At 10 a.m. on any given Friday, you’ll find a group of chess players seated at tables inside Seitz’s Tavern deep in thought as they challenge each other in a game that has all the drama of a military encounter.
Joseph Weber of Lyndon Township is the mastermind behind the weekly challenge that takes place from 10 a.m.-noon on Fridays inside the iconic 110 W. Middle St. establishment, and from 3-5 p.m. on Saturdays in Pierce Park under the gazebo.
You’ve probably seen the sign on Main Street inviting players to join Weber in the gazebo, and in the winter, he says, the game moves to a warmer spot inside Wendy’s.
When asked why he chose to host the chess players at his tavern, Randy Seitz, its owner, said, “It sounded like a good idea,” when he was approached by Weber.
“They’ve been playing here for more than two years, every Friday,” Seitz said.
Board games are popular at the tavern, as there is also a group that plays cribbage on Friday mornings as well.
The faces of the players change, depending on the Friday, and they range in age from age 9, to well, perhaps seven times as old. But they are a loyal group, many of whom began playing in their teens.
Scott Marsh is one of the regulars. He began playing chess when he was 7 years old and his dad taught him. “I was 10 or 11 (years old) when I could beat him,” Marsh said.
While in middle school, Marsh joined the chess club and was the 7th and 8th grade champion.
“Strategy,” he said, “is the key. Chess comes down to who makes the first mistake; they ultimately lose.”
Paul Fetters of Tecumseh said he joined the chess players after seeing a sign that announced the Friday morning games. A few months later he said he happened to be in Seitz’s on a Friday and met Weber, and they played a game.
Fetters said he started playing when he was 13 years old and learned while in the hospital following major surgery.
“My roommate taught me the moves and we became friends through chess,” he said of his teacher.
For the players “Chess is life; it has all the drama of a military encounter.”
And, “after the 10th move, there are more possible chess games than there are atoms in the universe,” Fetters said, adding that a lot of physicists play chess.
Stephen Worthy of Westland said he’s been playing the game since he was 12 years old. “My father and uncle started playing and while they were learning, I did, too,” he said.
“Chess is a game of skill; not a game of chance or a toss of the dice,” Worthy said.
He, too, saw the sign inviting players to play at Seitz’s and lost his first two games to Weber, now, “We bump heads,” he said.
“Most of us don’t mind losing. We enjoy playing. Even when you lose, you learn something. The best teacher is experience and when I get beat, I learn something. It’s another expression of life,” Worthy said.
Chess, a game that’s thousands of years old, is what Weber said saved his life following a bike accident that left him in a coma.
He doesn’t remember much about what happened except that when he came to in the hospital, he found out he wasn’t allowed to do much of anything.
And that’s where chess played a big part of his recovery.
“In my mind, I was playing chess,” he said, and asked his wife to bring him “Winning Chess Openings,” by Fred Reinfeld, a dog-eared book that serves as his chess Bible of sorts. He carries it with him when he plays and continually studies the moves of the master players.
“Chess players say that chess is like life and it has all the drama of a military encounter,” Fetters said.
Plus, he said, “It’s a common mistake that chess is very complicated. There are an unlimited number of moves, but the moves themselves aren’t that hard.”
He explained that there are 64 squares on a board that’s 8 by 8 and they form different patterns.
“Chess is a game of planning, strategy and accurately understanding the placement of the pieces; how they radiate power in a specific direction,” he said.
The secret of the game, he said, “is looking at the chess squares and how the pieces interact with one another; it’s like life, you have friends and you evaluate their motives.”
Or sometimes, Weber will tell you, it’s a game that saved his life.
In addition to the Friday and Saturday get-togethers, Weber, an active Kiwanis member, is planning the Second Annual Chelsea Kiwanis Club Chess Tournament for club members and friends of Kiwanis.
“It’s for fun, unrated and beginners are welcome,” he said.
The tournament will take place Saturday, Oct. 6 from 1-5 p.m. at the Chelsea Community Hospital main dining room and check-in begins at noon.
Weber said youngsters will play in their own age group, if there are enough players, while adults and walk-ins are welcome.
Each player will play five games with a 30-minute maximum for each game. The winner and runner-up will receive a trophy.
There’s a $10 entry fee and donations are always welcome because the proceeds will benefit Mott Children’s Fund and checks can be made payable to the Chelsea Kiwanis.
There is an entry deadline of Sept. 6. For more information, call Weber at 734-475-1583.