MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It might be the quietest competition you’ll ever see. But make no mistake, the National High School Chess Championship has plenty of intensity.
“It’s been getting bigger and bigger every year,” said Jay Skillings of the scholastic council of the U.S. Chess Federation.
This tournament has been going on for about 40 years and this year it happens to be at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Minneapolis. Thirteen-hundred kids are competing, 300 of them from Minnesota. That includes Matt Dahl of St. Thomas Academy, one of the top two players in the state.
“If you play a bad move you have to keep going. Some people play a bad move and they mentally check out,” said Dahl.
The “pin drop” quiet is only interrupted by the occasional punch of the timer. But the “stress of chess” can be found on the faces. The winner gets to represent the U.S. at the World Youth Championship in Slovenia. Eighteen-year-old Eric Rosen of Illinois is the favorite- he won it last year.
“When I came back home reporters were calling me every day wanting to interview me. My school went pretty crazy. They had an Eric Rosen Day. It was pretty crazy when I went home last year,” said Rosen.
But the biggest story may be Rochelle Ballantyne of Brooklyn, New York. She’s a three-time girls’ national champion and is going to be featured in a documentary called “Brooklyn Castle.”
“I hate to lose. It’s a good feeling when you play a boy who thinks he’s going to beat you and then I beat him. It takes a lot of strategy,” said Rochelle.
The tournament will run through Sunday and organizers say this year’s tournament is one of their biggest ever.
Eleven of the kids competing are considered “chess masters.”
Some have won full-ride college scholarships from other tournaments.