I joined the Chess Club as a joke and now I’m their queen

Ain’t no party like a chess club party

| UPDATED national noad

Classics first year Isobel, 19, joined the chess club in Freshers’ Week and has never looked back. This is her story. 

Would you have ever pictured yourself joining Durham Chess Soc? What about becoming social secretary — going from pawn to queen — in just under a year?

Wandering through the Freshers’ Fair, overwhelmed by the number of societies on offer but as a fully functioning member of the human race, I decided to give Chess Soc a whirl.

Fresher Isobel joined the chess club as a joke and is now social sec

You quickly realise rowing starts at 6am and let’s be honest: Lax is just rubbish. Chess is attractive because of its 6:30pm start time and the indoors “venue”.

The exec manning the stall at the decidedly emptying Freshers’ Fair seemed normal enough, if a bit shocked an actual girl had willingly handed over her email address.

Turning up to the “club night” on the first social, the room was rammed with physicists, computer scientists and mathematicians, the classic chess cohort.

The uniquely male population gave a very warm greeting. Being both female and doing an arts subject, one guy did ask “you do know this is chess club?”

Like many before me, I was smashing a glass ceiling: my participation had apparently boosted the female count by a sizeable 100 per cent, marking an exciting milestone.

Before nodding-off after listening to an earnest discussion on their favourite chess openings, one guy, who turned out to be the President, offered me a game.

Promising to beat me in the first ten minutes, he lost in about the same amount of time. Men just cannot seem to take female victory lightly.

The rest of the society are a mixture of die-hard chess enthusiasts and those who go along for a more relaxed night. Much to many people’s disbelief there is was a buzzing social side to the club: Klute is their favourite haunt.

Astounded by the wild nature of these checkerboard-loving hooligans, your pre-judgemental skepticism will soon be swept away. The first term enjoyed a Harry Potter themed social, with several members being carried home during chess drinking games (yes, those actually exist).

One member, simply known as “Python” by his college (don’t ask), was involved in a fight outside Lloyd’s and broke his foot.

But the highlight of the year had to be the British University Chess Championships. Every chess enthusiast congregates in Birmingham for a whole weekend of chess madness.

The hall reeked of nerd and allowed little Durham to quickly climb the social ladder. Better than tragic Cambridge with their matching uni chess hoodies.

It was fun fun but seven hours on a train playing and talking solidly chess, and a whole weekend of the beautiful game might leave you a little worse for wear.

Stunned flatmates saw my social life propelling from possibly dead to shock new levels. Monday night is the big one as chess fanatics across Durham leave their computers to join the real world.

There was something incredibly satisfying about conversing with fellow students over a civilised game, followed by getting utterly smashed until the early hours.

After being appointed social sec, the chess club went on an oddly-titled Cold War night. Waff might be for the edgy kids but Chess Soc was there and proud.

So while you were there, a chino-wearing wannabe desperately looking to your equally drearily-dressed friends for support, we were having a great time. We may not have the same burning desire to be dropping in Bristol as you, but we’d out-play you on the board any day.

The club is undergoing a renaissance and now the new exec now has “a” girl there really isn’t any stopping us. So if you’re looking for a little spontaneous fun in your life, come and join us.