Brecksville Chess Club is home for experts, casual players

by Charles Cassady
Chess has been called the sport of kings. That would make the Brecksville site of – no, not White Castle­­ – Panera Bread, 8447 Chippewa Rd., a throne room. And every man, woman or child is a potential monarch at the weekly evening meetings of the Brecksville Chess Club.
“It’s a great venue at Panera, because people walk in and you get all types,” said Bob Collett, who helps coordinate the weekly meetings. “It’s not unusual for a mom and a couple of kids to sit down and start playing.”
The club, which took a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, began meeting again in January. The Thursday-nights sessions begin at 5 p.m.
Founder Mark Seaton’s mission in creating the club was to introduce as many people to the game of chess as possible, he said. All are welcome, whether they want to polish their Sicilian Opening, try the Luzhin Defense, discuss the legendary victory in the “immortal game” of Anderssen vs. Kieseritzky, played in London in 1851, or just find out what makes this chess stuff different from checkers.
“A lot of our guys are very happy to teach,” said Collett.
In the past, the club met at various destinations, trying out the in-store café of a local grocery store, a Broadview Heights coffee shop and a school in Boston Mills. But Panera has proven a wise move, Collet said, and a comfortable, quiet arena for the membership.
“Some of our guys are very serious,” Collett said. “They studied the games of the masters over and over again.”
Although he oversees things, Collett’s supervision is mainly a matter of convenience, making him a pawn of fate, you might say.
“I am more of a casual player; I live just around the corner,” said Collett, whose job is also in the immediate area, as a real estate agent and property manager at RE/MAX-Trinity.
Other club members cover all squares, Collett said.
“It’s a pretty diverse group,” he said. “We have a guy who came from India; he works at a nuclear power plant and comes from the east side. We have a couple of engineers. We have a couple of guys from Macedonia – the one in Europe.”
Players range from school age to wise chess combatants in their 80s. On average, about a dozen show up, not counting walk-ins who spontaneously join in the bouts and strategies. Some players are from the Brecksville area, while others travel longer distances to join the club.
One of the long-timers was Joshua Reinharts, who recently bid the Brecksville scene adieu to enter the law program at Cornell University in upstate New York. Collett said Reinharts and his family would drive all the way from Wooster for club assemblies.
No current member of the club has achieved the exalted rank of chess Grandmaster, said Collett. Requirements include racking up points and achieving points in chess matches recognized by FIDE, the international chess federation.
But club member John Cohen recently had an impressive victory in an officiated Cleveland chess open, and Collett said Cohen is talent to watch.
There are no dues to join the club, and things are so informal it is not easy to tell how many people actually actively belong, Collet said. When 14 members pair off, he said it’s considered a nice night.
In keeping with the casual atmosphere and inclusive nature, one can just show up as one pleases, to spectate, play, learn and grow.
“You get a lot of new players,” said Collet. “And by ‘new,’ I mean have never played before.”
The Brecksville club is so laid back that if one doesn’t want to play chess, the ancient Japanese game of “Go” is offered as an alternative.
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