Parks Library welcomes Mega chess

This story was originally posted by Ellie Conrad with the Iowa State Daily

Something unique was in the Parks Library lobby Saturday — a 64-square foot chessboard with 25-inch kings.

Chess to Impress is part of a campus-wide campaign with a goal of raising $415,000 this year for the United Way, a local branch of a nationwide relief program.

The event ran from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, and people were able to use the chessboard for $5 per game.

While organizers hope the event will help them move closer to that goal, their main objective is to have fun. David Jiles, distinguished professor and chairman of the electrical and computer engineering department, was also playing up to eight other regular-sized games at the same time as the large board.

“In the past, he’s been known to play blindfolded,” said Hope Mitchell, a Parks Library associate, but Jiles didn’t plan to do so this Saturday, as he “can only do one — at most two — games at a time” while blindfolded, and he hasn’t had many chances to practice recently.

Chess to Impress has been an annual fundraiser with Jiles for the past two years, but the giant set is new.

Mitchell said the library only recently acquired two of these extra-large sets, and it hopes to bring attention to these as well as to “all the really positive work United Way does.”

Sara Harris, administrative specialist for the electrical and computer engineering department, said the event was designed by the administrators in the College of Engineering as a way for the department leaders to become involved in United Way. Jiles, a lifelong player, “was a perfect fit.”

Jiles began playing chess when he was about 7 years old and participated actively in his local chess club through high school. He participated in chess tournaments through his early 20s until fatherhood put a halt on his playing.

After 17 years away from the game, Jiles began playing again in 2003 and plays as much as he can. He said he is “really bad” because he “can’t play very much” because of other commitments. But he is still considered a high-ranking player, according to the US Chess Federation, the national governing body of chess.