Minutes slowly tick by, as a group of fascinated onlookers watch transfixed as two people match wits on the chess board. The Rochester chess center is a popular place for people with an interest in chess to showcase their talent and love of chess, and, according to employee Ken McBride, there “isn’t many of them in the country.” 

The Rochester chess center, located in New York, is best known for hosting chess events, which take place on Monday and Wednesday, as well as a Saturday tournament in which players can compete for prizes. The Monday event is a team event where players can compete with a team of four players over the course of 10 weeks to determine which team is the winner of the league. Wednesday’s event is hosted at the chess center by the Community Chess Club of Rochester (CCCR), and once a year the CCCR hosts a Club Championship to determine the Club Champion. The champion then plays a simultaneous event, where they play multiple — sometimes as many as twenty-eight — people at once.

The center’s target audience was originally adults, but Ron Lohrman, the owner and founder of the chess center, realized that by changing the target audience to younger audiences, the chess center, founded in the early 1990s, would become much more profitable. Mr. Lohrman started to offer camps, lessons, and a kids’ tournament which caused the chess center to become a successful organization. 

Beyond changes in target audience, the center also physically changed throughout the decades. McBride noted that the center has expanded from half of the first floor to an entire two-story building.The upstairs is mostly used for storage and occasionally for games, while the downstairs houses the office, the main tournament room, two small rooms for lessons, and a lobby where players can relax and look over the games before the next round of the tournament.  

The chess center also seeks to allow students in high school to experience chess by hosting a high school chess league. The high school chess league had “over 50 schools pre-covid” remarked Lohrman, with schools from Rochester to Buffalo participating. The most recent high school chess league, however, took place remotely over Zoom, instead of in person.  

During the switch to virtual tournaments, the center saw a rise in online chess, largely due to quarantine boredom. After the quarantine ended, they also enjoyed a surge of new people.

According to McBride, the Rochester Chess Center is crucial to the development of Rochester players, as the center provides its members with the skills and knowledge to perform exceptionally well at out-of-town events. For Lohrman, the center allows for players “to improve more with support of friends and staff then if it wasn’t here.” And McBride added that the center also attracts players from nearby towns to participate in their tournaments, partially due to the uniqueness of the chess center and partially because of the friendly and competitive atmosphere of the chess center.

The Rochester Chess Center has served the Rochester community for over 30 years as a place dedicated to the game of chess, and they are planning to continue doing so for many years to come.