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Tribune Staff Writer

NILES — What’s there to do in Niles on a cold Saturday in January?

Some play chess. It’s been that way for years at the Niles District Library, where the Niles Chess Club meets a couple of Saturdays a month in the fall, winter and spring.

The games were on once again Saturday, with some 20 players taking part in the library’s children’s department. But don’t think chess is just for kids.

“What’s neat about it is there’s such a variety of ages. It’s a cross-generational thing,” said Penny Rimelspach, the assistant to the children’s librarian. “It’s to Marty’s credit that he can blend all these levels.”

Marty is Marty Klubeck, the chess teacher responsible for establishing a pecking order that ultimately determines the best competitors. He was asked if the winner receives a prize.

“Yes, you get to brag,” he said, adding that last year’s winner — time frames follow school years — also received a medal.

As Rimelspach noted, the club’s 41 members range in age, with games pitting adults against children commonplace. And it’s not necessarily the adults that win.

“I teach people who never moved a piece before to people who have played in tournaments,” Klubeck said.

Among the newcomers to the game Saturday was Don Goble, 54, a Niles resident and factory worker who started playing just a week ago. It was the 11-year-old twin sons of his girlfriend, Michelle McGowen, that got him interested, he said.

Asked if he follows a specific strategy, Goble indicated he doesn’t but the twins — Caleb and Lance McGowen — seem to base their’s on speed.

“I like to take my time, and they’re like ‘Move already, move already,'” he said as he pondered his next move against Caleb.

Chess tends to be a family game, it seems, as seven members of the Hertel clan were on hand Saturday. Another father-son combination was Pete and Alex McOmber.

“I can’t beat him (Pete) yet,” said Alex, 10, explaining that’s his goal.

Most games were played without a clock, although Klubeck said speed chess is a variation of the standard game, as is something called “suicide” and “bug house.” Another is blind chess, which Jordan Garrett, 24, of Niles, said involves keeping track of moves solely by memory.

A chess player since he was 7, he has played in tournaments but has yet to win one, he said. Still, Klubeck has him ranked among the best players.

“Books can help out, and a mentor like Marty can tell you where you went wrong in games. But experience is the best teacher,” Garrett said.

Nearby, Michelle Frazier, 6, of Niles, was ecstatic after taking her 10-year-old brother, Michael’s, queen.

“I’ve never taken anyone’s queen before,” she said, smiling to reveal some missing teeth.

Michael confirmed the loss of the piece but pointed out he had taken his sister’s queen first, leaving his own vulnerable to attack. A few minutes later, the game was over, and Michael had won.

At least, that was how he saw it.

“Actually, it was a tie, Michael,” Michelle said.

Staff writer Lou Mumford:

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