SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — If you are looking to meet local chess players, learn to play, talk strategy or simply play games then consider Savannah Chess, a local chess club that welcomes all skills and ages. You will be in great company considering some of the members play the sport professionally.
Skyler Kelly is a professional chess player that became a member of Savannah Chess in 2013 under his former coach. A year later, he took over the club.
Kelly, whose dad taught him to play chess when he was eight years old, not only oversees the chess club, he has also traveled the country playing in chess tournaments.
“I’ve played in a lot of tournaments. I’ve traveled the country going to tournaments. I went to Ohio to play in nationals when I was in High school. Recently I played in the Jacksonville Championships and tied for second place. I’m fairly a strong rated player but I’m still working on it,” said Kelly.
Unlike other sports that might help the person build biceps or tone their abs, the sport of chess benefits the mind and that’s what Kelly appreciates.
“I think a lot of it is just, at least for me it’s memorization. I like playing it because it just challenges me with how many different moves you can make. You can get into so many different situations and you have to find your way out of certain situations. It challenges your brain. In life, you always have to think ahead and chess helps with that, I think,” explained Kelly.
Kelly has been playing chess for 12 years and although he says his dad doesn’t play him as much anymore because he wins against him, Kelly is still going strong.
“Just recently when I went to the Jacksonville championship I passed a rating that I’ve been working on. It’s been like five years that I’ve been trying to hit that rating and I finally hit it, I reached 1800,” he continued.
At the end of June, Kelly will be going to Pennsylvania to play in the Chess World Open.
Outside of playing chess, Kelly enjoys playing the guitar and singing.
Tyler Gregory has been a member of Savannah Chess for a little over 10 years. He first started playing nearly 20 years ago.
“I learned it from my grandfather who watched the Fischer vs. Spassky match in the 70’s and became enthralled with chess ever since. He passed the torch down to me and I started playing competitively for a little over 12 years,” he said when asked how he got his start.
Interaction, competition and helping others are examples of what he enjoys about being a member.
“Meeting new people and challenging each other to get better is what life and chess are all about. Savannah Chess needs to be a staple in what is already an artsy/tourist type of city. Only good has come from Savannah Chess, we help our youth and help our elders stay sharp. It’s something everyone should enjoy,” Gregory said.
When he’s not playing chess, Gregory enjoys many other hobbies.
“I’m big into poetry. I’ve been writing for a little over 10 years. I’m big into live streaming as well. I talk about all types of topics almost like a podcast of sorts,” he explained. “I’m a music nerd, I love to listen and create my own, as well as some art on the side. Anything artistic I love.”
David Solis, a Savannah member, started playing chess when he was in high school in 2001.
“I learned by being taught by our chess president in school and competing in tournaments,” Solis said.
Solis took a break from chess for over 10 years because he was serving in the United States Army overseas and getting his Masters degree.
“I got back into chess in 2016 when I found out about Savannah Chess, and I was serious about playing. Since then, I have done pretty well, placing in the top in several tournaments including fourth place under 1600 at the World open in 2020,” Solis recalled.
Like many, Solis enjoys playing chess because it’s challenging and strategic, but he also finds even more fulfillment in the sport.
“It is a way to express myself and show others how creative I am. Chess is very exciting and it has so many ups and downs throughout every game. It can be very stressful and exhausting, while working on whatever masterpiece you have in front of you during every game. It is also poetic and rewarding with exhilaration,” beamed Solis.
Solis said he loves being a part of Savannah Chess and getting to know all of it’s members.
“Everyone here has an incredible personality, talent and love for the game,” he said.
For those who have no chess playing experience, or some, Savannah Chess could be for you.
“We have plenty of players that will be happy to help everybody learn how to play. We just play casual games against each other for the most part. So, we’ll play a lot of speed chess which is where each player only has 5 minutes for the game and then some of us will play slower games.” said Kelly.
Savannah Chess meets every Sunday from 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and on Thursdays from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at 8-Bit Donuts located on 530 Martin Luther King Jr. BLVD in Savannah.
More information can be found on the Savannah Chess Facebook page here.