Some Chess Lovers at the Sunset Hills Chess Club
Dale Jordan had been talking to a visitor for a few minutes. He turned his attention back to the chess board and looked at Jim Smith.
“Did you ever move?” Jordan, 77, asked.
Smith, 70, kept his eyes on the board and said, “I'm preparing to.”
He moved one of his pieces to a square, still keeping his hand on it. After a few seconds, he let it go, carefully marking the move on a pad of paper.
This was one of three chess games under way at the Jan. 22 session of the Sunset Hills Chess Club. The group meets every Tuesday at the Sunset Hills Community Center.
The club started in 1999 under the guidance of Drew Laudie, who was the city's parks and recreation director at that time.
“He had a real passion for chess,” Parks Director Gerald Brown said. “He played the game and thought it was a good idea to start a club here.”
The club is made up of retired men from the St. Louis area. On any Tuesday, it can draw from five to 15 participants.
At this session, there were seven players, hailing from Town & County, St. Louis, Creve Coeur and St. Charles. Despite the location, there were no Sunset Hills residents. The closest was Jordan, who lives in Crestwood.
The chess club shared the meeting room with four women who were enjoying a bridge game. The two groups pretty much ignored each other.
It was a relaxed atmosphere at two of the games. The traditional rules of quiet were ignored. The men commented on the opponent's moves or bemoaned a bad choice they had just made.
The lone contrast was the game between Mike Buckley, 58, and Klaus Zastrow, 83, both of Town & Country. They played in total silence. Buckley occasionally looked up, annoyed by the chatter.
In one corner, Marlon Fields, 59, of Creve Coeur, regarded the latest move from Lynn Lamphear, 73, of St. Charles.
“OK, you've got a pretty good attack going here,” Fields said. “I really did not like that move.”
Fields said nothing.
Over at the Smith-Jordan bout, Smith let out a sigh of resignation. “Looks like this game is about over,” he said.
The 70-year-old South St. Louis resident first played chess when he was a teenager, but did not take it up again until 18 months ago.
Jeffrey Wasem, 57, also of South St. Louis, was pacing the room, waiting for a game to end so he could take a turn. He stopped at each table, silently watching the action.
“It's pretty friendly here,” Wasem said, walking out in the hallway. “I've been playing since I was 17 years old. It can be frustrating, especially when you make a bad move.”
He plays chess for enjoyment and mental stimulation.
“You're exercising your brain,” he said. “There are so many, many moves in chess to figure out. (Zastrow) has played the game for a long time and he's one of the best players we've got.”
Back in the room, the chatter had stopped, including the bridge players. The room was totally quiet.
Smith finally admitted defeat. Jordan walked out of the room to get a drink and a snack. Some of the men had packed lunches or brought cookies. They intended to play more than one game.
After a few minutes, Wasem and Smith sat down for a game. Both made quick, opening moves with their rooks (sic), then settled back, staring at the board.
The games played on at the other tables. Buckley finally broke the silence after Zastrow made a move.
“Oh, man, I missed that,” he said, then turned his attention back to the board.
From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
Also see her personal blog at
Don't miss Chess Queen™