By Nick Sammartino
The Westfield Chess Club was established in 1940, originally as the Plainfield Chess Club. Then and now, it acts as a hotspot for the continued revitalization of Chess, achieved only by new players playing an old game. “New” here refers both to age and experience—there are some children flush with skill and some adults just beginning their journey of a thousand games, and vice versa. And the numbers support this report of the club’s vitality. The club averages 57 players at its regular Sunday tournaments.
As stated, there are talented players, both young and old, who attend the Westfield club, and a prime example of one of these youth powerhouses is Sanjana Vittal. At just 14 years old, Sanjana is the most recent winner of the 2016 Club Championship. She will be representing the U.S. at the World Youth Chess Championships in Montevideo, Uruguay this fall, along with several other members. Among them are Brandon Nydick, Aaron Shlionsky, and Westfield resident Brandon Jacobson. Another club youth, thirdgrader Audrey Hu of Westfield, was featured in the “Faces Across the Board” section of the April 2016 edition of Chess Life, after having her first World Team experience. This club has no lack of young stars!
Chess’s past is just as important as its future, though, and the Westfield Chess Club has a rich history of skilled and talented past members, some of which include: Grandmaster (GM) John Fedorowicz, GM Michael Rohde, International Master (IM) Tom Bartell, IM Yaacov Norowitz, IM Victor Shen, IM Arthur Shen, and IM Praveen Balakrishnan. Honoring their favorite game and the bonds they share with each other, former Westfield members Gene Salomon, Wayne Conover, and Steve Pozarek authored a book titled 40 Years of Friendship, 100 Games of Chess. To preserve the memory of the greats, the names of the Westfield Club Champions are inscribed on the club’s Henry D. Hibbard Cup; the most frequent winner has been Life Master (LM) Todd Lunna, who won the Championship 14 times. Sanjana Vittal, a young teenager, has her name among powerful players of the past—a truly excellent achievement that deserves many congratulations.
The Westfield Chess Club meets on Sundays, usually from 1:15 to 7:30 p.m. at the YMCA building, 220 Clark Street, Westfield, NJ 07090. They are USCF-affiliated, and they run rated tournaments almost every week. For more details visit their website at www.westfieldchessclub.org or the Westfield Chess Club blog at /westfieldchessclub.blogspot.com