Allen Blumstein | Staff Writer
The School of International and Public Affairs is fairly quiet on Monday and Friday nights. It’s where the FIU Chess Club meets – but there’s a lot more intensity than the decibel levels might suggest.
The FIU Chess Club meets on Mondays and Fridays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in SIPA 103. Though there’s heated competition within the FIU club alone, an online chess tournament hosted by the club is in the works and tentatively set for between March 17-19.
With the sound of chess pieces sliding across the board mixed with quiet conversation, the chess club may seem mild. However, an hour’s worth of observation shows a very different side to players.
Calculating, fierce and focused are a few words that describe a typical match at one of their meetings. Some players are casual, but many strategize with unmatched intensity to beat an opponent.
Much like any other sport, it’s a game of strategy; a playbook thick with different piece formations is ingrained in the avid chess player’s head.
There are formations in chess carrying lively names such as The Dragon and Ruy Lopez. In formal competition the two players shake hands and then the match follows, played in sheer silence.
The club is led by veteran chess player Brandon Vila, a senior majoring in computer science.
Playing competitively since the sixth grade and teaching chess professionally to students through the South Miami Chess Club, Vila is a valuable resource to the chess champs at FIU.
In an interview with PantherNOW, Brandon explained how chess is much like life.
“In chess, there are many avenues to venture through, each with their journeys and consequences, just like life. In chess as in life you will make poor moves from time to time, but it’s up to you to decide how you handle those mistakes…give up or learn from them and move on,” said Vila.
Vila pointed to chess as being a vehicle of improvement for his life in many ways, saying that “chess has taught me humility in how to win and lose, sportsmanship, and how to be on a team.”
Brandon reminisced on his chess journey, recognizing his high school chess coach for giving him the tools to excel in chess and his mother for providing endless support and encouragement.
Vila zoomed out and discussed what the global chess scene looks like. Current five-time reigning World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, will elect to not defend his title owing to lost interest.
Carlsen is arguably the greatest chess player of all time. Other members of the FIU chess club shared that currently India and Russia are the breeding grounds for the world’s best chess players.
Where does Vila see the game taking him? “My future in chess lies in continuing to study the beautiful game and increase my skill throughout tournament play…I plan to carry the game with me throughout my academic life, my future career as a software developer, and for the rest of my life”, Vila said.
What starts as a few pieces on a board turns into a display of magic: the intensity is undeniable. The comradery amongst the team is distinct, even though the competition is fierce.