Ever since I started playing chess in 1993, the Sacramento Chess Club has met at the Ethel Macleod Hart Senior Center on J Street between 27th and 28th Avenues. The Club was fortunate to pay no rent over all the years, allowing it to run weekly events on Wednesday nights at the rock bottom entry fees of $2 and $5. These events include G/10 and multi-week G/60-G/75 rated tournaments. Attendance varies throughout the year from 40 to near 100; some players choose only to play unrated skittles games.
The Club's historical records date back to at least 1934. Multiple-time champions include strong masters such as former USCF President Col. Ed Edmondson, Serge von Oettingen, Mark Buckley, Tom Dorsch, James MacFarland, Zoran Lazetich and Robby Adamson. In 1964, Bobby Fischer gave a simul at the Sacramento Chess Club. The Club offered a hangout for many of Sacramento's adult chess players, many who have fixed incomes. It has, over the past 15 years, nurtured the development of young stars such as NM Winston Tsang, David Pecora, NM Daniel Schwarz, Matt Zavortink, Tyler Wilken and Isaac Zhang. I can safely say that I would not be a chess master and teacher today without the support and competition of the Sacramento Chess Club.
Unfortunately, the budget crisis facing the State of California and City of Sacramento has required reducing the hours of service at many facilities, including the Hart Senior Center. Two years ago, the Chess Club's closing time changed from 10pm to 9pm, cutting into the tournament schedule. Meetings on the 5th Wednesday of the month were eliminated.
This year, the cuts are even deeper. The City of Sacramento recently wrote this letter to the Chess Club announcing a minimum rental fee of $11/hour or $38.50 per week effective August 1. The Club now faces a difficult decision that calls its very existence into question. On the homepage, Treasurer John McCumiskey wrote about the limited options. "It would appear that the club needs to secure a new meeting facility that we can continue to use for free. The alternatives appear to be securing a benefactor for the Sacramento Chess Club, begin taking donations and/or charging people to play at the Club." The last scenario would, unfortunately, force out some of the regular members and would be the end of the Club as we know it.
It is a dark day in Sacramento chess history. Hopefully, it is not the end of a Chess Club that dates back over 80 years. Stay tuned...