History of the Springfield Chess Club

The Springfield Chess Club, in its current form, was incorporated on July 29, 1976, just a few years after Bobby Fischer's capture of the world chess championship spurred a surge of nationwide interest in chess. The club began to organize tournaments, often in the quad or octagonal format, as well as smaller tournaments, matches, championships, and other events that were held on their Wednesday night meetings.

One of the club's earlier highlights came on September 25, 1978, when grandmaster Larry Christiansen zapped 22 players and gave up just one draw in a simultaneous exhibition held at the Nelson Center in Lincoln Park.

Through 1993, the SCC held both its regular meetings and its tournaments at the Washington Park pavilion. A monthly newsletter, the Chess Club News, was started in 1993 by club secretary Bob Ladendorf. The club moved from the park pavilion in the summer of 1993, following the imposition of an hourly fee for use of the pavilion by the Springfield Park District. On September 1, 1993, the SCC held its first meeting at American Legion Post 32, which was then located downtown, at the corner of 5th St. and Capitol Ave.

In the early to mid 90s, organized activity on Wednesday nights gradually gave way to casual play, consisting mostly of blitz. The tournaments, most of which were then being held at the Hampton Inn after leaving the park pavilion, took the four-round Swiss System format. The club held championship tournaments, and the big winner was Springfield attorney David B. Mote. In addition to Wednesday meetings, the monthly meetings at Barnes and Noble were established in 1994.

Publication of a newsletter ceased in 1995. Through the late 90s, as the club atmosphere became more casual, some of the old guard moved on, and some new members who later became regulars joined. The club organized an informal championship in 1998, and the victor of this event was Springfield master Doug Van Buskirk.

In late 2000, the Board of Directors seated some new officers, and they began a program of revitalizing the club. The newsletter was re-started as the bimonthly Chess Club Observer, this time by David Long. The club championship was reinstated. The club organized a membership drive which almost tripled membership over the short term, and in 2001 played two exhibition matches with the neighboring Jacksonville Area Chess Club. The first match was a 4-4 tie, and Springfield won the second match 6-3. The club began a series of blitz tournaments and a club ladder, although these experiments were both short-lived.

Turnout at tournaments had always fluctuated, but largely by coincidence, turnout spiked in 2001 just as club attendance was increasing. Tournaments had become too large for the Hampton Inn, so the club set about finding a larger venue. On October 27, 2001, the new site, the Signature Inn, was inaugurated.

In 2003, the SCC bid for and received the Illinois Class Championship, the first time in years that any major state tournament had been held outside of metropolitan Chicago. The tournament was held the weekend following Thanksgiving, November 28-30, 2003. There were five sections, one for classes M and X, one for C and D, and one each for A, B, and E/under. The tournament was a success from an organizational standpoint, with many positive reviews. Unfortunately, turnout, and thereby, finances, was a disappointment. 

The Illinois Class was dedicated to the memory of three-time club champion David Mote, who had died on October 11, 2003, at the age of 44. Additionally, one tournament a year starting in 2004 has been designated as the David Mote Memorial Open. In the last few years of his life, David had worked as a federal public defender, and the 7th Circuit Court public defender's office published a memorial issue of their newsletter, the Back Bencher.

As swiftly as it had increased, turnout at both club night and tournaments took a steep decline as interest waned. From 2004 to 2006, membership in the club fell by about half. To compensate for the loss of membership dues and tournament revenue, the newsletter was switched to a quarterly schedule, and the tournament schedule pared from six to four or five tournaments per year. Turnout at club night and tournaments began to rebound at last in 2007, although membership remained in the neighborhood of 20 to 25.

The American Legion moved from its downtown building in 2007, to a new building on Sangamon Ave., across the street from the main entrance to the Illinois State Fairgrounds. The SCC went with them, and held its first meeting at the new site on June 13, 2007. Also in 2007, the SCC began its search for a new tournament site after a six-year-plus run at the Signature Inn, after a prohibitively large increase in the meeting room rentals there.

In 2008, the club began using the Carpenters Local 16 meeting hall to hold tournament at intervals of several months, while the search continued for a site to supplement the union hall, to be able to hold tournaments, possibly at the two alternating sites, as frequently as we did through 2006.

In 2009, the club moved its Wednesday meeting site to the more spacious White Oaks Mall food court, catty-corner from Barnes and Noble, site of the Friday meetings. The club started a new membership drive, loosely modeled on the 2001 effort, and while its success was less spectacular than in 2001, membership did recover to 20 members.

Club Champions

1993: David Mote
1994: David Mote
1998: Doug Van Buskirk
2001: David Mote
2003: Doug Van Buskirk
2004: Matt Cremeens
2005: Evan Dorosheff
The club championship is currently vacant.

 Contributions to this page by current or former SCC members are welcome! We could especially use articles on the SCC's early history through the early 90s. Please pass copies of articles, photos, anything SCC related to one of the club officers at a regular meeting.

Back to Articles
Back to main page

Copyright 2008-9, Springfield Chess Club, Inc.