“Chess is best played outside on a beautiful day like today,” Raymond Ngo speculates. The sunny afternoon accompanied by a cooling fall breeze that makes the picnic tables in front of the Stevenson Union a popular spot for students on their lunch break.
The head of the campus chess club is one of the many students out enjoying the weather in between classes, but unlike his peers, Raymond isn’t smoking a cigarette, eating food from Elmo’s or handing out flyers; he’s involved in a game while simultaneously trying to get others to play at the tables around him.
“I originally started the club because I wanted more people to play with,” Ngo says while capturing one of his opponent’s pieces.
“He just wanted more people to beat,” one of his friends called from a table over. Raymond laughs but explains how he’s enjoyed playing the game since he was in grade school. Last year when he came to college, he had hoped more people would be interested in playing but finding consistent matches proved difficult for the Portland native.
This fall marks the beginning of the second year for the chess club that Raymond started but it was this year that they have used some of their student club money. With the financial support, the club has purchased five full chess sets, as well as two game clocks.
Although, a select few of his friends are usually within close proximity to play or discuss strategy, Ngo has many matches with casuals who just happen to be passing by. Raymond believes that most people know the rules of chess but don’t think about looking for games. By setting up right in the middle of the campus, the tactic of public appearance works in favor of the club.
Raymond has won most of the games that he has played this year but he wouldn’t go so far as to claim that he’s the best on campus. The sophomore is quick to say that he always gets crushed by Edwin Batistella, who according to Ngo is, “probably the best player around.”
“What I enjoy about the game is that it is about evaluating time, space, strategy and tactics and minimized the role of luck,” says Batistella, a writing and linguists professor in the English department on campus. Having played the game since high school, Batistella has proved his success is more than luck as he’s competed in tournaments across the country and currently is ranked 2,364th in the nation by Chessrating.com.
Batistella says that he’s excited about the student interest in chess around campus and hopes to someday see ranked tournaments in Southern Oregon. Until large scale competitions can happen, Raymond encourages anyone passionate about chess or just looking for a game to come play on Mondays/Wednesday 11:45- 1:20 or Tuesdays 12:30-1:40 in front of the SU rain or shine.