Strategy, tactics, and problem-solving skills were on full display during a chess tournament in Yellowknife on Jan. 28 — the first such chess tournament since Covid-19.

Rob Bubar was helping at the event hosted by the Yellowknife Chess Club, which was held in the Yellowknife Public Library meeting room.

“It is really well-attended and is about the biggest turnout we have ever had for a tournament,” Bubar said of the 10 youth and 18 adults who participated and sat pondering their strategic chessboard moves during the afternoon matches.

“Everybody learned chess over Covid, I guess,” he laughed.

A game that relies on making the right move with the right chess piece at the right time, Bubar said it can take an entire lifetime to learn to play at a high level.

With each of the two chess players in a match having possession of one king, one queen, eight pawns, two knights, two rooks and two bishops at the start of the game, the objective is to move pieces around the board while capturing the opponent’s pieces and ultimately winning the game by capturing the opponent’s king — the most important piece and deciding factor on the chessboard.

“If you still have the king, you haven’t lost,” Bubar said.

He noted that the length of time for the average game varies greatly.

“A game can be over in as few as three bad moves or you can play 100 moves. It depends upon the players who are playing and how good they are. It also depends upon the mistakes that players make,” he said.

The most difficult part of the game, however, is not necessarily the moves they make on the chessboard, but actually just deciding they want to play the game, according to Bubar.

“The hardest part of playing is just getting out to play and then being happy to play,” he said.

While males tend to overrepresent the number of chess players throughout the world, Bubar said one notable female player was chess prodigy Judit Polgar, considered to be the strongest female chess player of all time. She was born in Hungary in 1976 and became one of the top 100 players in the world before the age of 13.

A few of the 28 chess players who entered the Yellowknife Chess Club tournament Saturday are deep in thought about their strategy. Jill Westerman/NNSL photo

The virtue of patience

To really excel at the game, Bubar said patience is a virtue and a necessary skill to have in chess, as it’s important to take the time to study and learn the overwhelmingly large number of possible moves on the chessboard.

“For me, the idea is that chess is something that you should just play and try not to put too much emphasis on winning, but put most of your emphasis on learning,” he said. “Remembering patterns is also very important and pattern recognition is what chess is all about.

“The pattern changes as you play, and so instead of looking at how all the pieces line up, look at what the pattern is — you can see patterns that you have seen before and you know what is going to happen.”

Overall, Bubar said chess is a fun game and something he likes to play daily.

“There is no understanding chess from the beginning to the end. You can study as much as you like or as little as you like. Some players are better than other players but that always seems to change because everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “It’s a game that is a little bit of art.”

The Yellowknife Chess Club has been running tournaments since the early 2000s and is open to anyone who wants to play.

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