Skip to content

Checkmates: Simcoe County Chess Club appeals to all level of players

'Chess is a beautiful sport where people can use their creative skills to come up with beautiful solutions to problems,' says co-founder

The game of chess is about capturing your opponent's king, but for two local chess enthusiasts it’s been about much more than that.

Pekka Reinio and Dave Trotter have loved the game of chess for years, both for the skill and strategy it can require, as well as the social aspect it can create. But finding a place they could regularly play against other adults was often a challenge bigger than what they faced on the board.

After discussing the lack of opportunities to play against other adults, the pair decided to take it upon themselves and co-founded the Simcoe County Chess Club, a free Barrie-based group that meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month at the Barrie Public Library’s Painswick branch on Dean Avenue.

“It was really just two guys who love chess,” said Trotter, who started playing about eight years ago.

Although he played on occasion as a kid, it wasn’t until after meeting his wife and attempting to bond with her father that Trotter really started to get intrigued with the game. 

“He’s from Ukraine and they play a lot of chess over there. He was just handing it to me, over and over, just beating me and beating me. I (thought) it was so much fun and wanted to get better," Trotter said.

Reinio, who has been playing on and off for the last 20 years, tells BarrieToday he was initially inspired by his students and seeing how engaged and excited they were about the game.

“We realized there were adults that are also interested in playing and that there weren’t really any places for adults to play in our area,” he said, adding the club was built from their own desire to have a place to gather with other local players. 

Anyone can show up to the bi-monthly gatherings, Reinio pointed out, adding the club — which is about to celebrate its first anniversary — has continued to grow since it first launched in 2023. 

“There seems to be quite an interest,” he said, adding their mailing list currently includes a little over 120 people who have come out to play over the last year. “We have a good core group of people who play.”

As for what makes the game of chess so exciting, Reinio believes the appeal is the combination of competitiveness and creativity.

“It’s exciting to compete against an opponent and to win,” he said. “Chess is a beautiful sport where people can use their creative skills to come up with beautiful solutions to problems … and checkmate their opponents. It’s very satisfying to win at chess. It’s just a beautiful game.”

It can also be slow or fast-paced, whatever the players want it to be.

“We have in-person games where most people play a bit of a slower game. Others like to play quicker — a blitz game. You have people there with clocks and they play five-minute games,” Reinio said. “There’s a wide range of styles of play and lengths of play.”

“Chess is finding pleasure in the painful grind of the beat,” said Trotter. “You lose all the time and you win all the time. There are variations of the game for everyone. As simple as it seems, the game of chess can change drastically based off of who you are playing and the amount of time you are playing.”

The club also offers online games, which they say has become a popular option, as not everyone can come out in person on a regular basis. 

The pair both encourage anyone interested in chess to come check out the club and give it a shot. 

“I hope they come out and give it a try," Reinio said. "We have a wide range of players. We have people who are absolute novices and are coming to learn how to play and we have people who are very experienced.

"I think we have a couple that are ranked as National Canadian Masters. There are lots of opportunities to play at a variety of levels,” he added. “There’s also a social component. It's just great to be able to play with someone over the board.”

Trotter credits the Netflix mini-series The Queen’s Gambit for helping to remove some of the stigma that often surrounded the game. 

“People often thought that chess was just for the ‘nerdy person’ ... but chess is awesome. It’s a sport almost," he said. "I always loved chess as a kid, but I just stopped playing it. As you’re growing up, you go play baseball or hockey (because) that’s what you do … but chess is for everyone. 

“We do a little lesson at the beginning and we have a ton of players who would love nothing more than to just help you in a positive (and) growing way. It’s a never-ending journey," Trotter added. 

As the club prepares to celebrate its one-year anniversary, Trotter told BarrieToday they have their sights set on continuing to promote the game across the region, and are even hoping to expand the club to include a day for players under the age of 16 to meet.

“The past year has just flown by. We started with just one day a month and there’s so much love for chess out there that we are trying to figure out ways to add more days,” he said. “We are growing. It’s been the blink of an eye."

Anyone interested in more information can email Reinio at [email protected].