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Hawaii enjoys chess

by April Tashiro, staff writer


In 1997 the chess world was shocked when Garry Kasparov, the highest-rated chess player ever, lost a six-game match to an infamous IBM super computer, Deep Blue. Many aficianados considered the possibility of a decline in the popularity of chess, a game with a 1,500-year history.

Four years later, the President of the Honolulu Chess Club, Gerald Dunworth, has his hands full at the Center Stage of Ala Moana Shopping Center every Monday. The once-a-week meeting of the Club attracts hundreds of the visiting and local chess players.

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The Honolulu Chess Club meets Mondays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and anybody can play without paying any fee or dues. Moreover, the Club provides chess sets, including chess clocks. On the stage, life-sized chess pieces are set up, and these, according to Dunworth, are very popular among the young players. “It’s a casual club we have. Everyone is welcome,” said Dunworth. “More kids, the better. More women, the better.”

The Club also provides a weekly chess lesson. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Dunworth teaches chess, from the basic rules to strategic tips. He is an experienced B-plus player, meaning he holds a U.S. Chess Federation rating around 1750 – 1799.

At the Honolulu Chess Club, beginners can enjoy chess without being intimated by the competitive nature of the game. Nobody records wins and losses, and most players allow their opponents to take back moves. “You come here and play a little, play for friendship. It’s a great way to meet people, as far as I am concerned,” said Dunworth.

Sometimes, the Club hosts a simultaneous tournament, in which one Master plays chess with 20 people at the same time.

The Honolulu Chess Club was established by the Hawai‘i Chess Federation, the official local branch of the USCF. It is funded by contributions from many companies, organizations, and individuals. Thinker Toys donated the life-sized chess set, which was made in Germany, Ala Moana Shopping Center helped to ship it here, as well as provides the space for the Club. Helping Hands of Hawai‘i donated the first six chess sets.

The main purposes of the Club include building the network of chess players as well as promoting chess in Hawai‘i. The Club especially encourages people to start playing chess at a young age.

Lynn Sato brings her 8-year-old daughter, Nicole, to the Honolulu Chess Club every week. Nicole learned chess a year and a half ago, and she enjoys playing the game with variety of people. “I’d rather she was doing this than watching TV,” Sato said.

“Playing chess helps kids academically,” Dunworth said. “There is a correlation between playing chess and math and science scores.” In fact, many studies claim that playing chess can improve brain power. For example, according to an article in Chess Life, nonhonors elementary students who joined a school chess club improved their math and reading scores twice as much as non-chess player students during the third to fifth grades.

“We encourage young kids. More kids and more students. We’d love to get kids from HPU to come down. That would be fun,” said Dunworth. For more information, contact Randy L. Prothero, the HCF president at (808) 384-5645, or



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