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Silas Moore contemplates his next move, March 24, 2024.

Donkey Chess Night knows no age, no skill level

The game of chess has a reputation for being complex. With an undefinable number of tactical strategies and 20 different ways to just begin the game, it can be intimidating for new players to sit down at chess’ black and white board and start playing.

That’s where Donkey Chess Night comes in. Dylan Stroh, a senior studying English, works at Donkey Coffee and Espresso, located at 17 W Washington St., and decided to utilize his workplace to create a diverse chess community in Athens. With help from one of Donkey Coffee’s owners, Chris Pyle, Stroh was able to achieve this, he said.

Donkey Coffee hosts its Chess Night every Sunday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the event is free to all. 

“Donkey is kind of the place that brings a lot of people together, regardless of age,” Stroh said. “At a bar here, for example, you're only getting a certain age of people. Even like a chess club that is done through the school, you only get a certain kind of people.”

He said that mindset translates to the event with a variety of community members and students attending.

“If you're interested in chess, you can meet a lot of different kinds of people here,” Stroh added.

Donkey Chess Night may seem to outsiders like a place for people who know chess, but people of all skill levels attend. Silas Moore, a regular Chess Night attendee and OU graduate, said he goes because he wanted to learn more about the game.

“I just got into chess a month or so ago,” Moore said. “There are a lot of new players at Chess Night.” 

Moore also said the social aspect of Chess Night has helped him both enjoy the game of chess with other people and become a better player.

“It's been fun getting into the game for me,” he said. “I just bought a chess book, I've got a couple now. So, I'm just getting more been getting more and more intuitive. It's nice to have a night every week to just play over the board.”

Asa Maine, a chef at one of OU’s dining halls, also attends Chess Night. Maine plays chess pretty regularly on his phone but found the social aspect of Chess Night to be very enjoyable.

“(Moore) told me about chess night; I thought it sounded pretty fun,” Maine said. “(I) went, had a good time. And since then, I've been watching a lot of like, chess videos to make chess content. It's been pretty fun. You know, playing on the phone, it's nice, it's super accessible. You can play wherever; there is something different and kind of cool about being able to like play in person.”

Many of the Chess Night attendees have some level of experience with board games before sitting down at a board. Stroh and Maine had both been playing since they were young, either introduced to the game by their friends or their dad, respectively.

“I've been playing on and off since I was a kid,” Stroh said. “(Chess has) just come and gone throughout the years and I made a lot of friends doing it. I've never studied or have done anything that intense with it. I just found like it was it's a good way to make friends.”

Overall, attendees encouraged all people who are interested to come to chess night and spend some time doing something mentally stimulating that isn’t stressful.

“There's nothing to be afraid of at chess night,” Stroh said. “I've had a lot of coworkers and people in general say they are frightened of coming because they're not good at chess; neither am I, neither are most people who like chess. This is supposed to be a good time, right? Even if you've never played a game of chess in your life, it's just something to do. It's a good Sunday activity.”


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