lounge.

“I didn’t know there was a chess club,” said Taing, who has been playing chess since the third grade and was among some of the experienced players who explained and helped some beginners.

“It’s kind of like a brain exercise,” Taing said. “It’s a way to think and keep your mind moving instead of just talking.”

While this is just the beginning for the Honors Chess Club, UNLV has hosted a regular chess club in years past. Rhodes found a social media page for the club, but it has not been active since 2012.

As the only chess club on campus, they expect the already good turnout to only improve.

“Who knows, we might even get some people who are competitive and we start playing in tournaments,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes hopes for it the club to continue in future semesters.

“My ideal plan is for some of the students to take leadership and decide to make it their own,” Rhodes said. “If it doesn’t take off it’s no big deal, we’ll always have the stuff in the room for the honors students to use.”

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