Checkmates abound at chess invitational

Players fiercely competed for a prize in the game of strategy Saturday afternoon.

The Trojan Chess Club reached out to local schools, bringing many elementary schoolers to play in the 9th Annual USC Invitational Chess Tournament. Players also flocked to USC from the local community. (Jordan Renville / Daily Trojan)

The chess players kept a close watch over their queens this past weekend at the 9th Annual USC Invitational Chess Tournament. The chess rounds were held from 12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, on the first floor of the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. The tournament experienced its greatest number of chess registrations in its nine-year tournament history.

Michelson rooms 101 and 102 were packed with swarms of chess enthusiasts. The two rooms were lined with tables that hosted three chess sets per table. When the players’ rooks were at rest, the tournament organizers provided refreshments for their chess participants.

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If the chess connoisseur wanted a break from the standard chess sets there was a mega chess set for a comical game.

The players registered and played in either the United States Chess Federation rated section with a $15 entry fee or in the non-rated section for free. If the players decided to register for the USCF-rated game, they would play under the Swiss System. If the players opted for the non-rated section, the players enjoyed three timed rounds. Players in the USCF-rated section fiercely navigated their knights as they fought to win the $350 cash prize.

The elaborate and well-attended tournament was sponsored by the USC Dornsife Mentorship Program, Trojan Chess Club, USC Civic Engagement, USC Black Alumni Association, Department of Public Safety, Playa Vista Chess Club and the Playa Vista Optimists.

The game of strategy captivated chess players of all chess experience levels and allowed the players the chance to find community with fellow chess aficionados.

The director behind the tournament is Ben Eubanks, a USC alum. He is a certified club tournament director with the United States Chess Federation. Eubanks said 116 people registered for the tournament, a 100% increase from the previous year.

“I attribute that to the Trojan family because we’ve got the cooperation of the Trojan Chess Club this year, and we never had that before,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks looked back to his college education when remembering what sparked his involvement in chess tournaments.

“I’ve always tried to become involved with USC. I’ve been involved in many activities on campus and off campus,” he said. “We have the tournament at USC because it’s kind of a give back from me.”

Jadon Gaertner, the president of the Trojan Chess Club and a senior majoring in economics/mathematics, was involved in the planning process of the tournament which began in July.

“[The tournament is] gonna be the biggest event we’ve ever done because what we’ve done as a chess club is maybe 40 or 50 people, this is 120,” Gaertner said. “I really have to thank all the people who’ve worked with to help us get this far and [plan] something this big.”

The tournament was a scholastic USCF event. Due to the Trojan Chess Club’s extensive community outreach, there were many elementary schoolers competing from the local communities.

Ashley Melendres, the vice president of the Trojan Chess Club and a junior majoring in neuroscience and classical guitar performance, said they began having weekly meetings to plan the event last spring.

“We’re all really excited about this,” Melendres said. “Originally, we were told that there was going to be about 30 people. We have over 120 so it’s a little bit chaotic, but we’re really excited to be hosting a scholastic USCF event for all the elementary schoolers.”

Brandon Ho, the communications director of the Trojan Chess Club and a senior majoring in neuroscience, played in over 150 USCF-rated tournaments as a kid.

“I’ve had a lot of experience as being the player and now I’m basically in charge of running this event. I’m one of the people in charge of running this circuit,” Ho said. “It’s a whole different perspective.”

As the tournament progressed through the afternoon the bands of chess competitors became increasingly silent. The eerie quiet resulted from the fierce USCF sections narrowing down the competitors in each bracket. The USCF section players boldly moved their bishops as they fought for a chance to win the prize.

At the close of the tournament, there were five winners in the USFC section. The winners were Gevorg Akopyan, Elad Levine, USC senior pursuing the computer science/business administration major Danial Asaria, Misha Tenenbaum and Luke Morreale. All five ended the tournament with a score of three points each.

Win or lose, the tournament echoed messages of self-improvement to the players and crowd. Everyone had the opportunity to find company in the community of chess players and enjoy watching the competitors play in the game of strategy. 

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