Friday, August 1, 2008

'Viking' Chess? Nah - But Fun!

Players from five states gather in Eau Claire for 'Viking chess' By Janie Boschma Leader-Telegram staff July 31, 2008 For some folks, there's nothing better to do on a hot Saturday afternoon than to play a few rounds of Viking chess. Seventy kubb players from five states - Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Colorado - will face off this weekend in the largest kubb tournament ever held in the United States, and charities will benefit. Nicknamed "Viking chess" for its Swedish origins, kubb (pronounced koob) is a popular lawn game in Nordic countries. "Supposedly the Vikings played it thousands of years ago," said Eric Anderson, who organized the Midwest Kubb Championship, the second in Eau Claire. Registration for the 32-team tournament begins at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, followed by an overview of kubb rules at 9:15. The tournament kicks off at 9:30 and will continue through the afternoon. Spectators are encouraged to attend. Aaron Ellringer of Eau Claire will be part of the tournament with his two-man team, A to Z. "There's a really friendly part of it. It is competitive to a certain degree, but I just know it's going to be fun," he said. "There's just something silly about throwing sticks around." Essentially, two teams stand on opposing sides of the field by a row of five wooden blocks (or kubbs) and throw wooden batons to knock each other's kubbs down. "To win the game, you have to eliminate all of the kubbs on the opposing team's side," Anderson said. "If you knock the king over at the end of the game, you win." The king, the largest block that sits in the middle of the field, is the 8-ball of kubb. Ellringer said personal preference usually determines how many people play (at least two per team in the tournament) and the size of the playing field. World championship competition rules in Sweden call for an 8-by-5 meter field. The game has been described as a combination of bowling and horseshoes. "Once people start playing, I'll be honest, it's addicting," Anderson said. He said the tournament combines two of his passions: kubb and helping the people of embattled Darfur, Sudan. Through sponsorship and his own personal contribution, Anderson said 100 percent of the event's proceeds will supply survival kits for Darfur refugees (through the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) and support Girls on the Run of Eau Claire County, the local chapter of a nonprofit organization that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running. Anderson first began playing kubb while living in Sweden with his family in 2005 and 2006. When he moved back to the United States almost two years ago, he wanted to introduce that aspect of Scandinavian culture to Eau Claire. It began with the formation of Beserkers, a kubb club he said now meets about once a week to play - sometimes at Peace Park across First Avenue from Just Local Food Co-op or at other parks around town. Anderson said Beserkers is the first and only kubb club in Wisconsin. He said he hopes to expand from the dozen players in the club to a kubb league soon. Anderson already has plans for a national kubb championship game in Eau Claire for 2010. "I think it's a really good thing for Eau Claire," said Ellringer, a Beserkers member. "We've been quietly talking about making Eau Claire Kubb City USA. It seems like lots and lots of people are paying attention to it."

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