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Players make moves at DeKalb chess event

DeKALB – When Aaron Bartelt moved to DeKalb in April, he Google searched “DeKalb chess” and eventually found himself at a tournament.

Bartelt, a Milwaukee native, was among 28 participants at the U.S. Chess Federation Home for the Holiday event on Saturday at First Congregational United Church of Christ in DeKalb. Players in the three-round tournament were as young as eight and as old as 80.

Each player was required to be a member of the chess federation, a nonprofit organization that has a rulebook players must follow.

During the tournament, players received one point if they won, said DeKalb Chess Club coordinator Bill Feldman, who served as a federation-certified tournament director on Saturday. A draw was half a point, and a loss was worth zero.

Bartelt plays chess because it’s a good mind exercise.

“It keeps me really sharp,” he said. “It gives me something to do without spending money, really. It’s a cheap hobby.”

There were four divisions based on the ratings players achieved before the tournament began; ratings are calucated based prior victories and the ratings of the opponents involved. The top division, the Anand group (named after the current world champion), yielded $80 for first place and $40 for second place.

Eight-year-old Suraj Ramanathan of Wheaton had a pre-tournament rating of 1101. A grandmaster, one of the highest titles a chess player can receive, has a rating of 2500, among other qualifications.

Suraj started playing chess three years ago. He practices every day, sometimes for four hours, he said.

“I want to become a top class player,” he said.

Since there were no age groups, Suraj’s opponents were more than three times his age. He said playing against adults was “just like playing kids, but they’re a lot taller.”

Republican state Sen.-elect Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove also played in the tournament. His pre-tournament rating was 1910.

Lawrence Cohen defeated Oberweis in the second round.

“It was tough,” Cohen said. “He put up a really good fight.”

Oberweis served as president of the Illinois Chess Association for two years.

Chess players said there are a lot of politics involved in the game. Cohen played in the tournament with his older brother, Howard, and jokingly said he has an armistice with him.

“Sometimes the politics in chess get nastier than the politics in the regular, national level,” Cohen said.

Eighty-year-old Clifford Adams of Sycamore played in the tournament for fun. He used to play chess with his five sons, but when they moved away, he stopped. Adams started back up a couple of years ago.

“It gives me the opportunity to engage in an activity with young people,” Adams said.

The DeKalb Chess Club meets from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays at the First Congregational Church and from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at the Sycamore Public Library.

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