Three-time Army chess champ wins after running Iraq tourneys
May 25, 2010
FORT MYER, Va. (May 25, 2010) -- Capt. Arthur Macaspac needed a little help from a few new friends to win his third crown at the 2010 All-Army Chess Championships.
In the final round of the six-day, 11-round tournament at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, ninth-place finisher Maj. Larry Cox Jr. upset top-seeded and runner-up finisher Spc. Pieta Garrett to open the door for Macaspac.
"I had already won my final game so he had a little pressure," Macaspac described Garrett's losing move in the most important match of the tourney. "He hung a piece - very unusual for a chess master. Instead of capturing with a queen, he captured with a rook and he left his unsupported rook possible to attack.
"I saw it unfold."
Garrett, who finished third here last year and first in the 2009 Inter-Service Chess Championships, quickly realized that his game had gone awry.
"I had a good game and he was putting up a little bit of a fight, but I got around the obstacles and then I finally got into position where I had a big edge," explained Garrett, 24, of Fort Polk, La. "Then he just got a simple little trick on me and I completely blundered. I dropped a simple little tactic, and after that I was dead lost.
"It just goes to show that you're never out. I was really confident. Then I played it and my heart dropped."
Macaspac captured his third All-Army championship with nine victories, one loss and a draw for a total of 9.5 points. Garrett (8.5) finished second, followed by Spc. Nathaniel Rockhill (7.5) of the 38th Division Band in Indianapolis, Sgt. Jhonel Baniel (7.0) of Landstuhl, Germany, Pfc. Ismael Pagan (6.5) of Fort Irwin, Calif., and Staff Sgt. Andre Paradela (6.0) of Dublin, Calif.
Rounding out the field were:
Aca,!Ac Capt. Samuel Perez (5.5) of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Paul King (4.5) of Fort Jackson, S.C.
Aca,!Ac Maj. Larry Cox (4.0) of Camp Atterbury, Ind.
Aca,!Ac Sgt. 1st Class Sean Allen (3.5) of Fort Myer
Aca,!Ac 2nd Lt. Vladimir Del Valle (2.0) of Fort Riley, Kan.
Aca,!Ac Charles Florance (1.5) of the New Mexico Army National Guard
"This one, I didn't even expect to win," said Macaspac, who serves with the 304th Civil Affairs Brigade in Philadelphia. "Garrett, who is a federation master, beat me in the second round and I lost hope. But I was lucky that Major Cox was able to beat him in the last round."
"All Garrett had to do was win that game and we would have ended up with 9.5 points out of 11, and he would have beaten me on the tiebreaker. I think this one was luck. I didn't win against Garrett, who was the top seed, but on the other hand, I took care of everybody else."
It was a fitting finish for Macaspac, 36, who won the All-Army championship as a second lieutenant in 2006 and as a first lieutenant in 2008.
"It seems like every rank I get, I have a champion on my belt," said Macaspac, who missed the 2009 tournament while serving as a battalion maintenance officer in Iraq. "I wanted to come last year, but duty first."
After making sure the equipment was fit for Soldiers to guard detainees in Iraq, Macaspac played the role of "chess ambassador" at Camp Bucca.
"Even though we worked like 10 hours a day, we actually had a good time there," Macaspac said. "Since I have a chess background, I found the time every Tuesday to set up a chess club there and we had a lot of participants coming from different services - Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army and even Iraqi interpreters.
"I was surprised that the Iraqi people really enjoy playing chess."
The weekly tournaments became so popular that Macaspac requested that Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation officials try to acquire chess sets and clocks from the United States Chess Federation.
In less than two weeks, 20 chess sets and 10 clocks arrived in Iraq via MWR, courtesy of the USCF. Shortly thereafter, 30-some chess players were playing on Tuesday nights and competing in monthly tournaments.
"The MWR people even provided me with some cash prizes and certificates," said Macaspac, who did not compete in the Camp Bucca Chess Championships. "I was the organizer."
Macaspac derived great satisfaction from watching others win tourneys.
"If you're deployed, normally they advise that you have to develop a hobby - otherwise you're going to get bored over there," Macaspac said. "Even though you've worked so much in one day and it's sometimes dangerous, during your off-time, you've got to do something."
During his travels, Macaspac discovered other chess tournaments in Kuwait, where he once earned $100 without letting fellow Soldiers know that he was the reigning All-Army champion.
Macaspac credits his mentor, Grand Master Leonid Yudasin, for his chess success. Macaspac's next planned move is to open a chess cafAfA called Chess Mates in Rahway, N.J., on June 1.
The top six finishers at the All-Army Chess Championships will advance to the 2010 Inter-Service Chess Championships, scheduled for Aug. 1-7 at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill.
"I think we can probably win it this year because our average [team] rating has finally caught up with the Air Force," Macaspac said. "I just love to come here every year. It's like a privilege being here. I call it a chess buffet because it's all chess for six days. Only six people will qualify, but you might as well have fun."
Of course, Macaspac knows best that it does not hurt to win three championships in four All-Army Chess appearances.
Garrett won the speed-chess event by going undefeated in 11 rounds. He was followed by Rockhill and Macaspac.