Tuesday, March 2, 2010


By DIANNE SOLÍS / The Dallas Morning News dsolis@dallasnews.com

Two floors of the downtown Sheraton Hotel in Dallas were strewn with green and beige chessboards Sunday as 1,043 students of the game, from kindergartners to university students, competed.

Five-year-old Anh Nguyen won her match in the elementary school division Sunday at the Sheraton Hotel.

So what is the magic of the game?

"It's fun," says Emilio, a mop-headed boy with chocolate brown eyes.

His blond buddy offers him plenty of encouragement: "You could beat your brother and your sister."

Emilio gracefully turns to his friend and says, "He's better than me."

One of the nation's most celebrated colleges of chess champs, the University of Texas at Dallas, even offered a top prize of a full scholarship to a high school student with the top chess rating.
Chess has roots in sixth-century
India, or possibly Afghanistan or China, and quickly spread to the Muslim world and then other points global, according to some historians. Chess pieces reflect the medieval genesis: knights, queens, kings.

Whatever, says Emilio's mother, Leila Tueme of Mission, Texas. Chess gives her son purpose and passion. He excels at the game more than his 14-year-old brother and 11-year-old sister. All of them rode for 10 hours on a charter bus from the Rio Grande Valley to support Emilio, who competed in the junior varsity division.

"I just didn't think someone so small could take on such responsibility and give his heart to it," says Tueme in her native Spanish. "Que pasión!"

On another floor, college students huddle quietly in rooms behind doors with signs calling for cellphones to be silenced. Two collegiate champs sit at a table, pondering strategy.
Marko Zivanic, a Serbian immigrant at UTD, rubs his two temples. Timur Gareev, an
Uzbekistan immigrant from another chess power, the University of Texas at Brownsville, massages his left eyebrow.

"He's really thinking," whispers Jim Stallings, the UTD chess program's director, who took up the game at age 10.
Stallings banters quietly that tourney chess players even lose weight at a two-day event because of expended intellectual energy. And every move matters, the
Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Army said.

"The funny thing about chess is it's not like baseball," Stallings said. "This is more like a knife fight. I can come up to you and cut you and cut you and then you can come and slit my throat. Over. Too bad."

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