Greater Victoria resident Roger Patterson analyzes a position from the World Chess Championship.

Chess: a game of strategy, analysis for Victoria player

When playing in a chess tournament, Roger Patterson can often be seen pacing around the table and up and down the room.

When playing in a chess tournament, Roger Patterson can often be seen pacing around the table and up and down the room.

It’s not a sign of nervousness, but of a man deep in thought. Pacing has become a way for the 58-year-old Greater Victoria resident to brainstorm ways to beat his opponent on the chessboard.

“I’m thinking about the position, what might happen, how can I direct the play, what are (my opponent’s) threats,” he said, adding people will spend three to four minutes thinking of their next move during a tournament.

“That’s the nature of analysis. If I do this, he’ll do that. For me, it’s what’s on the board. What is the truth of the position, what are the best moves, what are the affects? The assumption is my opponent will play the best possible moves in response to whatever I’m doing. You play the position as opposed to playing the man.”

Chess is a two-player strategy board game played on a chessboard, which includes 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. Each player begins the game with 16 pieces with the objective of checkmating the opponent’s king.

Patterson’s love for chess began when he was young. He was six years old when his grandfather taught him how to play checkers. After his grandfather passed away, Patterson’s grandmother sent him a chess set for his birthday.

Living in the countryside of Ontario, Patterson learned to play chess by himself, using books through the library and instructional books, which take players through a game, move by move. He eventually took the set to school and began playing there.

Patterson also took up correspondence chess, in which he would play people across the country and internationally, mailing each other moves. A single game usually took about a year or two to complete.

And he hasn’t stopped playing since. Over the last few decades, he has competed in roughly 3,000 to 4,000 tournament games, keeping track of all his games and moves in a database that he can look back on and analyze.

It’s a life-long passion that Patterson finds hard to explain.

“Just sitting and thinking about what to do appeals to me,” he said. “Why do we do anything? Why do we ski? Why do we play Scrabble?”

It’s an activity he’s been sharing with other residents in the capital region since he moved to Victoria and took over as president of the Victoria Chess Club in 2006.

Every Wednesday night, roughly 20 members from the club, which dates back to the 1930s, meet at the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Central Branch, where Patterson matches members based on skill level to play a game of chess.

In addition, the club also hosts three tournaments a year, including the Grand Pacific Open around Easter that draws more than 150 people from Asia, Europe, the U.S. and other parts of Canada.

While the club’s numbers have remained relatively low over the past few years, with roughly 150 people who come to the library every year to play, Patterson said there are a number of people who play chess on a more casual basis.

The Victoria Chess Club meets at the GVPL Central Branch on Broughton Street on Wednesdays, from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. The library also has chess sets people can take out and play. For more information visit victoriachessclub.pbworks.com.