Chess tournament highlights community and creativity in Missoula

Posted at 10:13 AM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 12:13:25-05

MISSOULA — Chess is a game that requires determination, focus and creativity.

Missoula is home to some competitive chess champions, and they come in all ages.

“Because I like to like think through my like, I like to think a lot and chess you have to think a lot. And it's all about strategy, and I like strategy games a lot,” said Jack Williams, 9-year-old chess champion.

After being online due to COVID-19, the Missoula tournament was back in person Saturday at the Masonic Lodge building with opponents facing off head to head.

And yes, 33 chess players compete for the title of chess king or queen, but they are just happy to be back together in person with their chess community- which is one of the Montana high school chess champ’s favorite things about competing.

“I mean, just the community, to everybody I'd meet especially in Montana too,” said Montana high school state champion Thomas Walthall.

Tournament Director Eric Walthall, Thomas' father, says the community is unlike any other. In fact, if you have seen Netflix’s show, The Queen’s Gambit — you got a realistic look into the community.

“The scenes in there where they show the players after the tournament, between the tournament's helping each other and going over strategy against certain players," said Walthall. "That happens.”

While chess may not be all that popular, the game allows those to connect with each other in a different way.

“It gives them a competitive place to be competitive while using those analytical skills. Most of these kids also play sports but you know, it's a little bit different to sit across the board and, and face off,” Eric Walthall told MTN News.

The tournament aims at getting more people into the game — leading to more “checkmates”.