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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
October 19, 2023
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
ARRL Home PageARRL Letter ArchiveAudio News


Using Amateur Radio to Play Chess

Playing chess using amateur radio? The concept may have begun in 1912 when a group of college students from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) wanted to challenge chess players at The Ohio State University (OSU). Though the official origin is still debated, clippings from a 1912 issue of The Case Tech, one of CWRU's former student newspapers, reveal that the challenge was made when the CWRU Wireless Club procured a Morse code transceiver.

Faculty Advisor to the Case Amateur Radio Club, W8EDU, David Kazdan, AD8Y, said there are no official records of the match, so the challenge was re-proposed this year by the Case Amateur Radio Club. With the with the help of OSU's Amateur Radio and RF Club, W8LT, the game was on. It started on September 26 as a round-robin tournament with other schools and is now moving into an elimination phase. The setup is the same as any chess game except the players are in different locations.

Members of the Texas A&M Amateur Radio Club, W5AC, playing HAMCHESS against Case Western Reserve University (from left to right) Hudson Spillers, KL4LJ; Braxton Wade, KJ5CPK; Ian T Duncan, AE5ID and chess player Ankush Rao. [Nayab Warach, KI5YBE, photo

Chess moves are relayed over the air either by voice or Morse code.

CWRU started the tournament strong with a win against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), but they lost the long-anticipated game against OSU.

W8LT President Arvcuken Noquisi, KE8MXF, said the tournament is a series of test games to determine the best way to incorporate amateur radio into what is now referred to as HAMCHESS.

"Now we are using EchoLink through a Cleveland, Ohio, repeater with algebraic chess notation relayed by voice," said Noquisi. "In the future, each chess team will determine what method works best for them based on skill level and participation."

Noquisi added that blending the school's chess and amateur radio clubs makes for a great campus experience and opportunity for community involvement.

W8EDU President Adam Goodman, W7OKE, said collegiate amateur clubs are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and HAMCHESS is a great way to reenergize amateur radio clubs and involve other college organizations.

In 1945, the United States and the USSR squared off in a radio chess tournament using CW. In the 1980s, Chess and Amateur Radio International, a club with more than 200 members, used 20-meter SSB in a match between five US players and five players in Oceania, a geographical region spanning the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

Today, more than a dozen college amateur radio and chess clubs are participating in HAMCHESS events. College and university radio clubs, including those participating in the chess tournament, regularly network with each other through the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program.

2023 Chicago Marathon Supported by Amateur Radio

On October 8, 2023, more than 140 amateur radio operators from five Midwest states assisted 2,000 volunteer medical personnel at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. This is the 15th consecutive year that amateur radio operators have helped coordinate medical responses and arrange for medical resupplies at the Chicago Marathon. About 49,000 runners entered this year's event.

The city-wide marathon uses six main repeater channels and deploys four temporary repeaters. New this year was official use of the

A group of amateur radio volunteers at the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. [Rob Orr, K9RST, photo.]

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) after organizers trialed it at their other events, including the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle and the Chicago 13.1. APRS radios were deployed to amateur communication teams in Chicago's Grant Park after the race was finished.

A total of 30 radio operators worked in various capacities before and after the race. Also, there were 100 ham radio operators stationed at each of the 20 course medical tents and the medical hub. In Forward Command, 10 amateur radio operators served as net controls, traffic handlers, logging specialists, and expediters.

Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications has been nationally recognized for its ability to fully integrate all available resources, and amateur radio operators have been publicly recognized by Federal Emergency Management Agency observers for their performance during the event.

President of Ham Radio Chicago and former president of the North Shore Radio Club Rob Orr, K9RST, said that amateur radio has an important seat at the communications table. "Amateur radio is important to the event. However, it is just one small component [of] a very complex event that requires more than 10,000 volunteers to be successful. Amateur radio has a unique role and works alongside the other many specialty service groups required to support an event of this magnitude," he said. "This event has shown that amateur radio is very much alive and doing well.

A POTA Book for Park Activators and Hunters!

ARRL has a new book to help radio amateurs enjoy one of the fastest growing communities within the hobby.

The Parks on the Air Book is now available and provides readers with all the information they need to be an activator or hunter.

Participants in Parks on the Air® (POTA) have built one of the most vibrant on-air communities in contemporary ham radio.

Park hunters comb the airwaves for activators operating from the lawns of sprawling public mansions, stoops at urban historic sites, forest glades, rocky mountaintops, seaside beaches, and just about any state or federal park in the country -- and many entities abroad.

The Parks on the Air Book gives you a look at the setups and processes of 14 operators from a variety of skill levels and backgrounds and offers advice and motivation for taking your radio out to a park. Each chapter includes a detailed gear list so you can see exactly what your fellow operators are using, whether they're leaders of the pack like Kerri Wright, KB3WAV, and Clint Sprott, W9AV, or folks just getting started with Parks on the Air. Setups cover satellite operating, QRP, urban backpack portable, activating tailgate-style, wire antennas for POTA, and more.

Whether you want to plan a multistate rove, toss a wire into a tree at a nearby park, or hunt activators from the comfort of your home station, The Parks on the Air Book provides insight and expertise in a beautiful, full-color format, brimming with photos that celebrate ham radio and the wonderful, shared resource of our state and national parks.

The Parks on the Air Book may be purchased from the ARRL Store and from your ARRL Dealer, or call (860) 594-0355 or toll-free in the US (888) 277-5289.

The Parks on the Air Book, ARRL Item No. 1748, ISBN: 978-1-62595-174-8, $22.95 retail; special ARRL Member price $19.95.

Amateur Radio in the News

ARRL Public Information Officers, Coordinators, and many other member-volunteers help keep amateur radio and ARRL in the news.

"Fruitful Partnerships are Paying Off" / East Texas News (Texas) October 5, 2023 -- Upper Alke Livingston Wireless Association ARES®.

"Man Stands Outside with a Strange Antenna and Repeats This Phrase - Minutes Later He Gets a Call Nobody Expected" / The Western Journal (Arizona) October 11, 2023 -- KB8M makes contact with the International Space Station.

"10-4 Boy Scouts: Local amateur radio club helps scouts participate in event" / Daily Journal (Minnesota) October 12, 2023 -- The Lake Region Amateur Radio Club is an ARRL Affiliated Club.

"How Ham Radio Operators Do Eclipse Science" / Science Friday (New York) October 13, 2023 -- The University of Scranton Amateur Radio Club, W3USR.

"Stafford radio operators plan park event" / The Free Lance Star (Virigina) October 15, 2023 -- The Stafford Amateur Radio Association is an ARRL Affiliated Club.

"Covenant Christian Academy students speak with International Space Station through Ham Radio" / The Salem News (Massachusetts) October 16, 2023 -- Covenant Christian Academy.

Share any amateur radio media hits you spot with us.

ARRL Podcasts

On the Air
Sponsored by

The Solar Eclipse QSO Party: When Operating is Science

Gary Mikitin's, AF8A, article, "The Solar Eclipse QSO Party: A Fun Way Support Radio Science" in the September/October 2023 issue of On the Air details how hams can contribute data to a study on how the ionosphere reflects radio signals during the eclipse via an easygoing on-air event called the Solar Eclipse QSO Party. Gary, who is the Amateur Radio Community Coordinator of HamSCI, joins us on the October episode of the On the Air podcast, to talk about just how easy it is to participate.

ARRL Audio News
Listen to ARRL Audio News, available every Friday. ARRL Audio News is a summary of the week's top news stories in the world of amateur radio and ARRL, along with interviews and other features.

The On the Air podcast is available on iTunes. The On the Air podcast and ARRL Audio News are also on blubrry -- On the Air | ARRL Audio News.


A special Parks on the Air (POTA) event will take place at the Widewater State Park in Stafford, Virginia, on October 21, 2023. Amateur radio operators will use special event call sign W4W to make as many contacts as they can. Their radios will be powered by batteries and solar cells. "We welcome park visitors to watch us in action and learn more about this aspect of our century-old hobby combining radio operating skills and the outdoors," said Steve Herman, W7VOA, president of the Stafford Amateur Radio Association and a member of the Friends of Widewater State Park.

The World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station, SAQ, will transmit a peace message to the world for United Nations Day on October 24, 2023, at 17:00 CET (15:00 UTC). The message will be on 17.2 kHz CW and transmitted via the station's 99-year-old 200 kW Alexanderson alternator. SAQ will also air test transmissions on Monday, October 23, between 13:00 and 16:00 CET (11:00 and 14:00 UTC). The full schedule for the event is as follows: the live stream will begin at 16:25 CET (14:25 UTC), startup and tuning of the Alexanderson alternator will begin at 16:30 CET (14:30 UTC), and the peace message will be transmitted at 17:00 CET (15:00 UTC). The event will be live streamed on the Alexander Grimeton Friendship Association's YouTube channel. Comments and QSL reports can be emailed to

The ARRL website will be unavailable on Monday, October 23, 2023, due to scheduled maintenance. Those needing assistance with joining ARRL or renewing their existing memberships, as well as anyone interested in ordering products offered by ARRL, are invited to call the ARRL Member Services team at 888-277-5289 (toll-free US) or 860-594-0200 from 8:00 AM through 7:00 PM Eastern time while we improve the website to better serve amateur radio. Check the ARRL Facebook page for more updates.

The U.S. Air Force Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) will be celebrating 75 years of service this November. There will be a special event starting at 0001Z on November 5, 2023, and it will run through 2359Z on Veterans Day. The event will challenge amateur radio operators to contact as many of the ten Communications Wings as they can. More than 700 MARS stations will be calling CQ in the Technician and General portion of the 160 - 6-meter bands using SSB, CW, and digital modes. Special event call signs will be W1A through W1K, and bonus stations call signs will be K4AF and KE6UEU. QSL cards will not be issued, but a certificate will be available for every contact. Additional information can found at the U.S. Air Force MARS website. U.S. Air Force MARS provides contingency communications support on behalf of all personnel at the U.S. Department of Defense and other government branches to support national security missions whenever, however, and wherever assistance is required. Air Force MARS Public Information Officer Kenneth Holloway, KA5KEN, said MARS operators have been providing a critical service for decades. "This event symbolizes our respect for the many operators who have worked hard for MARS for many decades," said Holloway. He added that MARS now provides a worldwide 24/7/365 telephone service to US military aircraft via HF radio. More information is available at MARSRADIO.

In Brief...

The Association of Minnesota Emergency Managers has named Winona County Emergency Management Director Bernard Klinger, KE0TNM, the Minnesota Emergency Management Director of the Year for 2023. Klinger has been the Emergency Management Director for Winona County since 2018. He was cited for his work during the high-profile disappearance of Madeline Kingsbury in March 2023. Kingsbury, a 26-year-old clinical researcher at the Mayo Clinic, had been reported missing after dropping her children off at a local daycare center on the morning of March 31. Her body was found six weeks later, after a search involving hundreds of volunteers over a three-county area of 2,100 square miles. Klinger was nominated for the award by Winona Police Officer Tom Williams, who was the lead officer on the case, for his work as an organizer and point of contact during the search. Klinger was also recognized for organizing multi-layered efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is a member of the Winona County Jail staff as well as a volunteer police officer, firefighter, and EMT for the city of Goodview, Minnesota.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, of Seattle, Washington, reports for this week's ARRL Propagation Bulletin, ARLP042:

Sunspot activity dropped dramatically this week, with only two new sunspot groups emerging on October 14 and 16.

Solar disk image taken October 19, 2023. [Photo courtesy of NASA SDO/HMI]

Compared to last week, the average daily sunspot number slipped from 144.1 to 89.4, and the average daily solar flux dropped from 159.1 to 145.1.

Average daily planetary A index changed from 7.6 to 6.4, and the average daily middle latitude A index went from 8.3 to 5.

Predicted solar flux is 135 on October 19 - 20; 140 on October 21 - 26; 145 on October 27 - 28; 150 on October 29 - November 5; 140 on November 6 - 9; 135 on November 10 - 11; 145 and 140 on November 12 - 13; 135 on November 14 - 15, and 140 on November 16 - 18.

Predicted planetary A index is 18, 22, 24, 8, 10, and 8 on October 19 - 24; 5 on October 25 - 26; 8 on October 27 - 30; 10 and 12 on October 31 - November 1; 5 on November 2 - 8; 12 on November 9 - 10; 5 on November 11 - 12; 12 on November 13 - 14, and 10 and 8 on November 15 - 16.

See a report about a possible October 19 geomagnetic storm at

Sunspot numbers for October 12 - 18, 2023, were 126, 91, 100, 92, 106, 57, and 54, with a mean of 89.4. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 157.1, 149, 148.2, 144.6, 144, 137.3, and 135.3, with a mean of 145.1. Estimated planetary A indices were 4, 13, 8, 4, 4, 3, and 9, with a mean of 6.4. Middle latitude A index was 3, 11, 6, 2, 3, 2, and 8, with a mean of 5.

Send your tips, questions, or comments to

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out the Propagation Page of Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. For customizable propagation charts, visit the VOACAP Online for Ham Radio website.

Share your reports and observations.

A weekly, full report is posted on ARRL News.

Just Ahead in Radiosport

Yearlong -- ARRL Volunteers On the Air (VOTA). See the State Activations Schedule for weekly W1AW Portable Operations, including:

  • October 18 - 24 -- Nebraska W1AW/0

  • October 18 - 24 -- Alabama W1AW/4

  • October 25 - 31 -- Virginia W1AW/4

  • October 25 - 31 -- Michigan W1AW/8

  • October 25 - 31 -- Arkansas W1AW/5

Upcoming Contests:
  • October 19 - 20 -- Walk for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

  • October 19 -- NTC QSO Party (CW)

  • October 20 - 23 -- Pioneers QSO Party (CW, digital)

  • October 21 - 22 -- JARTS WW RTTY Contest (digital)

  • October 21 - 22 -- YBDXPI FT8 Contest (FT8)

  • October 21 - 22 -- 10-10 Int'l Fall Contest (CW)

  • October 21 - 22 -- New York QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

  • October 22 - 23 -- YLRL DX/NA YL Anniversary Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • October 21 - 22 -- Worked All Germany Contest (CW, phone)

  • October 21 - 22 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge (CW)

  • October 21 -- Feld Hell Sprint (digital)

  • October 21 -- Argentina National 7 MHz Contest (phone)

  • October 22 - 23 -- Illinois QSO Party (CW, phone, digital)

Visit the ARRL Contest Calendar for more events and information.

Upcoming Section, State, and Division Conventions

Search the ARRL Hamfest and Convention Database to find events in your area.

Have News for ARRL?

Submissions for the ARRL Letter and ARRL News can be sent to -- John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, ARRL News Editor

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The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

Much of the ARRL Letter content is also available in audio form in ARRL Audio News.

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