SB chess players make moves at tourney
Daniel Fernandez looked closely at the chess board Saturday morning, contemplating his next move.
His opponent, one of 60 participants in the 9th Annual San Benito Community Chess Tournament, wrote something on a score sheet, then moved his knight. Fernandez, a teacher at Oliveira Middle School in Brownville, studied the situation for a moment, and then finally moved a pawn.
He eventually won the game at the San Benito Community Center, not surprising since the organizer of the tournament referred to him as a “master player.”
Ed Guetzow, organizer and tournament director, said he began organizing the tournament nine years ago as a way of keeping children busy during the summertime.
“It’s not just for the kids but for the community,” he said. “We want to get kids involved.”
Many of San Benito’s children are avid chess players because the schools actively promote chess.
Guetzow, who held another chess competition in San Benito last month, said chess is popular throughout the Rio Grande Valley and has been for quite some time. The Valley — Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo and Starr counties — is Region 8 under the Texas Chess Association, and he’s the regional director. He believes there are 1,400 to 1,600 players in the region, who are all students.
“I’m very proud to say that the Valley’s always been very strong, especially in Brownsville,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons that San Benito has benefitted from this, because with Brownsville having as many strong players that they have, for many years, we got to play with those.”
The competitions also give locals the chance to volunteer their time.
“That benefits everybody,” he said. “It’s one of those things where, you start doing something, and it just builds on you. The more competition there is out there, the more people involved, the more kids have a chance to expand on.”
The players at the tournament Saturday were definitely involved. The long tables filling the room were full of players young and old studying the chess boards in front of them and marking each move on a sheet. A young girl whispered “269” to the boy across from her. He stood and fidgeted as he looked through his glasses at his pieces.
Not everyone at the tournament was playing chess. Many parents, such as Shannon Fox, looked on as their children played.
“This isn’t his first tournament,” she said of her son Jacob, 8. “It’s just a routine now. I get nervous about him playing the older kids. But he doesn’t get nervous.”
Her son, who attends Sam Houston Elementary School in Harlingen, eventually lost his game, but he was undaunted. Chess, he explained, is a learning experience.
“It makes you think,” he said. “I enjoy that my rating goes up, and then playing. If you win, you get to play better players. If you lose, you get to learn what you did wrong.”
His mother feels the game has helped her son in numerous ways.
“It’s great,” she said. “It’s helped him with his school work. It makes him focused. It teaches him how to strategize, makes him think three steps ahead.”
Guetzow explained that all the players, regardless of age, were placed into three categories: Open, which is the toughest; Reserve, which is intermediate; and Unrated, which is for beginners. Each player competed against others in the same category.
Fernandez, 27, was in the Open category. He’s been playing for 20 years. He learned the game by watching his father and brother play.
“I try to play as frequently as possible, for the love of the game and the competition, the artistic part, the tactics, and it’s the pure form of competition,” he said. “You against them.”
By TRAVIS WHITEHEAD/ Valley Morning Star
July 21, 2012 9:32 PM