Chess tournament honors 'hallowed' King anniversary
NORMAL — Four-year-old Alexander Daniels ran into his father’s waiting arms Monday, excitingly saying the end of his first chess game was a draw, but fun.
The 26th annual Bloomington-Normal MLK Day Chess Tournament drew about 350 players in grades kindergarten through eighth, from as far as Peoria and Champaign. Alexander was one of only two 4-year-olds at the event, held at Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center.
Participants were clearly aware of the tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s special. He (MLK) helped end segregation so black and white people can go to school together,” said third-grader Jacob Bullock, 9, after he won his first game of the day.
Garrett Scott, 68, founded the tournament as a tribute to two things he cared about: chess and the work of King. “How hallowed I feel this day is,” said Scott, noting the tournament came on the same day as Barack Obama’s second inauguration as president.
As a 19-year-old in Savannah, Ga., Scott helped the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with voter registration. “Voting is a very powerful thing,” he told the youngsters. Hearing King say “I have a dream” influenced his entire life, he said.
When “Rev. King was taken from us, it was unimaginable that someone with brown skin would be president today. We have come a long way.”
The tournament drew a larger crowd this year, said Amy Green, board member of Bloomington-Normal Area Scholastic Chess Association.
Alexander’s brother, Jason, 9, a fourth grader at Grove Elementary in Normal, is among the top 20 chess players in the nation and often plays adults. Jason played his first tournament as a kindergartner but was among the top 100 players his age by first grade.
Some of the players will compete March 9-10 at the Illinois K-8 Chess Championships at ISU. Retired State Farm executive vice president Willie Brown will be guest speaker.