Chess Improvement Club is a project by Mai Hao Da consulting (Shenzhen) Co. LTD. Hoda Mazloomian is the founder and CEO.
DB: What is your history with chess and why did you decide to start the club?
I was taught how to play the game by my father at age five, who showed me the basic moves and proceeded to beat me mercilessly! Ithen played casually for years with friends but not seriously. When I was in Chicago 1997, I decided to improve my chess by going to a chess club and attending tournaments. I also bought some chess books and tried to learn as much as I could. Getting beaten by your father without an adequate grounding is probably the worst way to learn chess. It makes you a defensive player and I have sought over the years to plug gaps in my chess education with partial success. So I have always been curious about the best methodology for improving your chess. That is why the club is called ” Chess Improvement Club”. I also enjoy the social aspect of chess that unites people of so many diverse cultures and backgrounds in a shared social activity.
DB: What is the philosophy of the club?
The philosophy of the club is for each member to support and in turn be supported by other members on their path to chess improvement. We encourage having a club that is as diverse of possible. Our membership consists of people from several countries of the world, men and women, adults, teens and children. We especially encourage women to join since they are generally underrepresented in chess communities around the world. We do not focus on ability alone, although we have several very strong players. We focus more in Improvement. Since August 2017 when this club was founded many of our players have shown notable improvement and that is the main thing we celebrate in our club.
DB: Do you have to know how to play to join?
No one is excluded for being a beginner. We encourage potential members to learn the basic rules before joining our club but regardless we will support whoever joins to improve their chess. On any given Friday, which is our main event of the week, you would see several stronger members happily helping more inexperience players. Apart from these informal friendly coaching,we also have a team of coaches that can hone in the skills of more serious students of Chess for a reasonable fee.
DB: What do you consider to be some of the benefits of playing chess?
Learning and playing a game like chess actually stimulates the growth of dendrites, which in turn increases the speed and improves the quality of neural communication throughout your brain. Chess also exercises both sides of the Brain, The Analytical left side and the creative and intuitive right side are both stimulated allowing for the development of creative problem solving in the break.
Additionally, it can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. A medical study involving 488 seniors by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine shows that playing chess, which stimulates brain function, measurably decreases the risk of dementia and combats its symptoms. Instead of letting the brain deteriorate, keeping the brain functioning at a normal rate, especially with a mind exercising activity like chess, will reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Lastly, it increases problem solving ability in Children: A child who is introduced to chess at a young age is likely to do better in school for years to come. Research shows that playing chess improves a child’s thinking and problem-solving.
DB: The club has rapidly grown, with 310 members at present. Do you have plans to expand the club further?
Since the club was formed in August 2017, it has rapidly grown from 45 members to the current 319 players. This is due to a disciplined regiment of recruitment and retention of members. Player satisfaction and creating a supportive, warm and collegiate atmosphere has been our central goal. We also have clear plans to expand not only the membership, but the scope of services and activities offered to our members. These include: organising tournaments and grandmaster simultaneous exhibitions, providing formal coaching lessons and attracting sponsors who would help the Chess Improvement Club brand to grow and prosper in the years to come.
DB: Some people say that good chess players have a distinguishable style or “personality” when they play. Do you believe this to be true?
I think it is true to say all Chess players have a certain style which seems to be inextricably intertwined with their personality. The world Champion MikhailTal (1960-1961) for example, was a genius at sacrificial play and attack. Tigran Petrosian (1963- 1966 ) however, will always be remembered as a defensive prodigy. Although you cannot entirely rule out the influence of personality and psychological make up, we can say with some degree of accuracy, that today’s elite Chess players like the current world Champion Magnus Carlson, seek to be universal players, without a clearly identifiable style preference.
DB: What has your experience running the club and playing chess taught you about people?
I have learned many lessons since I have embarked on my chess journey and attempt to run the Chess Improvement Club as efficiently as humanly possible given my many other responsibilities. First, I have learned to follow a vision through thick and thin and no matter what I am feeling on the day, keep the discipline and focus needed to do what is necessary to help the club grow in a healthy and harmonious manner. Secondly, chess has itself helped me to believe that anything is possible. How often I felt a game lost but managed to find a continuation that lead to victory? Conversely, very frequently I lost a “won” game by failing to capitalise on early gains. My most powerful observation, however, has been that chess can be a force for social good; that it can bring a multiculturally diverse group of people with many backgrounds, ages and languages and from both sexes in harmony and friendship.