Orlando Chess & Games Center owner Alexander Zelner, a United States Chess Federation national master and life master, invites Southwest residents to the chess center, where they can play for fun or competition.
..."There are lots of clubs, but we are a full-service chess center," said Alexander Zelner, OCGC's owner.
...Before Zelner opened the center one year ago, he was working with Florida Youth Chess Academy, training students from throughout the state to compete in national competitions.
Because of this, his
facility opened with an established reputation as a place for children's chess education, but Zelner's
goal has been to provide a full-service chess center that challenges adults, as well as children.
The center offers four membership plans: individual, family, scholastic/youth, and seniors/college students.Members are entitled to discounts on lessons and tournament-entry fees and are welcome to peruse the center's library of more than 500 books, videos and computer software.Daily tournaments offer opportunities for beginners to professional players, including U.S. Chess Federation-rated quads and quick round robins.The most popular event, the Quick Knights Tournament, is open to all ages, but has become a huge hit with the elementary- and middle-school crowd.Every Friday night, children and adults fill a spacious room in the back of the center to play and/or watch four rounds of matches, each lasting 20 minutes.
There is no talking during tournament action, and Zelner
said, "This is the only place you'll find on a Friday night where you have 40 kids, elementary- and middle-school age, in one room — quiet."
To be eligible to compete, children must know the rules and how to move pieces, and part of the appeal of the Friday night tournaments is that every effort is rewarded.Also fun is the Friday night raffle.Participants solve a chess puzzle, and correct answers go into a hat.The youngest player pulls out the name of the winner, who receives a prize like a T-shirt or Lego set.
"Kids have fun," Zelner
said."Even the ones who really aren't into chess come for social reasons.They don't have to know strategy or be strong players.They just have to want to play chess."
Friday nights also feature a one-hour lecture that is geared for all levels of play.This lecture may be presented by Zelner, a USCF national master and life master, or guest speakers, such as International Grandmaster Alex Goldin who is ranked in the top three in the United States.
There are only about 500 Grandmasters in the world, and this distinction is the highest competitive title one can reach in chess.Zelner
earned the title of life master after playing 300 games at the master's level.He is considered one of the top players in the state and was a member of the 1999 national amateur championship team."I'm pretty strong [as a competitor], but my interest is in teaching, in being a chess educator and organizer," said Zelner, who serves as director at large for Florida Chess Association and on the board of directors of the Florida Scholastic Chess League.
"My goal is to popularize chess by teaching as many people as I can."
In addition to holding a summer day camp and classes at the center, Zelner
staff teach chess as an after-school activity at several local schools.
"The principals know it is a benefit, because they have seen articles about chess and education and have seen what chess does for a kid's mind," Zelner
said chess students also learn how to deal with losses and gains, which is a good life skill for an ever-changing world.
Group classes are great for an introduction to chess, but Zelner
recommends private lessons for those who want to improve quickly and compete in rated tournaments.
"In my opinion, people have more fun when they get serious about chess," he
can hardly reach the chessboard, but he
has checkmated many adults," Zelner
three sons, 13-year-old twins David and Gregory and Joshua, 11, started playing chess at age 5 and are still ranked within the top 50 players in the nation.The three Zelner brothers
and John Walbridge represented Southwest Middle School
in a national scholastic tournament where they placed 10th, which Zelner
cited as a big accomplishment for a small team of only four players who were up against teams with as many as 20 players.