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First-Year Student Defeats International Chess Master

by Anne C. Paine

September 28 was a day Jonathan Hirsch may never forget.

With music from the weekly T.G.I.F. celebration wafting out of Wilder Hall, the sunshine on Wilder Bowl was warm, and the chess was hot.


Hirsch was one of more than 30 students challenging International Master Calvin Blocker in a simultaneous chess match that day. Blocker, a Cleveland resident, lectures regularly for the Oberlin Chess Club. A row of tables set up with chess boards was arranged on the Bowl; student challengers sat on one side, while on the other side Blocker dashed from board to board making his moves.

Chess Club President Jeff Scheur '02 organized the event as a way to promote awareness of chess on campus. To add some drama, the club put up $1,000 in prize money to anyone who could beat Blocker.

Blocker beat 30 opponents, but Hirsch proved the exception. He was modest about his success, however.

"There's no honor about winning," he told The Oberlin Review. "Blocker would beat me any time. I played better than I'm supposed to and he made a lot of mistakes. I don't say I beat a master; I say I won $1,000."

Paying the prize money was unexpected, Scheur said, but having a winner gave the event a higher profile.

"From a publicity standpoint, it was a very successful event," he said. "We added 25 people to our mailing list that day, and we've had new people coming to club meetings. There were articles in The Oberlin Review and on Oberlin Online. We wanted to create public awareness of chess as a fun game, and we did." He's already making plans for next fall's event.

As for his prize-money plans, Hirsch was uncertain.

"I haven't thought a lick about it," he told The Review.