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110 years in the making: Radio chess competition against The Ohio State University

CWRU loses to OSU, wins against RPI in round robin stage

On Oct. 5, Case Western Reserve University’s Amateur Radio Club played a game of chess against The Ohio State University (OSU) over radio. This match was originally proposed in 1912, but was never formally hosted until a group of CWRU students found old newspaper clippings and decided to re-propose the tournament.

The Case Tech, the Case School of Applied Science’s student newspaper—and one of the precursors to The Observer—stated that “Case students, lovers of chess, are planning to play the game wireless, with players attending Ohio State [U]niversity at Columbus” with the news that the then Wireless Club had procured a Morse code transceiver.

“Although we couldn’t find any official records showing if the chess match ever happened, despite rumors of it happening in the 50’s, it was confirmed in December 1912 that they got a wireless [Morse code transceiver] working,” Adam Goodman, president of Case Amateur Radio Club, said about where the ideas for the tournament started.

When they found the old newspaper clippings, Goodman and his club reached out to OSU to re-propose the tournament. Though, unlike the previous attempt a century ago, many other schools, as far away as Texas, wanted in on the tournament.

Goodman discussed this project with other collegiate radio clubs who expressed interest.

“We figured it would be nice to add them into the fun,” he said.

In terms of how the competition works, he notes that players are encouraged to play over Morse code, the same way clubs would have done over 100 years ago.

Goodman also explains additional rules to ensure fair matches during the tournament. “Clubs are allowed to ask any university-affiliated human for help. However computers are not allowed to be used for anything except communication. Otherwise, all standard chess rules apply.”

The tournament started in a round-robin phase and plans to move into an elimination phase in mid-October.

CWRU started the tournament off strong with a win against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on Sept. 26. Unfortunately, CWRU lost in the long anticipated game against OSU.

“This tournament is important for anyone interested in ham radio, chess, weird CWRU lore and supporting the university,” Goodman says about the importance of the tournament. He stresses the tournament’s importance to technicians in his club.

“Overall it was quite a unique experience—I’ve played chess for many years, but never over the radio,” first-year student Andrew Stappenbeck, main chess player for the tournament, said about participating in the competition. “The atmosphere in the radio shack was positive—we were excited after beating RPI, but everyone was still pretty positive after losing to OSU. Regardless of the results of the matches, radio chess was a great time.”

“We are excited to celebrate ham radio’s rich legacy on campus by keeping a, quite literally, century-old tradition alive,” Goodman said.

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About the Contributor
Zachary Treseler
Zachary Treseler, News Editor
Zachary Treseler is a third-year student majoring in international studies and economics, with minors in art history and French. Outside of writing to The Observer (sometimes at the last minute), you might be able to catch them walking backwards around campus, in Northeast Ohio's various bookstores, or seeing a show at Playhouse Square. Zachary also makes fudge…sometimes.

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