Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Chess Run Club combines physical, mental strengths on campus

Manoo Sirivelu
From left, Ray Chang, Joel Setiawan Chong and Michael Ning pose for a portrait at the Caven Lacrosse and Sports Center at Clark Field on Monday, April 1, 2024.

Two students sit around a chess table, focused on their next move as their running shoes tap underneath. Prior to the chess game, they raced each other around the Caven-Clark Field. 

Computer science senior Michael Ning and biochemistry senior Ray Chang founded the Chess Run Club in the spring of 2023, inspired by the internet phenomenon Chessboxing, a hybrid sport consisting of alternate rounds of chess and boxing. Ning texted Chang during winter break in 2022 with his idea to combine chess and physical activity. 

Running and chess make for two accessible activities that only require chess sets. The club consists of separate chess and running socials, uniquely drawing members interested in both. They previously hosted a chess-running competition that involved a running race followed by a round of chess. Ning said they hope to have similar events in the future. 

“I wanted to do something unique and fresh and since it was all of our senior years, we decided to start this club and see what happens,” Chang said. 

Chang used his leadership experience to navigate applying for organization status. He said being a part of Texas Pre-Dental Society helped him fill out the forms and constitution to get UT’s approval.  

“Through college, I’ve been trying to work on myself and this club has been a part of that process,” Chang said. “I used to be a pretty big introvert, so this club was nice because I did something that’s out of my comfort zone.”

Computer science senior Joel Setiawan Chong joined as an officer soon after the founding of the club. The three officers differ in their chess and running backgrounds. Chang and Setiawan Chong both participated in the 2024 Austin Marathon, and all three are training for the Longhorn Run in April alongside other Chess Run Club members. 

“(The club) helped with training my physical and mental strength. It was a huge part of my success at the Austin marathon,” Setiawan Chong said. “Being able to plan ahead and train for those runs leading up to the actual events was very similar to running a club. It parallels in a physical strength standpoint and in mental strength.” 

Setiawan Chong and Ning joined chess clubs in middle school and continue to play casually. Chang only began playing online during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his co-officers were much better at chess than him, but playing with them fostered improvement.  

“We learned how to persevere through running and chess but also had the experience of running an entire organization: managing all of the different time and financial aspects and members,” Ning said. 

The club welcomes members regardless of prior experience. They host group runs, chess boba socials at Gong Cha in Dobie Mall and workshops that provide opportunities to learn chess tactics. Running shops, either before or after chess, also inform members on stretching, training and nutrition planning. 

“The community that we’ve created was especially meaningful to us,” Setiawan Chong said. “It’s very fulfilling to both teach and learn something from our community.”

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