Calling All Knights, Bishops, Pawns, Queens, Rooks and Kings: The Southern Oregon Chess Tournament Welcomes Everyone to the Board
Ed Battistella, chess aficionado, primary organizer of the Southern Oregon Chess Open Tournament, and by several accounts one of the best chess players in the Rogue Valley, is a long standing writing and linguistics professor at SOU. He also heads the Ashland Chess Club, which meets at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland on Friday afternoons.
“[Chess] gives you an opportunity to focus on something” he says. “You learn to take defeat and move on. You can develop strategy, develop humility, and stay focused.”
This emphasis on humbleness and concentration rather than bravado has clearly served Battistella well—his USCF rating stands at 2006, which puts him at expert level, the highest level before a player hits master status. (Editor’s note: USCF rating is: The United State Chess Federation maintains a database of all registered players, ranging from beginners at 100 points upwards to 2500 Yoda-like masters, meaning that 2006 clears the “expert” level and puts him on course for “National Master” status.)
This degree of chess accomplishment along with his attributes as an educator qualify Battistella to take the helm of the local chess scene with an eye to steering it toward greater popularity and acceptance. While there is definitely a competitive chess presence here in the Rogue Valley, Batistella clearly feels that the “scene” could benefit from encouragement, stimulus, and wider exposure.
“There are a lot of strong players around here and a lot of players who are underrated because they don’t get to play that much,” he says. “So we’re trying to remedy that a little bit with these tournaments and give them a chance to boost their rating.”
This sentiment is echoed by Bill Scott, another player in the group, along with Peter Grant with whom he was playing a relaxed game. Comparing chess in this area with the larger San Francisco scene in which he has also participated, Scott noted that “There were more people but it wasn’t as tough. Here there are fewer players but they’re stronger.”
The player on the other side of the board, Peter Grant, who hails originally from Northern England, offered some insights from a more international perspective.
“It’s all about the way the pieces interact, it’s thematic,” he says. “If you like the artistic side of chess, some of these [themes] are really beautiful. It’s the Europeans who are really keen at that kind of thing. But in America it’s all about beating the other guy.”
Southern Oregon Chess Open Tournament
9:30 am, first round. Saturday, May 12.
Diamond Medical Maintenance, 1020 Knutson Avenue, Medford