The antiquated, double-faced timer is set for 12 minutes. A faded checkerboard pattern is set up with ivory and black pieces atop a plywood board laminated in a pattern of pale green on top of kelly-green squares.
Six men hover over three boards, timers clacking softly, plastic pieces clicking as they are taken, earned, stolen or won — depending on how they’ve been lost.
David Paulus is executive secretary and treasurer of the Stroudsburg Chess Club. It almost seems like an undercover moniker because it takes away from the fact that Paulus is a good chess player “¦ a very good chess player.
Paulus again sets up the chess set and the metronomic timer, again for 12 minutes, at the Stroudsburg YMCA’s back room against a chatty opponent, Fred Levy. Twelve minutes?
“Well, you could set it up for one minute, two minutes, five minutes or two hours. It depends on what the players decide.” Paulus adds a typical gently applied insult to his opponent: “This match won’t take all 12 minutes.”
Unfortunately for Levy, Paulus is right. Not only does Paulus defeat Levy with a check, causing Levy to resign instead of forcing a humiliating checkmate, Paulus does so while chattering away as if he were sitting in a coffee shop with nothing else on his mind. They trash-talk amongst themselves as if it were an NBA playoff game, yet none is insulted.
The Stroudsburg Chess Club was started by WWII members from the Five Corners Foreign Legion Club who met, according to Paulus, over “beer and pretzels.”
In the ’70s, they became incorporated and affiliated with U.S. Chess Federation. Still, Paulus seems a little let down that there isn’t a more fervent following in the United States for the game he learned as a child in Russia. He feels that this game is still only equated with nerds. A glance toward Eric Garcia, one of two young teens in the room, and Paulus smiles fondly.
“He is our youth star.”
The two “youngsters,” by comparison, are neither geeky nor nerdy, but their concentration on the green squares and clacking plastic pieces shows that they are determined to master one of the most complex games in the world.
The Stroudsburg Chess Club meets 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays at the YMCA in Stroudsburg. This meeting is the smaller one of two that take place each week, with usually only about 12 attending. The Tuesday meeting is at the Loder Building, 62 Analomink St., East Stroudsburg, and has matches running from 7 to 10 p.m. It is not only a larger space, but more dedicated to chess with a library, learning materials and more of a welcoming environment for beginners who want to learn this age-old game.
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