The Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence and the Knight Raiders hosted the fifth annual Lubbock Open at the Lubbock Science Spectrum on Jan. 28.
The tournament was a five-round Swiss System tournament.
“Just remember that it’s not about win or lose,” said competitor Marcus Gamboa, an Evans Middle School student from Lubbock. “It’s about having fun. If you’re really wanting to win, make sure you know what you’re doing before you make a move.”
The tournament was open to all ages. Elementary, middle school, high school and college students, as well as adults, were involved in the competition.
“This tournament includes seven sections including kindergarten through 12th grade scholastic sections and one adult section,” said Susan Polgar, SPICE director and Knight Raiders coach.
Five Grand Masters from Tech competed, said Brett James, president of the Knight Raiders and a pre-medicine major from Richmond, Va.
“Chess players can’t take any moves for granted,” James said. “You have to focus the entire time, even if it’s a five minute game or a three hour game. Every single move counts. Stay mentally tough and be ready to play the entire game.”
The competitors consistently practice before playing in competitions, he said.
“Our chess team meets once a week at school and most of them play every day at home,” said Tom Messerschmidt, chess coach at Frenship Middle School. “ I also have a computerized chess game that they take home and play on the computer. They play quite a bit.”
Chess players practice as a team but also use their own time to better themselves at the game.
“Plan your moves before you use them,” said Lawson Sittre, a Frenship Middle School student. “I practice every day at school, at lunch and during my intervention period. I practice at home sometimes, too.”
Practice has a great effect on the outcome of a tournament, even for players at Tech.
“Preparation before you play is important,” said Ananya Roy, a third-year member of the Knight Raiders and a junior political science major from Atlanta. “Think about each move, even if you think it’s an easy move.”
The upper-level players and coaches have been involved in competitions for several years and have seen how the game has grown and changed, James said.
“I started playing when I was in fifth grade, and my tournaments were a lot smaller than this,” he said. “Lubbock has a very big chess community. The tournaments I played in Virginia were about half this size, but it was a great opportunity to start playing the game. I’m glad I can help do the same for kids in Lubbock, who will hopefully go on to play chess in high school and college, too.”
Hard work pays off, James said, and the Knight Raiders are an example of success in chess competitions, having a national championship title.
“We won the Final Four last year in April and we’re going back to defend that this April,” he said.
Georg Meier, a freshman management and international business major from Trier, Germany, is rated second in the country, said Haraldur Karlsson, adviser for the Tech Chess Club and associate professor of the geosciences department.
“I was chess professional for about four years and last November I became European Team Champion with the German team,” Meier said.
Meier, as well as other foreign players, saw Tech as a great opportunity to continue playing chess competitively.
“The Tech team is famous in the whole chess world,” Meier said. “I heard about this program and contacted Susan Polgar and then everything just started working out.”
The strategy learned in chess can also be applied to life, Messerschmidt said.
“Keep focused and don’t let the other players distract you,” he said. “The moves you make depend on the moves your opponent makes. Think ahead. It’s problem-solving; a life skill.”
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– GM Susan Polgar