Brielle Granger and Kyle Roghermal were both working on the first day of the Giant Chess Set opening. They had lots of cleanup to do and spent more than an hour getting the board, tables and benches ready for the day. Both said playing the game and moving the pieces around was the best part of their workday. MHN PHOTO SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The giant chess set between the library and courthouse first opened in 2005. Inspiration behind the idea came to Dr. Bill Taylor during a trip to Europe in 2003 when he saw an outdoor chess set in Salzburg, Austria. Upon returning, he began the process to get one in Medicine Hat.

“It exists today thanks to the CORE Association and I’m very grateful for your continued support,” said Taylor at the 2023 grand opening on Thursday. “Thank you for everything you do for our community, it is a better place because of you, I applaud you.”

The giant king continues to be a source of distress for Taylor as the Guinness Book of World Records still hasn’t evaluated the evidence.

“They are ignoring us. I talked to one of the city officials and his suggestion was maybe they can write a narrative and post it on the website.”

Rita Bessant, executive director of CORE Association, said, “I’d like to thank Dr. Bill Taylor, Gerry Fitzgerald and the Chess Club for allowing us to be involved. It educates people and it gives our individuals an opportunity to experience getting out in the community.”

From Tuesday to Saturday, CORE clients and a staff member arrive in the morning to begin the process of getting the giant chess board ready for the day. This involves wiping down the tables and benches, watering the flower bed along with sweeping or washing the board. Once everything is clean and dry, the chess pieces are brought out and put in place. The group remains onsite until mid-afternoon, when the pieces are placed back in storage again.

“The library allowed us to build a storage building right against it, we store them there all winter,” explained Gerry Fitzgerald. “They are heavy, to move them any great distance would be difficult.”

Fitzgerald and Taylor are both longtime members of the Chess Club and have been friends for 38 years. When the board opened in 2005 and the first chess pieces arrived from Indonesia, Taylor asked Fitzgerald if he’d take on the responsibility of repairing them.

“As the summer goes along sometimes a piece gets knocked over or a piece gets broken off or cracked,” stated Fitzgerald. “They call me up and I fix them.”

It’s not only wear and tear though. The pieces were made in a tropical climate and the hot, dry summers are hard on them. The first set was retired in 2018 as maintenance was no longer manageable and a new set was bought. Fitzgerald explained they were more proactive with coating the pieces when they first arrived, so the cracking wasn’t as extreme.

The Giant Chess Set is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 02, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta

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