FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - There is nothing nerdy about playing chess.

That's the opinion of Salvador Arizmendez, 15, a sophomore at Meade High School, who won first place Friday in the Teen Center's first-ever chess tournament.

"I'm an aggressive player," said Salvador. "I'm not afraid to sacrifice pieces to get ahead."

Salvador was one of 12 youths to participate in the chess tournament that retired Sgt. 1st Class William Morris, a homework assistant at the Teen Center, organized.

Morris has been playing chess since he was a child in Peru. He said he came up with idea for the chess tournament as a way to divert young people's attention from video games.

His goal, he said, was to steer the teens to "thinking games like chess."

The tournament was April 11 - April 15 and was played round-robin style, which requires every player to play an opponent at least twice, for an average of four games per day. At the end of each day, Morris tabulated the standings and calculated the total scores of the top three players on the final day.

As the first place winner, Salvador received a $25 Visa gift card from Walmart. Emillio Luis Roman III, 16, a junior at Meade, won second place and a $15 gift card from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Joseph Pope, 16, a sophomore at Meade, won third place and a $10 gift card from AAFES.

Each participant in the tournament received an achievement certificate.

The goal of chess is to "checkmate," or capture, the opponent's king. What makes the game so complex and beautiful at the same time is the huge number of possible moves at any point during the game, according to the website chessguru. The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. It can move along ranks, files and diagonals any number of squares without being able to jump over pieces. If it finds an enemy piece in its path, it can capture that piece by taking its place, according to the website.

"I already knew how to play, I learned in fifth grade," said Joseph, whose father taught him the game. Joseph said he entered the tournament for fun.

"It's great for strategizing," he said, adding that he always tries to "kill" his opponent's queen. "It's the most annoying piece other than the knights."

Morris said the teenagers were excited about the idea of the tournament, but several did not know how to play. Classes were held at the Teen Center and the tournament followed.

"The game is challenging and teaches them to be self-motivating," said Morris. "It makes them think and come up with their own tactics, strategies and ways to solve problems."

Staff Sgt. Salvador Arizmendez said he encourages his son to play chess because it trains him to think ahead. "Chess is not about the move you're making now -- it's about the move you make three or four moves ahead," said Arizmendez. "The moves he makes [in life] now will definitely affect his future."

Morris said the tournament was so popular, the center will hold another in May. "My goal is to create a chess team to play teen centers at other military installations in the area," he said. "The kids are playing well and are excited about the prospect of a team."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16