Ever since he graduated with two bachelor’s degrees, one in mathematics and chemistry in 1983 and the other in computer science in 1989, Nietman has been coordinating the largest scholastic events in the state at UWO.
He has been hosting the Wisconsin Junior Open and Veteran Chess Tournaments since 1985, and the Wisconsin State Scholastic Chess Championships since 1993. These events, held annually in the Gruenhagen Conference Center (GCC), draw in a large profit to the University through lodging.
“Schools love the site because the players can be housed in Gruenhagen overnight, inexpensively,” Nietman said. “At the end of the 2011 event, I overheard a mother say ‘It’s like a mini-nationals!’ I took that as the ultimate compliment and have used that on the flyer ever since.”
Not only do these events bring in revenue, they also provide educational opportunities for young chess enthusiasts.
Carol Kozlowski, conference and event planner with GCC, works closely with Nietman to set up the events and said he does an excellent job introducing students to the campus.
“This exposure can, and often does, translate into players enrolling at UWO at a later date,” Kozlowski said. “Gruenhagen Conference Center has enjoyed a wonderful working relationship with Mike Nietman. We usually have 400 to 450 people here involved in the tournaments in some way. All this brings incredible UWO exposure to others.”
As the current senior programmer analyst for a large non-profit hospital in Madison, Nietman has dedicated his free time to the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and has served on the Wisconsin Chess Association’s Board of Directors since 1984. He was named president of the board in 1987.
With this experience, Nietman is no novice when it comes to chess. He said he first began his chess career by contributing to the USCF as a high school student.
“I first became a member in 1976 as a freshman in high school, so that I could play in the National High School Chess Championships in Cleveland, Ohio with my Fond du Lac Goodrich high school teammates,” Nietman said. “Since that event, I’ve attended 18 U.S. Opens as the Wisconsin delegate until I was elected to the Executive Board in a 2010 special election.”
Nietman said that both his educational and event planning experience at UWO are what gave him the confidence to take on the events.
“Organizing the large events has given me the confidence to set my goals higher in the world of chess politics,” Nietman said.
The estimated turnout of about 450 for the upcoming spring 2013 chess tournament scheduled for March 16 and 17 is evidence of his efforts.
“It has gotten so large, we could not fit everyone into GCC,” Kozlowski said. “The actual play for the tournament will be held in Reeve.”
Nietman also is planning a tournament for the fall 2013 semester that will take place on Nov. 2 and 3.
Daniel Courtney, UW Oshkosh student and former UWO Chess Club president, has has participated in past tournaments and appreciates Nietman’s contributions to the chess and campus communities.
“Wisconsin doesn’t have as strong of a chess community as some other states, so it’s tough to keep these opportunities available when the demand for them could go away so easily,” Courtney said. “Mike’s continued dedication to the Wisconsin chess community provides hundreds of students with opportunities to build both their social and analytical skills while having fun with others who share the same interests.”
“Chess is an extension in that we’re solving problems on the board,” Nietman said. “Yes, it is only 64 squares and not the whole wide world, but it is great recreation for anyone from youth to senior citizen.”
Nietman said he will continue to give back as he is dedicated to reach higher goals and add to his “chess bucket list.”
“In the mid-1990s, I created my chess organizational bucket list,” he said. “It had three items on it. The first item was checked off in 2006 when the USCF held the event in downtown Milwaukee. Wisconsin schools turned out with about 350 of the 1,400 participants. The second item will be checked off this July with the U.S. Open in Madison. The third was checked off in 2010, when I was elected to the Executive Board. So now, I guess I have to think of some more goals for my list.”