What Is Your Chess Story?

What Is Your Chess Story?

Jun 13, 2017, 4:56 PM |

"Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today."

-Robert McKee

Stories can entertain, inspire, and offer experiences to relate to.

Through the many mediums of storytelling available today (books, videos, spoken word, blogs, podcasts), stories have a powerful reach and can affect many.

We'd like to share your chess story. Here are a few examples of recent impactful chess stories we've been grateful to share.

“Shaman Sees Checkmate: Teaching Chess in the Amazon”

by Vincent Roazzi Jr 


Photo: Vincent Roazzi Jr.

Photo: Vincent Roazzi Jr.

As I start my 12th and final class, we still have not had one genuine checkmate. I am feeling a little down.

“How ridiculous to teach chess without checkmate?” I think. “Maybe eating the king was a horrible idea.”

A few days later, it is time for the final tournament but it rains. When it rains here mother earth opens wide and everything else must wait, including my chess tournament. At dusk, the day finally clears and I set up the desks under the tree.

A king rises to the sun. Then another king. Aaron advances as expected and faces his brother Matias in the finals.

Aaron’s first move is knight to f3—I never taught him that. They are methodical, and patient, until Aaron swarms with two pawns and a queen. A series of checks are fired. Matias darts his king and then darts again. Aaron’s knight joins the fight and presses Matias against a wall.

Matias stops. He does not move. I am waiting for a move, followed by Aaron’s ceremonial swipe of the king, but it does not come. Matias is trapped, and for the first time, he recognizes it. He seems perplexed. They both do. I however, am thrilled.

“This is checkmate!” I yell, “This is checkmate!”

Aaron repeats in his accent, “Checkmate!” and for the first time the kings remain standing.

"The Youngest at the Largest: The K-1 at SuperNationals VI"

by Betsy Dynako Zacate



The Nationals Kindergarten and first grade room is like no other chess arena. The K-1 room is set apart from the rest of the chess tournament, at the end of a hall and close to restroom. It houses the youngest players, sometimes as young as 4 1/2, and has frequently been my home over the last decade. Directing in the K-1 room is a job assignment that scares many adults, because dealing with just one five year old sounds exhausting, and it is. Being a tournament director in this room is a unique experience. 

 When I worked my first Elementary National tournament that fell on Mother’s Day weekend I called my mother from the playing site to share my love. She didn’t like that I was far from home. We agreed that wasn’t ideal but we would celebrate the day I returned home. With the tournament going on it was easy to lose sight of the day. Usually dad or another adult helps a young child with Mother’s Day plans so I gave a hand to the K-1 kids.

 That year during the rounds on Saturday I provided a big Happy Mother’s Day sign that I whipped up with printer paper I stole from the back room, a sharpie, and tape. Since I did not have crayons to gave the children to color with I gave what I could find pens and highlighters. Even with limited art supplies the K-1 kids made a lovely sign. It was well received and now it is something I provide yearly when I am the K-1 Chief. 


 Now I travel with supplies. My second in command this year at the K-1, Donna, is a mother of two boys. She brought a big bag of old crayons. The endless crayons and almost 400 competitors provided all the inspiration needed. We ended up with the grandest signs yet: three full pairing boards filled with love for mom. Great work kids!

"The Struggle"

by Pete Karagianis



Two years ago, in July, 2013 I had just finished off one of the most unsuccessful rating plunges of my playing career, dropping from a peak of 2275 all the way to 2202 after scoring a miserable 0-for-3 in the Chicago Class before withdrawing.

 That July, I remember, it had been months since I felt the twinge of excitement before a tournament. I was burnt out, worn out, and chessed out.

 I was playing tournaments at an all-time low rate, once every few months at absolute most. And even then, I struggle to find motivation.

 The wall was there, and I’d hit it like a crash test dummy at full speed and found no give. I often thought I’d just quit. If I couldn’t play up to my own standards, what was the point?

 The struggle of chess is quite simple. If you were to put it into a sentence, it may look something like this: you can work tirelessly for extensive periods of time, give all you have to give, and make only incremental progress, if that.

 The secret is not to stop.

 So I find myself in an enormous high-ceilinged warehouse-type ballroom with two hundred and thirty-eight entrants from every surrounding state competing in the 61st Iowa Open.

 Scene: Gopal and I after 12 hours of chess, three 90+30 games on a Saturday, exhausted, still willing to click through games from the database, scrounging whatever late-night leftovers we can find after the finish of the third round. Outside, a dark calm has settled over Iowa City in the distance. The storms have stopped. Most of the city is asleep.

 Later, when the tournament has concluded and we are on the drive home, “Gopal,” I say somewhere in the emptiness of western Illinois, “chess is fun again.”

Interested in sharing your chess story? Send your compelling, passionate story about how chess impacts your life by sending a 200-word email or 2-minute video to story@uschess.org 

US Chess will select the top 10 “Tell Your Chess Story” entries to present in Chess Life and/or Chess Life for Kids upcoming magazine monthly editions. The Top 10 participant stories will also be announced at the 2017 U.S. Open in Norfolk, Virginia.

For more information and full guidelines, visit "Tell Your Chess Story: A Game for Life" and download the official brochure

“There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
― J.K. Rowling