Columbia chess player offers free burritos to potential opponents

Monday, July 19, 2010 | 1:35 p.m. CDT; updated 4:33 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 19, 2010

COLUMBIA — Extraordinary chess skills could win you a free lunch if you happen by the Chipotle on Ninth Street in downtown Columbia on the right day.

Justin Hull, 26, sets up his board and time clock outside the restaurant to challenge passersby to a quick game of speed and strategy. If you can beat him, he'll buy you a burrito.


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"When I started out doing it, I really wanted people to play," Hull said. "So I said, 'Beat me and I'll buy you a drink.'"

However, Chipotle's manager didn't take kindly to Hull setting up shop outside his store and offering a drink from Starbucks. The manager gave Hull a free burrito card and told him to use that as incentive instead.

About three days a week, the 15-year chess veteran puts out a large, handwritten sign declaring his challenge, and patiently waits for someone to sit down and play.

So far, he hasn't lost yet.

"I did get one draw," Hull admitted. "It was against a guy from Bosnia. The game wasn't timed and took about half an hour."

Although the game didn't actually end, Hull's opponent had to leave and they decided the position was probably a draw.

"He played really well," Hull said. "But I did beat him twice before that."

Hull also serves as co-director for the Columbia Chess Club, which plays at 6 p.m. Tuesdays at Kaldi's Coffee House.

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Erin Jorgensen July 22, 2010 | 12:03 p.m.

Update from the writer:
Justin Hull said in an email Wednesday that he is no longer the undefeated chess champ of the Ninth Street Chipotle.
Jeremy Volkmann read about Hull on the Missourian and accepted his challenge.
Volkmann, whose chess Hull describes as "above" his own, won two games before having to leave.
"He's the only one that has genuinely won a free burrito," Hull said.

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