A senior club member playing against a young one

Annex Chess Club covers all the bases

Downtown location provides a place for everyone to play

For seven-year-old Tigran Ghazarian, playing chess with adults is as much fun as any other game.

Having weekly lessons on chess’s strategy and plays, it’s no wonder Tigran has already beat more advanced players in tournaments.

His dad Vigen Ghazarian is behind it all.

“Even before I had him, I knew I wanted a son that played chess,” he says. “It develops a lot of good traits, especially in kids, like discipline, concentration, responsibility for their actions.

Before he turned five, I introduced him to chess, kind of pessimistic that he might not like or grasp the game, but he did really well.”

Vigen comes from Armenia, a place “where chess is a household game, everyone knows how to play.”

Eventually, his son’s abilities meant he had to find someone else to teach him.

“I soon realized I didn’t have enough knowledge to keep teaching him so I enrolled him in classes here at the ACC, on late 2012. He started playing tournaments this January.”

No, not that ACC.

The Annex Chess Club, at 918 Bathurst St., a bit north of Bloor Street West, has been active for four years. They have over 100 members, teach chess to children and adults, organize CFC-rated (Chess Federation of Canada) tournaments and have plenty of room for casual players, every Monday night.

“The ACC is Toronto’s first, major downtown chess club in close to 30 years,” says Ted Winick, one of the founders and directors of the Annex Chess Club.

Winick is also the founder and president of the Chess Institute of Canada.

“Generally you’ve got larger clubs at Scarborough, Mississauga, Brampton and on, but there’s not been a club in downtown in a long time.”

“We ran a Labour Day tournament here, just over four years ago. We wanted to start a club and so we simply announced ‘if anyone is interested in seeing a chess club here, come and see us after the tournament.’ And some people did.

“We started off with a few people and word of mouth spread it.”

The club also has different types of membership. The first is casual, where you can show up every monday, play with other members and get free coffee. And there’s the tournament level, with five, nationally ranked tournaments per year you can participate in.

“It is only one club of a couple in the downtown area, so as a result, you’re pretty attractive to a lot of people,” says George Supol, club treasurer.

Supol wasn’t there at the beginning of the club, but he became involved quickly after its birth.

“I was looking for a place to play, so I just called in and, like a lot of people, we just showed up the first time to get a feel for it. One of the first things I remember was that the club was very friendly.

“After my first year, they asked if I wanted to run for the board, which I did, and then I got involved with the bookkeeping and accounting, because I’m an accountant by trade,” says Supol.

Following that, the club has been growing constantly. Their website and social media presence helps.

“We did some marketing, the website is very well done. One of the younger members on the board just started an Instagram for the club,” says Supol.

“It’s amazing how many people come in just from the website. They just show up, and bring their kids to learn and play. The first night is a trial, so there’s no fee.

“First class is also free. And right away they feel comfortable because it’s low stress.”

The club’s motto is “chess for everyone.” Once you’re there, you see that’s true. People from five to 70 years old playing each other. Everyone’s learning.

Apart from classes, Winick points out another interesting way chess players learn, and how the game differs from others.

“On competitive chess, after the game is over, both players shake hands, thank each other for the game and then immediately analyse the game. So they immediately learn from each other. That doesn’t happen with other sports.”

Either you start play it as a child or adult, chess is one of the greatest puzzle games ever created. Winick says “chess is one of the oldest games in the world and as a game that teaches focus, tenacity, patience, critical thinking.

“When you think you have your best move, stop and think again.”