Chess is one of the world's best games so why are chess clubs in the Port Macquarie-Hastings dying?

Chess clubs are in decline in the Port Macquarie-Hastings. Photo: Pexels
Chess clubs are in decline in the Port Macquarie-Hastings. Photo: Pexels

Every Wednesday night Reg Wilkinson has a familiar outing. He runs a chess club in Laurieton.

It's not easy. Numbers are down.

"On Wednesday night we are likely to get between two to six players," he said. "Ten years ago we would have had 15 to 20 players."

Monthly competitions are also in decline.

"Some of our members have died," Mr Wilkinson explained. "The kids these days also just can't sit still."

More members have been drawn away to the convenience of online chess tournaments, rather than local face-to-face competition.

The average age of Laurieton Chess Club members is well above 50 and Mr Wilkinson said he is "frustrated and saddened" by the decline of the game locally.

"It's such a good game, it is such a shame," he said. "It teaches you to think strategically, to think ahead."

Numerous studies have found that playing chess regularly strengthens both numerical and verbal aptitudes as well as strengthening a person's mind.

Brian Thew.

Brian Thew.

Brian Thew, a member of the Laurieton Chess Club, said chess suffers from a number of misconceptions.

"There is a view that it is an expensive game but this isn't true," he said. "You can get the equipment you need, a set, board and a clock for under $100."

New South Wales Chess Association vice president Peter Abbott rejects suggestions chess is in decline.

"Chess has adapted to the online world extremely well and more chess games are played online now than face-to-face," he said.

"The online chess sites offer the opportunity to play people across the world without the travelling and time commitment that a regular chess club tournament might bring. The positive though is that more people are playing chess."

Mr Abbott acknowledges the online trend has led to "declines and closures in some of the smaller and regional clubs".

But he said a number of the larger metropolitan chess clubs have been able to "innovate and show solid growth".

"There is also a new breed of chess player emerging," he said. "Those who play regular chess online but who now want to test themselves against a live human being for the first time."

Chess with a live human, what a radical idea.

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