Orlando Chess and Games kicked off its first monthly tournament at its new venue: the Cape Florida Ballroom of the Student Union.

Saturday's tournament was the first of what founder Alex Zelner hopes are many more tournaments held every month.

The move to UCF was prompted by a combination of necessity and opportunity. Orlando Chess and Games once had a storefront, but the upkeep for the building totaled about $6,000 each month.

“There’s not a lot of money in chess,” Zelner said. “We couldn’t make the overhead for the old place, so we had to move.”

The club moved to a meeting room at All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine where Zelner’s wife Catherine worked. The monthly tournaments continued in the meeting room until Arnold Banner, senior physics major and head of the UCF Chess Club, met Zelner at a local chess event. Banner offered UCF as a possible new venue.

“I put the offer out there," Banner said. "They said, ‘Give us some time to think about it,’ and then a few days later, they said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

There were three tournaments scheduled: a Scholastic Tournament, which was only for children; a Game 29 Tournament, where each player has 29 minutes to complete the game; and a Blitz Tournament, where each player only has 5 minutes. Players competed for cash prizes, trophies and changes to their official national rankings.

The tournaments operate under a Swiss system, which means that in the first round the highest ranked players play against the lowest ranked ones. The first games divided players into the winners and losers brackets, which determined the pools of players they would face in later rounds.

Although there weren’t enough registered participants to do the blitz tournament, Zelner was pleasantly surprised with the turnout.

“At the old store, we got anywhere from 35 to 48 players in our tournaments,” Zelner said. “We didn’t advertise this event at all, and we had 32 scholastic players. We’re expecting twice as many people next month.”

Banner expressed similar hopes that the turnout will increase as the chess club starts advertising the event in the coming months.

“We’re going to start advertising at UCF to get more students coming next time,” Banner said. “We want to get the people that we know connected with the people that the Orlando Chess Academy know.”

The next tournament is scheduled for June 30. For tournament details, visit www.orlandochessacademy.com.

Story originally published on June 5, 2016.

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