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Knights In The Courtyard: 2017’s Life-Sized Chess event connects a classic game with the LBCC community

Eric Slyter explains how the life-sized chess works.

Chess dates back to the 6th century A.D. It originated in Asia, spreading into Persia, Russia and Western Europe. During Medieval times chess was often used for war strategy and pleasure. Throughout the 20th century, chess persisted.

How does this ancient game maintain its relevancy in modern society? Popular culture would make it seem like there’s no place for it within our technology-based reality, and it has become almost uncommon to play.

LBCC student and Chess Club founder Carmela Scafidi, however, had a different opinion on the matter. Introduced to the game by a family-friend, she wanted to start a club to meet up with people here at Linn-Benton Community College who also play the game. She created Chess Club, and now has twice-weekly games set up in the Commons Cafeteria for those who share that love.

Scafidi values chess in the way one would an item of history and age, treasuring the way it causes the individual to shut out the outside world, put their smartphones on silent, and do absolutely nothing but study the checkered board and its 32 pieces.

Richard Gorecki who has been playing for 60 plus years contemplates his next move.

“In today’s day and age, with all of this technology, we often overlook the basic need for interaction and communication. This game allows people to interact with each other on a personal level, and thrives upon the ability to read your opponent,” said Scafidi.

Don’t just take Scafidi by her word: her opinion is rooted in science, and the challenge of mapping out each move (and the next four that follow) is enough to make her point all the more true.

After bringing chess to Linn-Benton Community College, Scafidi has successfully developed a club for individuals who share that passion with her.

To celebrate the club, she’s created the Life-Sized Chess Event, the club’s biggest game.

“Who isn’t intrigued by anything life-sized?” says Scafidi.

On May 17, LBCC’s courtyard transformed into all things chess, from the giant chessboard next to the covered area, to the round tables decorated with giant pieces. It is an example of Scafidi’s huge devotion to joining the community together through an ancient game; a devotion that earned her the 2016-17 award for Club Representative of the Year.

The official Queen and King this year were Scafidi and the Student Leadership Council’s Eric Slyter, who doubled as the event’s MC as he called out each move the players made. The costumes were borrowed from Oregon State University’s theater department and handmade by costume designer DeMara Cabrera.

Like last year, the board consisted of 32 people, many of whom were close with Scafidi or a member of the club. Participants had lunch paid for them by the Chess Club, and the BBQ was part of a collaboration between the Culinary Club and the Active Minds Club.

The players controlling the game were David St. Onge (controlling black), a member of Chess Club since its inception, and Rich Gorecki (controlling white), a close friend to Scafidi and longtime chess mentor. To keep things a bit more fast-paced than last year’s game, the opponents used an electric chess timer.

Being a chess piece requires carefully listening to the MC calling their number. The people-turned-pieces had about ten seconds to quickly figure out where to move to, which was confusing if a piece wasn’t familiar with a chess board setup. Each square has its own unique letter-number paring, starting with A1 and ending with H8. Pawns, for example, have it easy, while pieces like the diagonally-moving Bishop had more of a challenging job.

What arguably attracts fan to the game of chess is the art of deliberation. In slow games, the player is allowed to take their turn, study the board, and make strategic moves. Strategy is key; and so is complete concentration. For new players, the game of chess becomes a game of MouseTrap as they nervously move each piece until the end.

The victory this year went to St. Onge and the black pieces, whose trophy was a bronze plate.

Story by Morgan Connelly

Photos by Elliot Pond

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