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Using Amateur Radio to Play Chess


Playing chess using amateur radio? The concept may have begun in 1912 when a group of college students from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) wanted to challenge chess players at The Ohio State University (OSU). Though the official origin is still debated, clippings from a 1912 issue of The Case Tech, one of CWRU's former student newspapers, reveal that the challenge was made when the CWRU Wireless Club procured a Morse code transceiver.

Faculty Advisor to the Case Amateur Radio Club, W8EDU, David Kazdan, AD8Y, said there are no official records of the match, so the challenge was re-proposed this year by the Case Amateur Radio Club. With the with the help of OSU's Amateur Radio and RF Club, W8LT, the game was on. It started on September 26 as a round-robin tournament with other schools and is now moving into an elimination phase. The setup is the same as any chess game except the players are in different locations.  

Chess moves are relayed over the air either by voice or Morse code.

CWRU started the tournament strong with a win against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), but they lost the long-anticipated game against OSU.   W8LT President Arvcuken Noquisi, KE8MXF, said the tournament is a series of test games to determine the best way to incorporate amateur radio into what is now referred to as HAMCHESS.  

"Now we are using EchoLink through a Cleveland, Ohio, repeater with algebraic chess notation relayed by voice," said Noquisi. "In the future, each chess team will determine what method works best for them based on skill level and participation."  

Noquisi added that blending the school's chess and amateur radio clubs makes for a great campus experience and opportunity for community involvement.   W8EDU President Adam Goodman, W7OKE, said collegiate amateur clubs are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and HAMCHESS is a great way to reenergize amateur radio clubs and involve other college organizations.  

In 1945, the United States and the USSR squared off in a radio chess tournament using CW. In the 1980s, Chess and Amateur Radio International, a club with more than 200 members, used 20-meter SSB in a match between five US players and five players in Oceania, a geographical region spanning the Eastern and Western hemispheres.  

Today, more than a dozen college amateur radio and chess clubs are participating in HAMCHESS events. College and university radio clubs, including those participating in the chess tournament, regularly network with each other through the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program.



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