Saturday, March 20, 2010

World's chess warriors descend on Lubbock in fight for titles

World's chess warriors descend on Lubbock in fight for titles

Battle of Wits: World's chess warriors descend on Lubbock in fight for titles
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Story last updated at 3/20/2010 - 12:31 am

It all came down to silent blows on miniature battlefields.

Some of the world's top chess minds convened in a second floor room of Texas Tech's English building this week.

The thick and heavy silence almost betrayed the scale of the showdown.

In the motionless minutes between moves, the 10 chess wizards at five tables tunnelled their vision into the board. Some waited for their opponents to move by pacing the room, pausing to watch or consider other games.

On the surface, there's not much action here.

But look a little closer.

Each move carries with it surgical precision and intellectual moxie. The players' eyes said it all: This is no insouciant day of board games.
It's war.

They came to the tournament, the SPICE Spring Invitational, from four countries and seven states only after receiving a special invitation from Tech's Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence.

Now in its second year, the tournament brings some of the world's brightest chess stars together to battle for a better title. Each move is broadcast via Internet in real time to many thousands of enthusiasts across the planet.

"(The tournament) gives us visibility and recognition worldwide," Polgar said after Friday's final round. "It gives us visibility not only for the program, but also for the university."

Paul Truong, the institute's spokesman, said the invitational tournament caters to some of the younger, less-experienced players by giving them a chance to duel grandmasters. It is only through doing so that they can bump their own titles up - for instance, from the World Chess Federation's FIDE master title to international master, the level just below the highest distinction of grandmaster.

"This is more like a launching pad for the younger hopefuls who want to be a top-tier player," said Truong. "It's not about the (approximately $1,500) prize. It's about getting their title. That, for them, is way more valuable than just a paycheck from here."

This plight of the younger players makes for less cautious chess, he added.

"They really have to fight," Truong said. "It's just the fighting spirit, every game, grinding it out."

Among those at this year's tournament were grandmasters Julio Becerra of Miami, Ben Finegold of St. Louis and Jesse Kraai of San Francisco.

Becerra won after the tournament's nine rounds of play. Finegold tied for second with SPICE's own Gergely Antal, originally from Hungary.

The youngest among the players, 13-year-old phenomenon Darwin Yang sat across from renowned chess titans many times his age, holding his own, calculating his next move.

Now in his fifth year of playing, the seventh-grader from Plano hopes to soon earn the distinction of international master. He spent more than a week at the SPICE tournament going head-to-head against opponents of all types.


No, he said. Not anymore.

"Now, it's just life," Yang shrugged. "Just business as usual."

Yang finished seventh at this week's nine-round tournament. He could have done better, he said.

"I'm going to go home and spend lots of time working on those (mistakes) so next time I can win the tournament," he said.

International master and two-time U.S. women's champion Irina Krush finished eighth. She, like Yang, was disappointed in her overall performance.

"I won my first game. I won my last game," the New York City native smiled. "I try to forget everything in between."

Becerra, the tournament's winner, said the tournament's competitors all had similar ratings going into the competitions. He appreciated the high level of competition and plans to return to Lubbock this fall for the institute's next major invitational.

"If they invite me, I'll be here for sure," he said. "I love to be here."

Source: Avalanche Journal

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