Young members of the Mississauga Chess Club play in Spiegel Hall at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Young members of the Mississauga Chess Club play in Spiegel Hall at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

While other chess clubs have seen membership numbers decline as players turn to computer and internet games, the Mississauga Chess Club is experiencing a resurgence.

The reason is the club's junior program, established five years ago at the request of parents. At the time, membership numbers were slipping.

Club manager Paul Roschman, 76, said the junior club started with 12 members and now averages 115 to 133 members a week, most aged 6-12. He estimates about a dozen juniors have already moved up to the adult club.

The adult and junior clubs meet every Thursday night, 49 weeks a year, in Spiegel Hall at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Except for one year, members have used that same venue since the chess club started in 1965.

The juniors meet from 6:45-8 p.m., with the adults playing from 7:45-11 p.m.

At the club's recent annual general meeting, Irwin Casareno, characterized by Roschman as a master-strength player, was named club champion.

Roschman says most of their junior players are originally from places such as China, India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Korea.

"When Russia emerged from the revolution, chess was the cheapest game to play," said Roschman, explaining the game's popularity over the decades. "That's why the government encouraged it. Perhaps that's why it's so popular through Asia and the Pacific region."

Roschman learned to play chess from his father. Marriage and family took precedence over chess for some years, but he joined the Mississauga club in 1973 and has been a member ever since.

Retired now, he lives in Burlington and also belongs to the Hamilton and Burlington chess clubs.

Roschman, Vincent Chow and Bob Gillanders run the junior club, which is designed to teach a little and give kids the chance to play.

"We do about 15 minutes of teaching to a select group," said Roschman. "But the emphasis is on playing and fun."

He believes the Mississauga Chess Club is the largest in Canada, if both adult and junior branches are counted. And they've never advertised; the club gets new members by word of mouth.

Roschman says the club's junior players are already showing their talent and abilities on the international stage.

"At a junior tournament in Brazil, four out of 40 chess players from Canada were from our club," he said.

Club fees are $35 per year for adults or juniors. For siblings, it's $35 for the first and $10 for each additional sibling. Seniors pay $25 annually.