Returning to chess, a lifetime sport: playing in the Pittsburgh Chess League

Franklin's United States Chess Federation Life Member certificate

So far, I’ve only written a few times here about chess, because over a year ago, I deliberately decided (for the nth time) to quit my involvement in chess.

But because this summer, I finally finished paying for and receiving my United States Chess Federation (USCF) life membership, I decided to put some chess back into my life.

Chess sometimes has been the most important thing in my life

I feel ambivalent about admitting it, but at many points over the decades, chess was the most important thing in my life. For example, I wrote my college application essay about how chess is a science, an art, and a sport. And this wasn’t only because the college that I ended up attending was also the one with a strong chess club that had a year earlier sent me a letter encouraging me to apply and join the chess team.

It turned out that not long after arriving in college, my focus turned toward my studies, and apart from a some casual play in my dorm, and one appearance at the chess club, I never even looked at chess again for twenty years.

So it’s actually possible to quit. But I came back in 2005 for a reason: I missed it.

Chess as hobby, as sport

I have determined that chess will never again will be one of the most important things in my life. That said, there’s no reason why I can’t keep it as a fairly casual hobby. I think of it now as a sport more than anything else. That’s why I decided recently to return to a little bit of tournament play, in the spirit of sport. After years of absence from the Pittsburgh Chess League, which is organized into team matches that occur once a month, I have signed on as an “alternate” player for the CMU Tartans team. As a member of the team who is not on the top four boards, I will not be required to play every month, so the time commitment is low.

Introduction to the Pittsburgh Chess League

Pittsburgh Chess League round in fall 2007

I’d like to take the opportunity to promote the Pittsburgh Chess League, which is a great way for chess enthusiasts of all ages and of all strengths to have fun playing in teams one Sunday afternoon a month, starting in September and ending in April for summer break. It’s especially great seeing the number of happy young children who play in the lower divisions, in addition to those who have over years become strong and play in the upper divisions (many of whom have beaten me). Please contact Tom Martinak if you have any interest in participating in this venerable Pittsburgh chess tradition and would like to join a team or create your own.

My previous years in the Pittsburgh Chess League

The team I was on years ago, Rocky’s Rooks, has sadly disbanded. I played for Rocky’s Rooks for a couple of years as one of the top boards.

We actually won the Pittsburgh Chess League in the 2006-2007 season, and I won the second board prize:

Pittsburgh Chess League 2006-2007 champion: Rocky's Rooks

Franklin with Pittsburgh Chess League 2006-2007 second board trophy

Those were the days when I was very competitive.

CMU Tartans team

But now, as a second alternate, I will most likely play for team points only when our top two players choose to skip a round because of schedule conflicts or because of weak competition they choose not to waste their time facing.

Our first board is Ruan Lufei, a titled Woman Grandmaster who was runner-up in the last world women’s championship, and our second board is Iryna Zenyuk, a titled Woman International Master. Both are PhD graduate students at Carnegie Mellon, so they are very busy young women!

I’d like to thank Jeff Quirke for taking me into the CMU Tartans team as an alternate player.

Other creative outlets for chess

Although I am now clearly retired from the most serious competition in chess, I have ideas of combining chess with other passions of mine:

I have done a little bit of writing about chess here and will continue to do so now and then. I have unpublished chess opening novelties that I may present. And finally, I would like to explore options for teaching chess: I have enjoyed helping some friends improve their enjoyment, understanding, and performance, and wish to pursue further the teaching/coaching role.


My lifetime membership in the US Chess Federation reminds me that I’m not done with chess in my life, although my days as a serious competitor are over. I’m transitioning into different roles and attitudes. This isn’t easy, but chess is too fun to just give up entirely because one facet of it is over. I look forward to playing some fun chess in the Pittsburgh Chess League and continuing to also engage in the game outside of just personal play.

(Update of 2015-12-21)

Three years later, I made a focused push, temporarily putting many things aside in my life, in the fall of 2015 to achieve my US Chess National Master title, and finally made it, a dream come true.

Also, I have been teaching private lessons since 2013.

comments powered by Disqus