FORT MYER, Va. (Army News Service, May 30, 2007) - Staff Sgt. Rudy Tia Jr. spent much of his R&R leave winning an unprecedented seventh All-Army Chess Championship May 13-18 at the community center here.

Staff Sgt. Tia traveled from Camp Speicher, Iraq, to his home station at Fort Hood, Texas, then loaded his Family into a Chevy Blazer and drove 23 hours to play in an Army MWR-sponsored chess tournament that he's dominated for the past decade.

"It's alright, I guess," Tia said of winning the crown three more times than any other Soldier. "When I first won the tournament, it was enjoyable. I got so happy about it. But if you keep winning, the fun is not there any more."

Why, then, does he keep coming back'

"Because I love playing chess," replied Staff Sgt. Tia, 43, who originally hails from the Philippines and still considers the week of high-level competition a highlight of his year. "It's not because I keep winning the tournament. I have fun. It breaks me off a bit from a stressful job. It's relaxing to play chess again."

His opponents, on the other hand, are befuddled by his uncanny ability to not only escape but conquer every move and strategy they can imagine.

"He's a very good player, obviously," said third-place finisher Lt. Col. David Hater of Fort McPherson, Ga., who began playing the tournament in 1991 and has witnessed most of Staff Sgt. Tia's triumphs. "He's a very lucky player in the sense that every single year he gets into these positions where he's dead lost."

And every year, Staff Sgt. Tia manages to escape and salvage victories or draws from those predicaments. He did it twice in this tournament.

"It would be one thing if it happened one year," Lt. Col. Hater said. "You would just say 'OK, he got lucky. The gods smiled on him, and that will never happen again.' But every single year I can point to at least one game where he was just dead lost."

This year, defending champion 1st Lt. Arthur Macaspac was the only player to defeat the staff sergeant, but 1st Lt. Macaspac settled for second place.

"People are intimidated by him," said 1st Lt. Macaspac, 33, of Fort Hood. "Or maybe he hypnotized them. We cannot control destiny sometimes. Even though I beat him, he still won the tournament, so I think this is his day."

That's usually the case for Staff Sgt. Tia, who said "luck of the strong" helped him prevail with 9.5 tournament points to runner-up 2nd Lt. Macaspac's 8.5.

"I think when they have a winning edge on me, they get so excited," said Staff Sgt. Tia, who won the tournament in 1997, four times from 2000-03, and again in 2005. "Sometimes it's a psychological game. When they get excited, they make mistakes because they think they have won already. Then they lose their concentration."

Lt. Col. Hater finished third in the 11-match, round-robin tournament with 6.5 points.

"I'm pretty sure that I hold the record for more NATO Championships, All-Army Championships and more Armed Forces Championships than anyone else on active duty," said Lt. Col. Hater, 41. "And all that means is I'm old."

Capt. Chris Pitts of Landstuhl, Germany, finished fourth, and was followed by Staff Sgt. Timothy Hanke of Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo; Spc. Jhonel Baniel of Landstuhl; and Lt. Col. Michael Cerezo of Los Angeles.

Those four Soldiers will accompany 2nd Lt. Macaspac and Lt. Col. Hater on the All-Army Team scheduled to compete June 10-16 in the 2007 Inter-Service Chess Championships at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Staff Sgt. Tia, who has already returned to Baghdad for the remainder of his fourth deployment, won't be able to play in that tournament.

Sgt. 1st Class Paul King of Fort Bragg, N.C.; Staff Sgt. Valeriy Yakymenko of Camp Humphreys, Korea; Sgt. Darryl West of Camp Amfjer, Kuwait; Col. Michael Donovan of Washington, D.C.; and Maj. James Hollingsworth of Fort Bragg rounded out the field in the All-Army Championships.

(Tim Hipps serves with Family and Morale Welfare Recreation Command Public Affairs.)

Page last updated Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 15:09