Outdoor chess tournament open to adults and children

September 13, 2002|by Chris Copley

When architect Lisa Dall'Olio conceived a fund-raiser to benefit downtown Martinsburg, W.Va., she turned to a centuries-long tradition in the Old Country: outdoor chess.

"It started with the idea of what they do in Europe - old men play with large chess pieces in the central plaza, hauling them from square to square," Dall'Olio said. "Our event is a multifaceted. The chess pieces are sponsored by people and companies in Martinsburg; a little plaque goes on each chair. And the tournament is a fund-raiser for Main Street Martinsburg."

Main Street Martinsburg is a group whose members sponsor activities to promote and revitalize downtown Martinsburg. Dall'Olio said 14 pieces are still available for sponsorships.


The 2002 Martinsburg Chess Tournament will take place over four weeks in the plaza at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library, 101 W. King St., beginning Monday, Sept. 23.

The deadline for registration in the tournament has been extended to Monday, Sept. 16. Registration is $10 per person.

Dall'Olio said people like the idea of playing with oversized chess pieces. A retired Martinsburg doctor, Frank "Hick" Hamilton, volunteered to make them.

"The pieces are made of wood. Pawns are about two feet tall. The king is about four feet tall," she said. "The pieces were drawn from the set I had when I was a kid. I took the drawings to Hick and he cranked them out really quickly."

The "chess pieces" are actually chairs, made small for patrons in the children's section of the Martinsburg library. The backs of the chairs have been cut into silhouettes of chess pieces.

Other volunteers painted them,

Dall'Olio said, taking them home and painting them burgundy or cream. Now the two sets of pieces - 16 on a side - are ready for battle.

The tournament will take place on the plaza in front of the library, Dall'Olio said. A chess board of 64 squares will be delineated on the bluestone pavers. Players will meet and play during two daily designated tournament timeslots: noon to 1 p.m. or 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Times will vary on the weekend.

"I tried to accommodate people who have to leave town at 5 but want to play," Dall'Olio said. "And kids can play after they get out of school."

To keep games moving along, they will be limited to half an hour. If the game is not complete at the end of 30 minutes, the point value of captured pieces will determine the winner. A chess clock will be available at the library desk to time games. Players will referee themselves.

Dall'Olio said children shouldn't be shy about registering to compete. Everyone plays in one tournament bracket, but she said she would try to pair people of comparable age and ability in early rounds.

If she gets a last-minute surge of registrants, Dall'Olio said she'll set up a table and regular-sized chess board on the plaza, so two games can take place at the same time.

To register, call 1-304-267-2120 or pick up a registration form at Grove & Dall'Olio Architects PLLC, 218 W. King St., Martinsburg.

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