Chess club in Old North St. Louis looks to expand it’s reach within the community

Published: Jan. 28, 2023 at 10:21 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A chess club is looking to breed new life into parts of St. Louis City, while also looking to expand the reach of chess.

Jeffrey Vollmer is the tournament director for the Old North St. Louis/ St. Louis Place Chess Club.

Every Saturday, more than a dozen players come to play in the tournaments.

“I like that you get people that wouldn’t normally know each other together,” Vollmer said.

Since 2015, Vollmer said there have been nearly 500 tournaments.

The tournaments are United States Chess Federation-rated games, and the club brings in chess players from all over the area.

“We have some homeless players that show up that we’ve bought memberships for in the past,” Vollmer said. “One of our longest members is a homeless player that’s been playing here since 2015.”

Michael Abron has been playing chess for years but moved to St. Louis just four years ago.

“I came down here because St. Louis is the chess capital of the country, and I wanted my chess to get better,” Abron said.

The chess club also attracts players of all ages, including 13-year-old Shawn Morris.

Morris and his family traveled two hours to come to St. Louis.

“I like that there’s a bunch of possibilities and that I understand the possibilities and I can play it well,” Morris said.

The chess club also attracts some older players.

“I turned 69,” Abron said. “I don’t want dementia or Alzheimer’s, so I think chess is a good way of keeping myself mentally active.”

However, for Vollmer, it’s about more than just chess.

“You have this view in the St. Louis area that everything north of the Delmar divide is kind of a certain way,” Vollmer said. “It’s just not the case. There are many great neighborhoods north of Delmar.”

The chess club is also about bringing a new idea of what north city has to offer.

“It had somewhat of a bad or dubious reputation,” Abron said. “Because of the chess here, it really has improved the reputation. Let people know we can be cerebral, not just physical. It’s a good thing.”

More information on the chess club can be found here.