Janesville43.5°

Chess master finds a pattern to his wins

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Catherine W. Idzerda
October 8, 2007

Peter Webster plays chess with the ease of a mathematician doing simple arithmetic.


On Sunday, Webster took on as many as 16 players at once in a simultaneous chess exhibition at Hedberg Public Library.


And while he often looked thoughtful, he never looked worried.


Leaning over the board, he’d ponder his move—then make it quickly. The piece would land on the board with a confident thump, as if to say, “So there!”


At the end of three hours, the math was simple: Webster had won 25 games, lost none and had one draw.


Jordan Peyer, 12, and his brother, Dylan Peyer, 16, were two of the 25 that Webster beat.


Dylan has been playing “practically since birth” and is a member of the Parker High School Chess Club. He rated Webster and Bob Getka of Parker High School the best he’s every played.


“He has a great knowledge of the game, of the moves that were coming,” Dylan said of Webster. “It was like he could read our minds.”


Jordan described Webster as “the best living person I’ve ever played.” No, Jordan doesn’t play chess with dead people—he plays on the computer.


“I really didn’t think I had a chance,” Jordan said.


How does Webster do it?


“Basically, it’s pattern recognition,” Webster said. “I’ve been doing this for 52 years. I’m usually able to stop at a board and flick out a move in a few seconds because I’m looking at the pattern. Sometimes they’re very difficult and I have to stop and think, but mostly it’s reaction to the pattern.”


As a 13-year-old, Webster found a chessboard in his grandfather’s home. Neither of his parents played.


“I grabbed the Encyclopedia Britannica and fell into learning it,” he said.


Webster, 65, is a United States Chess Federation Life Master. In 1984, he was the Wisconsin state chess champion.


Now, Webster stages demonstrations twice a year during chess courses at UW-Whitewater.


He loves the all-absorbing aspect of the game.


“You’re completely intent on the game, and it takes away everything else,” he said. “I played a tournament at UW-Whitewater the day the ‘Old Main’ burned down. We heard the fire engines and sirens and all the noise. Nobody in our group knew what building was on fire, but nobody left.”


Old Main is now Hyer Hall. A fire in 1970 destroyed the central, north and west wings of the building.


In the 1970s and 80s, Webster played with the now defunct Janesville Chess Association.


Although some of the local schools have chess clubs, Webster would like to re-start the city club.


“There hasn’t been one for 20-some years,” he said. “I thought I’d try this out and maybe get a club started, and maybe even have a city championship again.”


Chess anyone?

Peter Webster is interested in restarting a competitive chess club in Janesville.


If you’d like more information or are interested in joining, call him at (608) 758-1671.



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