CHECKKing holds onto chess crown

Published 11:30 am Thursday, June 14, 2012

More than a dozen chess players went to the mat with a master Wednesday in a 4½-hour marathon match, but in the end, he was still king.

International master Dave Ross of Jackson simultaneously faced 16 players from Warren, Hinds and Rankin counties at Vicksburg Senior Center, recording 15 victories and a draw.

International master is the second-highest rating in chess behind grandmaster.

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“It must be nice to take on the whole house,” said Johnny Guinn. “It’s just like life, you have to crawl before you can walk.”

Guinn, a former state chess champion, fought toe-to-toe with Ross for nearly four hours before being beaten.

This is the second year Ross has traveled to the senior center to take on a mass of players at once. Last year he recorded 19 simultaneous victories.

“They played a lot better this year,” Ross said. “Don (Rathburn) warned me, and I saw it was true.”

Ross stood the entire time, walking around a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of tables covered in chess mats and oversized pieces. The experience was mentally and physically exhausting, he said.

“When my head hits the pillow tonight, I’ll be asleep in about 10 seconds,” Ross said following the tournament.

Ross, who is originally from Montreal, Canada, has won a number of Canadian, American and international championships. He also was twice coach for the Canadian Youth Chess Team.

Lynn Bellah of Clinton gave Ross the closest game, which ended in a draw after 3½ hours after the two exchanged queens.

“He agreed to a draw. That’s pretty good, actually,” Bellah said. “I feel pretty fortunate.”

“He was possibly winning … but it was close enough,” Ross said.

Debbie Sigh of Vicksburg — the only woman competing in the tournament — was the last player eliminated.

“I’m very proud of myself,” she said.

Sigh played chess in her youth, but has only been playing again for about three months after taking lessons from Rathburn, who runs the chess club.

“He’s put a lot of effort into this” she said of Rathburn.

John C. Jones lasted about three hours in the tournament but surrendered after miscalculating a move.

“I made a mistake about 12 moves ago — the kind of things that makes you want to cuss,” he said after his elimination.

Jones plays chess every Wednesday at the senior center and plays regularly at Highway 61 Coffeehouse.

“Most of us are just playing for fun,” he said.

Participants in the chess club, which meets 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at the senior center don’t have to be older than 50, Rathburn said, the group is looking to add younger members. However, during the tournament only three people younger than 50 competed, he said.

“Even though they are old, they can still play great chess,” he said.