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The City Journals

Columbus Center hosts 12th annual Chess Tournament

Nov 04, 2019 04:12PM ● By Nichole Duffy

The Columbus Center will host South Salt Lake’s annual Chess Tournament on Nov. 2. (Photo by Sk/Unsplash)

By Nichole Duffy | [email protected]

The long corridors in the Columbus Center (2531 S. 400 East) usually host kids participating in the after-school program, but on Nov. 2, it is transformed into an all out chess tournament. Kids age five to 18 come from all over Utah to attend the annual chess tournament, which began in 2007. 

According to Recreation Deputy Director Myrna Clark, “Our first tournament we had 70 participants, [now] we average around 120.”

It is no surprise that the chess tournament has gained momentum. Clark attributes the growth to the versatility of chess. “Chess was a tool we hoped that students, parents, and extended families can use as a means to understand logic, planning, strategy and have fun while spending time together. It is a lifelong game that even grandparents can be engaged in with their grandchildren.”

The logistics are fair, grouping players in accordance with their grade, which follow this structure: kindergarten-second, third-fourth, fifth-sixth, seventh-ninth and 10th-12th-graders. But that does not stop anyone from seeking a challenge. “We have had younger players come in and request to play up with the older group and have done very well,” Clark said. 

There is typically between 30 and 50 schools that participate in the annual tournament. Of course, with that many schools there is a computer program that helps alleviate some of the pressure off the organizers. Clark explained, “We use a computer program that randomly matches players in their perspective sections. Each participant plays in five rounds of games. The computer pairs each section in accordance to wins and losses after each round. By the end of round five results should reflect winners of each section.”

The great thing about the SSL chess tournament is that no matter your skill level, there is a place for you. It is about rallying together as a community that makes this tournament special. According to Clark roughly a third of the participants are beginners, and after their first delve into chess, she sees them return year after year. 

Some of the older participants, according to Clark, “use the tournament as preparatory for the state tournaments in the spring.” 

The tournament is scheduled Nov. 2 and check in begins at 8 a.m. There are trophies for each grade for students who place first through fifth. But don’t worry, all participants are awarded a participation medal. If you have not yet registered, there is registration available at the door for an additional $5. 

Chess is an integral part of life and when asked why she thinks it is important and impactful, Clark replied, “It requires time, and very little space and not a lot of limitations. Chess is recognized in over 100 Olympic communities as a sport. Everyone can play chess, but it is learning and understanding the game that helps the mind to stay active and sharp.”

The SSL Recreation Department was recently awarded as one of the Utah Recreation and Parks Association outstanding programs in the state for its annual chess tournament.