“It started as a three-week class, December 5 1999, with over 50 kids.” Soft-spoken, thoughtful, 52-year old Jim Bullock is recalling the birth of the chess club held Friday afternoons at the Oak View Library in Huntington Beach. In the next several weeks Bullock, the club’s director, will be moving to South America to live with his new bride. Amidst the din of kids laughing, chattering and clearly loving the game of chess, Bullock reflected on his time at Oak View.
“I was teaching English back then here the school, to adults, as a literacy volunteer. Amy Crepeau, who had the idea for the program, knew I played chess. I worked as an engineer at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, we had a chess club there and so she asked me for help. I borrowed some sets from work and brought them here to Oak View. And here we are, all these years later, with all these kids that just love playing chess.”
Bullock’s love of the game goes back to high school.
“In high school I was president of the chess club, i went to U.S. Chess Federation tournaments and I’m in the top 15% of tournament players. But I’m not a ‘master.'” (a player of such skill that they can beat essentially any amateur).
He also explained why he thinks the Oak View club has been so successful. “It such a great outlet for kids. Parents see chess as something that makes their kids smarter. And they’re right. But it’s fun. It’s a game; a game of intelligence. But I didn’t start playing to get smart. I started because it was fun.”
The club actually does boast a master player, 13-year old Gabriel Sam, an 8th grader at St. Bonaventure. When we met, Sam was preparing to head off to Greece to play in the invitation-only World Youth Championships. “I taught him how to play chess,” said Bullock. “He wasn’t very good at first. And now he’s much better than me,” he laughed.
Two coaches Paul Mangone and Annmarie Boyer who have been coaching here for years will be continuing the program, and Bullock said it’s in very good hands.
And as he makes his big move to be with his “mate,” we bid a fond farewell to a dedicated, inspiring teacher that has helped hundreds of kids over the years to have fun while using their brain. Thank you, Jim Bullock. Huntington Beach will miss you.