Buccaneers host second annual Baumer Hall Chess Invitational
Peter Breen | Tuesday, March 7, 2023
Dozens of students gathered in Baumer Hall’s first-floor lounge Saturday afternoon for hours of strategy, tactics and companionship during the second annual chess tournament of Notre Dame’s newest men’s residential hall.
On account of the contest’s Swiss-style matchmaking process — a non-eliminating tourney format — players could come and go for as long as they pleased.
The tournament charged no entry fee, although participants were encouraged to make a five-dollar donation to Our Lady of the Road, a homeless service center in South Bend.
The event’s organizer, Baumer Hall junior John Healy, established the invitational last year when the Notre Dame Chess Club had ceased to exist.
“My freshman year during [the pandemic] we had a chess club,” Healy said. “The president then was a senior, and the vice president was a sophomore. The leadership of the club passed on to the vice president, but he made a last-minute decision to go to Silicon Valley for a semester, and I guess he didn’t renew the club or something so the chess club shut down.”
With no centralized opportunities to play chess on campus, the idea to host a tourney came to Healey one night when he had trouble falling asleep.
“I was like, ‘Hey, it’d be nice to have a campus wide chess tournament. There’s no chess club, so why not?’” Healy said.
Last year’s double-elimination tournament proved enticing to campus chess enthusiasts and the Baumer Hall community alike.
“The people who showed up really loved it,” Healy said. “Baumer Hall really loved the tournament. The hall staff seemed to be really happy about the fact that we were doing this event for the whole campus.”
Since the Notre Dame Chess Club’s comeback this year, Healy felt a little hesitant about putting on a campus wide chess contest for the second time.
“I thought maybe I shouldn’t do the tournament because it’s kind of their territory, like they’re the chess club,” Healy said.
But the Baumer Hall leadership was emphatic about the event’s return, and when Healy pitched the idea to the chess club, they also were on board.
Healy immediately knew — following the success of last year’s invitational — that he needed to track down a stash of chess boards and clocks — more than the 10 or so in the Notre Dame Chess Club’s possession.
Fortunately, the faculty advisor of the University’s chess club also runs the chess club at a local Catholic school.
Once ample chess sets were secured, a small amount of rearranging of Baumer Hall’s well-furnished, first-floor common area would have the event’s physical arena more than sufficiently set.
The most glaring shortfall of last year’s tournament, Healy noted, was that many competitors — who were so excited about the opportunity given the lack of chess club events — desired to get more games in after being knocked out of the double elimination bracket.
Therefore, this time around Healy imposed the Swiss system. A computer program — not a predetermined bracket — would dictate the tournament — matching winners with winners and losers with losers in a series of 20-minute rounds.
“The nice thing is that people, if they want to stay and play the whole time they can, but if they want to come for one game and leave, they can also do that,” Healy said. “Towns and cities across the United States will have local chess clubs. If you went to any tournament run by any of those clubs, they’d be using a Swiss system.”
Under the arrangement everyone gets to play the same number of matches, and a winner is crowned based on win-loss record.
Sitting through lectures each day, Healy has long observed the popularity of the classic game among Notre Dame students.
“There are a lot of people who play chess,” Healy said. “You see it all the time. If you’re sitting in the back of a classroom and people have their laptops open, you usually see one or two people playing chess. Allegedly, [sophomore quarterback] Tyler Buchner plays in one of his classes.”
The greatest appeal of the board game, Healy added, is the intellectual challenge.
“It’s way more of a skill game than outsiders to chess realize, and it’s something that you can cultivate,” Healy said. “There is some correlation between quantitative intelligence and being able to play chess, but practice is huge.”
In holding the tournament, Healy wished to contribute a touch of good to both Notre Dame and the greater South Bend community.
“I really liked the model of optional donations I’ve seen at other events around campus, so we’re just giving an opportunity for people to optionally donate to Our Lady of the Road, which is a homeless service center in South Bend [where] I’ve done service there in the past,” Healy said.
Liam Price contributed to the reporting of this article.