PARKADE: Young chess players compete for national rankings

Monday, September 26, 2011 | 10:25 a.m. CDT; updated 4:07 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Isaac Stiepleman, 8, makes his last moves against Rohan Rao, 7, in the final match of the Scholastic Chess Tournament at the Parkade Center on Saturday. Stiepleman won first place in the K-3 division, and Rao took third place.

COLUMBIA — As the digital clock was counting down 30 minutes, chess players Rohan Rao, 7, and Isaac Stiepleman, 8, moved their pieces and punched the time with increasingly rapid succession. Each had a growing collection of the other’s pieces scattered around the board.

Their match was the last to finish Saturday in the third and final round of the Parkade September Open chess tournament.


 The results of the Parkade September Open are:


                        Jabez D. Campbell


                        First place: Shray Kumar

                        Second place: Preston D. Roberts

                        Third place: Nathan E. Roberts


                        Kavin Anand


                        First Place: Isaac Stiepleman

                        Second place: Vishnu Arunachaiam Arun

                        Third place: Rohan Roa

                        Fourth place: Aaron Miller

                        Fifth place: Vignesh Kumar


The rated tournament had four categories where competitors could earn points toward national rankings with the U.S. Chess Federation.

Tim Campbell, a federation-certified coach and the owner of Mid Missouri Chess Academy, began the day by setting up 17 chess games, though only five games were ultimately played each round.

"We got hit hard by soccer today," Campbell said of the low attendance. Only 10 participants competed, with more expected later in the season.

The $5 entry fee went toward room rental and federation rating fees, with any surplus covering Campbell’s time.

The rating fees allow players to earn points for the national rating system and can be used in considering skill level for college scholarships and admission for students looking to someday play at the university level, Campbell said.

"Some of these younger kids would really have a chance if they stuck with it," he said. He coaches a majority of the competitors in the tournament, often both opponents in a match.

"We have a strong group here — the ratings don’t show it because they knock each other down," Campbell said.

The first round Saturday went quickly, with checkmate called less than 10 minutes into play.

Players have 30 minutes to complete all of their moves in a game, which is consistent with most Missouri chess tournaments for these age brackets, Campbell said.

As the players finished their games, they left the conference room and were free to explore the Parkade Center where the tournament was held.

Stiepleman began playing chess in kindergarten at West Boulevard Elementary School because he thought the game was interesting.

"I like chess because I get to play all kinds of opponents and learn their strategies," he said.

Isaac's father, Peter Stiepleman, is the former principal of West Boulevard Elementary and started the chess club there. He is currently the assistant superintendent for elementary education for Columbia Public Schools.

"It's an incredibly opportunity for kids to learn how to think strategically," Peter Stiepleman said. He plays chess himself, but admits with a laugh that his 8-year-old son can beat him.

Between games of tag in the hallway, Aaron Miller, 7, said his favorite part of the game is winning. He started playing at age 4 with his father, Nathan, who accompanied him to the tournament.

Each participant received a ribbon or medal for participating, "so everyone knows there's value in coming and playing and using that mind," Campbell said.

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