POCATELLO — Jay Simonson is exactly the type of person you want in charge of removing radioactive waste from Idaho — always thinking, no detail left to chance.
An avid chess player for five decades, Simonson is used to thinking strategically and tactically, and is always calculating several moves ahead.
Simonson, 64, works for the advanced mixed-waste treatment project at the Idaho National Laboratory that is charged with getting radioactive waste out of the state.
Despite being taught to play chess the wrong way at first — the person who instructed him taught him incorrectly that the queen can move like a knight — Simonson has developed a life-long love of the game.
“I love to play chess,” says Simonson, who hails from Pocatello, but has been living in Idaho Falls in recent years because of his job. “I just enjoy playing, win or lose, and I have for a long time.”
He serves as the president of the Idaho Chess Association and was the director of the Eastern Idaho Open Chess Tournament that was held at Idaho State University this weekend.
The tournament drew 18 people from four states who matched their wits against each other in ISU’s Pond Student Union Building.
Though he’s been playing “front-room chess” since he was 12, Simonson got more serious about the game in 2000 and jumped into tournaments. Without being rated, his first tournament chess game was at the Idaho State Championships “where I actually did pretty well. I’ve been involved in organized chess in Idaho ever since then.”
He says part of the attraction of chess is that “it’s a game where there is no pat answer. Regardless of how much you study … you go to a tournament like this and somebody will make a move that you’ve never seen before.”
Simonson says a chess game is a complicated combination of strategic and tactical moves. “The strategic part is the whole game overall. The tactical part, of course, is just a few moves at a time. Just like in war games, it’s tactical and you have an overall strategy.”
After graduating from ISU in 1975, Simonson spent 12 years as an officer in the U.S. Army.
He returned to Pocatello in 1987. He and his wife, Jane, have nine children.
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– GM Susan Polgar