Ellington Chess Mates club having fun, can't wait for new home

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Fri., Sep. 27, 2013
Donald Ginn makes a move in his chess match on Sept. 23. Photo by Steve Smith.
Donald Ginn makes a move in his chess match on Sept. 23. Photo by Steve Smith.

Every Monday, members of the Chess Mates club meet at the Hall Memorial Library in Ellington for friendly chess competitions and camaraderie. The group originally met in the Ellington Senior Center, but the surroundings were “too crowded and noisy,” according to the group's facilitator, Alex Cardoni. Instead, the group takes over the meeting room at the library, until it will have more space in the game room at the new senior center.

“There is going to be room there for storage of our sets, and everything else we need,” Cardoni said.

Currently, as many as 12 players stop in on Mondays for games. Some of them also play at clubs in Vernon and other towns. A group of regulars – Wilhelm Frederich, Donald Ginn, Rich Davis and Dave Duttweiler, known as the “faithful four” – are most likely to be found playing, as well as chatting and socializing. “They are great guys,” Davis said.

“It's a nice atmosphere,” said Duttweiler. “It's enjoyable to talk about different things besides chess, and see what we're all doing in our normal lives.”

The games are friendly, and no scores or standings are kept. Anyone seeking instruction is encouraged to seek it out, and/or ask questions while playing. “The best way to learn is to play an instructional game, where we can point out things during the game,” Cardoni said, adding that the group encourages players to learn chess notation, and offers instruction on how to do so.

Typically, each player gets two or three games in per session, but occasionally a more serious battle takes place. “Sometimes it takes the whole two hours to play a game,” Ginn said.

“The games are light,” Cardoni said. “We sometimes play games that take an hour and a half to two hours, but usually they are more like 30 minutes."

Some said that playing chess is good for the minds of senior citizens, exercising the brain and keeping the pathways active. “It stimulates your mind,” Frederich said. “That's what we need at this age.”

“I call it 'delayed senility,'” said Davis.

Cardoni has played chess semi-competitively in other countries, including Switzerland and Cuba, and has played since he was a kid growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., where he was on the chess team at Bishop Timon High School. He later played chess by mail with one of the Franciscan priests – Father David Reddy – from that school, while the clergyman was in Easter Island.

“We played the traditional way, where you send a move by mail,” Cardoni said. “I think we played about six or seven games in 10 years.” The high school's chess club is named Father David Reddy Chess Club to this day.

The Chess Mates are looking forward to having more room at the new Ellington Senior Center, slated to open sometime in early 2014. Besides more space for (hopefully) more members, there will be other amenities, including more-readily available food and coffee.

While the group is mostly seniors, the club is open to any person of any age. Last summer, a local 9-year-old boy once stopped by the club and beat all of the regulars.

“He kicked our asses,” Ginn said.

“That's the beauty of this game,” Cardoni said. “It knows no boundaries.”

Anyone wishing to play chess with the Chess Mates need only stop by Hall Memorial Library on Mondays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.


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