More than 500 students and a number of volunteers took part in DeSoto County Schools Chess Championship held at Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch. The chess tournament is the largest annual chess tournament in the state of Mississippi.
The tournament began in 1994 between Hernando Elementary and Southaven Elementary and now encompasses all schools, giving students a chance to test their wit and strategy against their peers. It is coordinated by Emily Nelson, DCS Executive Director of Leadership Development.
The students are competing for individual awards as well as team awards. Four schools earn team trophies for first, second and third place. At the middle and high school levels, five students take home individual trophies. At the elementary level, 10 students from each grade earn a trophy to take home. The Swiss System of Scoring is used where winners play winners for five rounds. If there is a tie, a computer program determines the champion.
“The students love to take home the hardware,” said Nelson. “We want to give that opportunity to lots of students but we also want winning an award to be a special honor. At the moment, I think we have the right balance.”
Avery Brewer, a junior at DeSoto Central High School is the tournament’s First Place High School Champion for three years in a row, setting a new tournament record.
“We could not run this event without our volunteers,” said Nelson. “Our tournament director for ten years is Jeff Bolhuis. Even though his children are no longer involved, he takes two days of vacation to run our chess tournament. No one could do a better job.”
Craig Saurage, a computer engineer and Mississippi’s 2016-2017 state chess champion, helped at the tournament and coaches the Oak Grove Central Elementary chess program for several hours each week. His daughter, Madison, is nine years old and is on the team. He also has a four-year-old daughter Hadley, who knows how to play chess.
“It’s cool to have him here," said Madison.
“This tournament gave me an outlet and a challenge when I attended Olive Branch Intermediate School,” said Kevin Diehl, the music teacher at Southaven Elementary School and former longtime tournament competitor. “I have enjoyed coming back and being a part of the event.”
And the winners are….
3rd-Anderson Smith (LES)
2nd-Madison Saurage (OGCES)
1st - Isaac Carey (SIS)
1st Place Team- LES
3rd-Caleb Rucker (DCES)
2nd-Camden Lunsford (LES)
1st-Hayden Polk (OGCES)
1st Place Team- OGCES
3rd- Ryan Terry (CHMS)
2nd-Ben Ellis (LMS)
1st- Taylor Cook (LMS)
1st Place Team-LMS
3rd Place- Grazielle Laureta (SMS)
2nd Place- Mason-Harrell Cook (DCMS)
1st Place- Johnathan Kiesel (LMS)
1st Place Team-DCMS
High School Individuals
3rd Conner Roberson (SHS)
2nd Bailey Terrell (HHS)
1st Avery Brewer (DCHS)
1st Place Team-HHS