New chess tournament attracts strong players to Scott County

A new chess tournament introduced to Scott County went down to the wire to crown its first champion Saturday in a thrilling winner-take-all tie breaker at Roosevelt State Park.

The Bienville Chess Classic is the second tournament at Alfreda-Harris Lodge organized and hosted by the Scott County Chess Club. The one-day tournament attracted 32 players from across Mississippi, one player from Florida, and a couple players from Louisiana. Other players within the state came from across Central Mississippi and the coastal counties.

The chess club plans to make this tournament, named for the national forest that covers much of the county, an annual spring event. It will join the Roosevelt Chess Classic held in the fall, established in November 2021.

Chris Allen Baker, founder and coordinator of the chess club, served his first stint as a certified tournament director.

“We had a great day of chess where our players blessed us with their participation and provided some great competition. We had players with strong ratings battle to the very end,” Baker said. “Each of the rounds went deep as the last remaining players finished just minutes before the next round was to begin.”

The tournament included four 45-minute rounds with three sections. Players are grouped into the sections according to their skill level as determined by ratings issued by the US Chess Federation. First place in two of the sections received a trophy while second and third places in all sections received medals.

Most of the players were visitors but one player, Cody Batte, has ties to Scott County. Batte won three of the four rounds to play his way into a tie for second place in the U1000 section. A two-game tie breaker did not end in his favor, giving Batte a third-place finish.

The U500 section also had a two-way tie for second place which was settled when one of the players agreed to forfeit the tie breaker game and accept third place.

More fireworks came in a two-way tie for first and second place in the Open division, which is the most competitive and includes the highest rated players participating. Winners in this section received cash prizes and medals for second and third places. The first-place winner also received cash and a plaque commemorating the Beverly Jo Rhodes Memorial Championship, named for a former gifted teacher who started the WINGS program at Forest High School and supported chess among class activities.

Ryan Wu and Andrew Rea finished regulation tied with 3.5 points. Their first two tiebreaker games ended in draws sending the action to an “Armageddon” round. Rea claimed the win as the sudden death game was decided in the final seconds.

Baker said the club plans to host two tournaments with the second annual Roosevelt Chess Classic planned for November 5 at Roosevelt State Park to include individuals and teams.

“We really appreciate the support from the community and the businesses who have helped make these tournaments possible,” Baker said. “We are getting noticed around the state with strong showings of players visiting Scott County to play this great game. There is so much potential to make our community a chess destination in Mississippi.”

The chess club meets monthly at the Forest Public Library. For more information, send email to scottcountychessclub@gmail.com.

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