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Competitors Gary Sargent (left) and Mark Peterson reset the board after completing a game in the DeKalb Chess Club’s November chess tournament Sunday. (Dana Herra –

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DeKALB – Don Reyes looked intently at the chess board before him. His hand moved toward a piece, then stopped in midair and withdrew as he reconsidered the move.

After winning the match, the Sycamore retiree admitted 10-year-old Alex Federici had proven a more formidable opponent than he had expected.

“He is an excellent player,” Reyes said. “I thought he’d be a pushover, but he played very well. In a couple of years, he’s really going to shine.”

Reyes said he often plays against children in chess tournaments like the one Sunday hosted by the DeKalb Chess Club.

After playing in more than 100 tournaments from the local to national level, the mixing of age groups is one of his favorite things about competitive chess, he said.

Sunday’s tournament at Borders bookstore in DeKalb was the third U.S. Chess Federation-rated tournament hosted by the local club. The federation is a national organization with about 80,000 members, and sanctions about half a million events a year, said Bill Feldman, the club’s tournament director.

“There had been about a 10-year lapse in having rated tournaments in the DeKalb area until we started having them,” Feldman said. “This is our third one, and we plan on running them monthly.”

The DeKalb club has about a dozen regular members, but players traveled from all over the region to play in Sunday’s tournament, he said.

Alex Federici, of Genoa, is the club’s youngest member, Feldman said. Other members run the gamut from high school and college students to retirees in their 70s, he said.

Alex said his father taught him to play chess when he was 5. He enjoys trying to figure out what his opponent is going to do and devising a strategy several moves out, he said.

Though he likes to play in the club’s twice-weekly free play sessions, he prefers the competition of playing in tournaments, he said.

Reyes began playing in 1989, after his children bought him a membership to the USCF while the family was at a chess tournament in Las Vegas, he said.

“It keeps my brain active,” he said. “And I meet a lot of nice people, too.”

Anyone is welcome to participate in the club’s free play sessions, Feldman said.

The entry fee for the tournaments is only $8 – less for those who have paid the club’s $5 annual membership fee – and those fees are used to provide prizes for tournament winners.

Feldman noted that when he went to high school in DeKalb, there was an active competitive chess club. In addition to drawing members from around the community, he said he hopes the DeKalb Chess Club will inspire more local schoolchildren to participate in the game.


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