CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - Chess is a game of strategy, preparation and control. When the players are unmatched, a game may end in as few as three moves, but when players of equal ability contend, a game may last hours with hundreds of moves.

Those serious about chess study and practice whenever they have a chance.

Take for example, 1st Lt. Shelby Johnson, the executive officer of B Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, who was recently accepted to play in the All-Army Chess Championship.

Johnson, a native on New Orleans, La., learned the game from his stepfather when he was ten years old. He said he realized his talent after beating his stepfather in game after game, then beating his stepfather's friends.

After that, there was no stopping him. He played on winning teams through junior high school and high school and played independently in college.

Now, he plays chess daily against anyone willing to challenge him, including Thomas Peels, who works camera surveillance for Lockheed Martin Corporation. Peels said the games they play are challenging and hard to predict.

"I've been playing for more than 20 years and he was someone I thought I would whoop on, but I haven't won a game yet," said Peels. "It's not like he beats me in six or seven moves, we play all the way to the end. I'll get so close and he'll still beat me! I can never tell what he's thinking by his emotion."

The correlations between playing chess and being an officer in the Army are close, and at times overlap. Johnson said he has looked up to other chess players that lead dual lives.

"Chess requires a lot of attention to detail, planning and patience," Johnson said. "I have followed International Grandmaster Maurice Ashley's career for several years. I've never met him in person, but I really admire that besides playing chess, he is a professional businessman."

Johnson said he hadn't considered applying to play in the championship until one of his Soldiers suggested it.

"They reviewed my application and saw that I am a rated member of the U.S. Chess Federation. Then they looked at my ratio of wins, losses and draws and my tournament history. I found out a few weeks ago, at the end of April."

Everyone that knows Johnson could see how proud he was to be accepted and to represent the battalion at the championship.

"The day before he was accepted was a crazy day for him and then he got the letter and was overwhelmed with relief," said Sgt. 1st Class Donyeild Parks, the human resources noncommissioned officer in charge for the battalion and friend of Johnson. "Lt. Johnson is a quiet, reserved person. For him to represent the brigade in this way is great because it shows that you can achieve any goal you put your mind to."

The battalion's leaders feel the same. Command Sgt. Maj. Ricky Wallace, the battalion's senior ranking noncommissioned officer, said the opportunity to participate in the championship will be the icing on the cake for the brigade.

"I just think it's awesome. I don't play chess, but to get selected for this championship is a dream of his and I'm happy for him," he said. "I wish him the best of luck."

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