Wachusett Chess Club celebrates 60 years

FITCHBURG – The Wachusett Chess Club celebrates 60 years of chess playing.

The current club was officially formed in February 1960 at the headquarters of Lt. Laurence S. Ayer’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post on Pleasant Street in Fitchburg, although it had existed to some extent before that.

Rocco Pasquale, a 1939 graduate of Fitchburg High School and an employee of the Fitchburg Post Office, was the key founder of the chess club.

“He was a keen player and he thought Fitchburg deserved to have a chess club, where other players could meet and compete,” said George Mirijanian, program director of the Wachusett Chess Club.

At the time of its inception, the membership of the club was low and the players inexperienced, and as the number of members increased, the players improved. The club remained on the VFW site until 1963, when it moved to the hall of the First Unitarian Parish Church, then to several other locations around town over the decades before finding a home in Fitchburg State. College in the mid-1990s.

George Mirijanian (l.) playing Dave Thomas, while Walter Niemi watches
Bottom left: Gary Brassard Left: Ken Gurge Center (standing): Paul Godin Right: Bruce Felton Bottom right: Roger Cappallo

Mirijanian, a lifelong resident of the city, began playing chess in the late 1950s while a student at Fitchburg High School. He was a member of the chess club for over 60 years, before the club acquired his name.

“What I love most about playing chess is the people I meet in my overboard games,” Mirijanian said. “I find them very interesting, with interests that I share with them. I see them not as adversaries but as partners in creating beautiful games.

Mirijanian won his first Wachusett Chess Club Championship in 1977 at the age of 33. The last time he won was in 2015, when he was 71. He has a total of 17 club championship wins and is a multiple past president of the Massachusetts Chess Association, New England Chess Association, and New England Regional Vice President of the American Chess Federation.

George Mirijanian, program director of the Wachusett Chess Club

“What I like the most about being a member of the Wachusett Chess Club is seeing the players improve and being satisfied to improve,” he said.

Mirijanian is also a national chess tournament director and led the 618-man US Open in Boston in August 1988, held at the Lafayette Hotel in downtown Boston.

“Another highlight of my chess career was when World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian came to the club in February 1982 and gave a simultaneous exhibition, where he played against all comers at the same time,” said Mirijanian said. “The Sentinel & Enterprise did spectacular coverage of this event, sending a photographer and a reporter.”

Mirijanian worked for Sentinel & Enterprise for nine years as the newspaper’s obituary editor. Even before being hired for this role, he wrote a weekly chess column for the newspaper which ran from 1969 to 2002. The column continued for a few months after he left the newspaper in October 2002, ending at the start of the following year after being written by a few members of a chess club.

The newspaper sent Mirijanian to New York in October 1995 to cover the World Chess Championship on the top floor of the World Trade Center.

“I have enjoyed my 33 years writing a chess column for Sentinel & Enterprise,” Mirijanian said. “The newspaper had exclusive coverage of this world championship, with matches and photos. It was a high mark in my job at Sentinel & Enterprise.

Mirijanian has hosted Chess Chat on Fitchburg Access Television since its launch in October 2006, a 30-minute chess show which airs live monthly and then airs several times a week on FATV’s public channel. Its “superb” co-host, Dave Couture from Westminster, is an active chess writer, photographer and player.

“We discuss recent tournaments and present, with analysis, one of the matches from this tournament,” Mirijanian said.

One of their favorite guests is international master Carissa Yip of Andover, who at just 10 years old won the Wachusett Chess Club Championship in 2014 with a perfect score – seven straight wins.

Carissa Yip (l.) playing Bruce Felton in 2014, the same year she became Wachusett Chess Club champion.

“She gained national recognition by being the youngest woman to defeat a grandmaster,” Mirijanian said of Yip.

“Last year she was the highest rated chess player in the country. She got more publicity for the Wachusett Chess Club than any other player we’ve had. Just Google” Carissa Yip chess ” or “Carissa Yip Wachusett Chess Club” and you will see a lot of information about Carissa, our shining star.

Yip started playing chess club when he was 7 years old. She was made an honorary lifetime member of the Wachusett Chess Club after winning the club championship in 2014, becoming the youngest woman to become a master and the youngest woman to defeat a grandmaster. and was awarded the title of Female Grandmaster and International Master by the World Chess Federation.

Last October, Yip won the US Women’s Championship and was a runner-up in the US Women’s Championship held the same month. Both tournaments were hosted online by the St. Louis Chess Club, America’s premier chess club.

The Wachusett Chess Club has also had contact with other famous chess players, hosting world famous chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer on March 2, 1964, and many grandmasters, including Petrosian, have played matches there. of exhibition.

The Wachusett Chess Club suspended in-person play in early March.

Before the pandemic, dozens of members met every Wednesday night in room C159 in the McKay complex at Fitchburg State University. The club currently hosts weekly virtual tournaments rated by Chess.com and led by Mike Commisso of Brookline, NH, a key member of the Wachusett Chess Club and the Certified Tournament Director of the US Chess Federation.

Members of the Wachusett Chess Club

Mirijanian said his “main goal” for the club right now is to return to play at Fitchburg State University.

“Once that is done, hosting nationally rated tournaments by the American Chess Federation, the official governing body for chess in the country, would be my priority,” he said.

Once they can start playing again at Fitchburg State University, Mirijanian said joining the club is easy.

“Just show up on a Wednesday, anytime after 6 p.m., go to room C159 at the McKay Complex and register as a member,” he said. “The annual fee is $20, but I think I’ll reduce it once we get back to playing.”

All ages and skill levels are welcome. For more information, visit wachusettchess.org and follow Wachusett Chess Club on Facebook.

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