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Great move: Organizer's gambit brings chess tourney to county

April 06, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

BOONSBORO -- It was hard to believe that this was a school gymnasium.

There were no athletes or cheerleaders. But there were plenty of kings, queens, bishops and knights.

There was no noise, no shouting. But a lot of furrowed brows and quiet strategy.

It was a day to play chess.

Boonsboro Middle School was the setting Saturday for the Maryland Chess Association W. Paul Engle Jr. Open.

Organizer Mike DiLeo said this is the first major chess tournament that has been held in Washington County.

"This is really exciting," he said. "This is something we've wanted to do for a long time."

About 92 people registered to participate in the tournament, DiLeo said.

"Many players are local. But, since it's an open, people are here from all over. We're thrilled with the turnout," he said.

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For years, DiLeo said, area chess players have had to travel to Baltimore to attend a tournament.

"Organized chess events just aren't held in Western Maryland," he said. "I always thought it would be nice to have something in our own neck of the woods."

Last year, DiLeo contacted the Maryland Chess Association and received the green light to host a tournament.

"We've been working on this event for the past six months," he said. "We're really happy with the way everything has come together."

DiLeo said he had his first taste of organized chess about five years ago when he volunteered to help out with a chess club at Pleasant Valley Elementary School. He eventually helped start a club at Boonsboro Middle School.

This year, the middle school's chess club attended the Maryland State Chess Club Championship and won the JV section, DiLeo said.

His goal is to start a chess club next year at Boonsboro High School.

"The interest in chess just keeps growing," he said. "When people realize we have a middle school chess club, they want to know how to get involved."

Because of the support of Boonsboro Middle School principal W. Paul Engle Jr., organizers decided to name the open in his honor, DiLeo said.

"This is the perfect setting for a tournament," he said. "Hopefully, this will become an annual event."

Tournament participants were divided by rating or playing ability. There were scholastic levels, adult levels and an open section, where anyone could compete. There were no eliminations with each participant playing about five rounds.

Orin Kuehl, a student at Boonsboro Middle School, said he had lost his first game but would have more opportunities to win.

The 11-year-old said he has been playing since he was 5 and has been hooked on chess since.

"I really like it," he said. "I'm an average player. But it's fun."

Joseph Chen, 9, of Vienna, Va., had his opponents seeing double. A twin, both he and his brother were playing in the tournament.

Chen said he has been playing chess for about one year and enjoys the strategy that's involved in the game.

"I'm a pretty good player," he said. "But my opponents are really good, too. I hope I do well."

DiLeo said his three children were playing in the tournament, but so was he.

"I hope I win," he laughed. "I gotta get out of here with some dignity."

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