We’re hoping this puts Downpatrick Chess Club on the map – we’ve had a lot of support

We’re hoping this puts Downpatrick Chess Club on the map – we’ve had a lot of support

7 February 2024

THE game of chess has made a welcome return to Downpatrick. A new Downpatrick Chess Club has been formed and is being overseen by local men Mark Doxey and Dermot Maguire.

The town once had a thriving chess club back in the 1970s and 80s. The new club is still in its infancy, having only been created four months ago.

It meets at Downpatrick Library on Saturdays to cater for children and families, while Wednesday evening sessions at Denvir’s Coaching Inn are targeted at more senior and experienced players.

“The idea came about a few years ago during the lockdown,” Mark explained.

“During the restrictions, my son and I would play a lot of chess, and he really took to it.

“He was only six at the time, but he always wanted to play more and learn more about the game, he was fascinated by it.

“I thought if he liked it then surely more children in the area would and that’s when I had the idea to start a club for more kids to learn how to play the game.”

Mark contacted Stephen Austin, principal of St Colmcille’s Primary School, who liked the idea of an after schools chess club.

“It became really popular among the kids,” Mark continued. “Kids started bringing their siblings to the club, so I thought why not make it a local club for children and adults.”

The club advertised for people both experienced and beginners to come to the venues each week.

“My wife saw the advertisement on Facebook and encouraged me to get involved,” Dermot explained.

“My father use to bring me to the old club in Denvir’s back in the 1980s, so it’s nice to have one of our sessions at that venue.

“Although it is still early days, the club has nearly 40 members – some people come in and come out but most members continue to come back on a weekly basis,” added Dermot.

Both Mark and Dermot take time to teach each of the children who may not have played chess before, with each member matched and paired with opponents of a similar skill-level.

They both spoke highly about the level of skill some of the younger players possess and the important skills and disciplines chess teaches.

“When each opponent plays against one another, we make sure that 

they shake each other’s hand and be respectful throughout the match,” said Mark. 

“It teaches etiquette – if a player wins, they don’t celebrate like they would at a football match. All members are very courteous to one another.

“It also teaches young people critical thinking,” added Mark.

“There’s children who are as young as six going away and researching different tactics, different opening moves and how to think up to five moves ahead.”

“For some of the older members, they haven’t played in maybe 10-20 years,” added Dermot.

“Some of them haven’t played since the days of the old chess club.”

Dermot also reached out to the Ulster Chess Union who have agreed to let Downpatrick Chess Club host a FIDE rapid chess tournament for 30 players on March 16.

“We’re really hoping this puts us on the map,” said Dermot. “We’ve had a lot of support from other clubs. Lisburn Chess Club donated a few boards – it’s nice to have that kind of support.”

Speaking about the club’s ambitions, Mark said: “We’d like to see more women in the area join.

“As it stands there are a few mothers who attend the Saturday afternoon events but we want it to be more inclusive for everyone in the community and we strive for this as the club continues to progress.

“We’re in the process of getting a constitution and becoming formalised, but it is all very exciting and there is an eagerness amongst young people to learn more about the game.” 

To find out more about Downpatrick Chess Club, visit their Facebook page.