Dedicated chess players bring chess club back to the UI

The newly reinstated chess club is providing a place for competitive and casual chess players to learn the rules of the game and engage in friendly competition.


Mathew Finley

Arshaq Saleem, UIowa freshman, poses for a portrait on January 17, 2019. Saleem tied for chess state champion in 2018 and is the president of the University of Iowa’s newly reinstated Chess Club.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

A group of dedicated chess players has reinstated the University of Iowa Chess Club, hoping to provide a space for players of all levels to engage in friendly competition.

The club meets on Friday evenings in the IMU; it has around 40 members.

Some members of the club are interested in high-level competition, and others are more casual players.

“[The Chess Club] is extremely diverse,” President Arshaq Saleem said. “[We have] a lot of pre-med people, social work, speech and hearing sciences, liberal-arts majors, a mixed bag, which is great. It’s a pretty informal environment, and a lot of the benefit comes from just talking to people.”

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Saleem, the current Iowa chess co-champion, has played chess since he was 5, when his father taught him and played with him every day.

“I lost most of the games,” Saleem said. “When I was 9 years old, I started going to the Chess Club at my elementary school and have been hooked ever since. I started competing at that point.”

The UI alumni whom he met playing chess inspired him to reinstate the club.

“I’m pretty good friends with a lot of people on the Iowa chess team, and they had the club way back when in college,” Saleem said. “I was pretty interested in chess in high school, and I helped with the Chess Club there, so I thought I should do that here.”

Matthew Finley
Andy Swiston, the vice president for the newly reinstated University of Iowa Chess Club, poses for a portrait on January 17, 2019.

James Hodina, the president of the nonprofit organization Chess in Iowa, helped Saleem to reinstate the club and provided chess sets and time clocks.

“I was a high-school student who attended the UI Chess Club, when it was formed back in 1983,” Hodina said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Unfortunately, the challenge with the Chess Club has been maintaining sponsorship and student officers as they come and go with their studies. It was dissolved some five to 10 years ago, and all of the equipment was sold off at the University Bookstore.”

The club plans several events this semester and year, including fundraising events.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of money coming in to the club yet because we’re fairly new,” treasurer and co-founder Andy Swiston said. “I want to fix that this semester, getting other clubs in here to have a tournament, that kind of thing.”

Saleem said he has been in conversation with other Big Ten schools about creating a league chess tournament, and he plans to get together a team of UI players to send to the Pan American Team Intercollegiate Chess Championship, a national chess competition for college students, in December.

“If we created [the team], it would be the first UI team [to compete] in a tournament,” he said.

Saleem and Swiston hope to grow the club’s membership and skill level in the future.

“Our goal for the future is that … maybe some of the more advanced people can help provide [newer players] with instructions and junior lessons, but the people who can play can still play, obviously,” Saleem said.