The first time I learned how to play chess I was at my music teacher Mr. Mealey’s house. It was January in Saskatchewan so needless to say, the roads were a little rough, and my mom was taking longer than expected to pick up my brother and I. To kill the time, Mealey picked up his chess board and asked if either of us knew how to play. 

What followed was probably the fastest crash course in chess history, and I lost miserably until my mom picked me up. Despite not fully understanding the game and, obviously, not having a natural affinity for it, I really wanted to play again. I mentioned it to a friend of mine who I knew was always playing against bots in online chess, and he and I began playing together. Still, I was not very good, but I do recall one instance where I beat my friend, and I still refuse to let him live it down. 

Admittedly, I have not kept up with my chess playing even though I would love to. My music teacher passed away shortly after teaching me, and I moved far away from the friend I used to play with. I tended to put it off when the thought of playing arose, especially when I saw signs for the chess club popping up around campus. I wanted to play, but I couldn’t get myself to do it for some reason. However, after meeting with the president of the Chess Club, I think I have been convinced and am looking forward to picking up the hobby again in the coming academic year. 

I spoke with Animish, the president of UBCO’s Chess Club, to learn more about it. He had a similarly heartwarming story about learning to play as I did: Animish’s father taught him to play, and when he was around eight years old, he said he learned “purely out of frustration of wanting to beat my dad.” He and his father would end their nightly study sessions with a game of chess, and Animish remembers going to bed those nights, mad at being bested by his father yet again. 

Finally, at the age of 12, Animish won a game against his father for the first time. 

“That’s the beauty of the sport,” he said. 

While his interest was originally more sentimental, as he grew older it became more of a side hobby. When he came to UBCO he was surprised that there was no chess club that had already been established —especially considering the number of students he saw playing online chess during class. Animish and his friends saw the vacuum and decided to apply to start the club through the Students’ Union Okanagan (SUO) in 2023. 

The Chess Club follows the standard guidelines for chess clubs around the world, and they organize weekly meetings on Fridays from 5–7 p.m. in the Arts and Science building Foyer. Members simply meet up and get to playing. The environment is friendly and diverse. Experienced players, as well as beginners, are always welcome to join. The Chess Club is also looking to fight against stereotypes within the sport, particularly by trying to welcome more women into the space, as chess is traditionally reasonably male-dominated. 

Although Animish noted that he doesn’t think that chess should be too competitive — with players only concerned with their ratings or a scoreboard — and he noted some good-natured rivalries within the club. For example, the appearance of a student who happened to be a national chess master, meaning they had been awarded the title after receiving an Elo rating of 2,200, and they won five games simultaneously against other chess club members. 

The club holds special events on occasion, such as movie nights and cross-club collaborations. For example, on April 2, 2024, the chess club got together with the Jazz Club, Ice Cream Club, and Filipino Students’ Association for an afternoon of chess, music, and refreshments in the courtyard.  

While it is the end of term, I highly encourage those who are interested to look into the chess club in the upcoming fall 2024 term. I know I will be using the summer months to brush up on my chess skills before coming to my first meet-up in September. For more information, contact the chess club at or find them on Instagram @okanaganchess.