Expert chess players gathered at the tournament despite the bad weather.

In September 2013, chess Life Master Tim McEntee secured sponsorship of a tournament with the goal of generating an interest in chess in Iowa. Tim decided to hold a free, one-day three-round tournament open to any player who had ever attained the expert rating of 2000. Marshalltown, Iowa, (population 25,000) was chosen as the host city because of its central location to the Iowa chess centers.

The Marshalltown Salvation Army donated their building for the tournament playing site, and Hank Anzis of Marshalltown volunteered his services as tournament director. The tournament took place on February 8.

Despite a snowstorm on the morning of the tournament, 14 expert and higher players from Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Kansas traveled as far as 400 miles for a shot at the guaranteed $1,150 prize fund, which included a $500 first prize. The top rated player was the recently crowned World Under-10 chess champion, Awonder Liang, who made his way from Madison, Wis., to compete and watch his siblings Adream, Able, and Angelva play in the Reserve Tournament.

The lure of seeing Awonder and the rest of the master and expert players drew non-expert players from Marshalltown and around the state to play in the Reserve Section and the Team Iowa meet-up. Major Paul Fleeman, divisional commander of The Salvation Army’s Western Division, came from Nebraska to watch the tournament.

Major Fleeman is a United States Chess Federation rated player who authored a chess blog called Life Lessons From Chess. The tournament was structured so that all the players could have lunch and dinner at the same time. Some of the Reserve players were able to play a round of Bughouse chess with Awonder and his siblings. Experts and amateurs alike had a chance to mingle, watch each other’s games and make friends. This camaraderie turned the tournament into a special occasion and a festival of chess.

The players were thrilled to host the Liang family and have the opportunity to play alongside and against Awonder, Adream, Able, and Angelva. All were inspired by seeing how friendly this great chess family was and how well they got along with everyone away from the board no matter the results across from it.