2022 Burlington Carl Dunn Memorial Chess Tournament
The February chill was no match for the spirited competition at the seventh annual Carl Dunn Memorial Chess Tournament Saturday and Sunday in Burlington.
It was a quiet setting in The Loft on Jefferson, where 30 players competed in open and reserve chess contests.
Competitors were mostly new to Burlington, having traveled from six area states to compete in the Iowa Chess Association international sanctioned event.
“It’s exciting to have all these players come out to celebrate chess,” said tournament director Eric Vigil of Iowa City.
Players traveled from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri and were rested and ready for departure at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
“It was a quiet weekend in February,” said Chris Nagyi of Waseca, Minnesota, explaining why he braved the windy road to Burlington for the tournament. “My goal is not to kiss. I haven’t played a ranked game in years, and this tournament fit my schedule.
Once the tournament began, conversations dwindled to whispers as players focused on the 64 squares and 16 pieces on their respective chessboards for each player. Games started in a flurry with moves and pieces being removed from the board quickly before slowing down to a deliberate pace.
Many players stood up and stretched between the long moves. They were walking around and checking other games and sizing up their future competitor.
It was all about games and hoping to score points to increase their ranking. Players each have a numerical rating and the chance to play in a sanctioned tournament gives them the opportunity to add to their point total. The higher the total points, the higher the score.
Aradh Kaur, 14, who came from Milwaukee with her 16-year-old brother, Hersh Singh, and her father, Dalip Singh, was looking forward to the games.
“I’m here hoping to get a high score,” Kaur said.
The brother and sister tandem started playing very young under the tutelage of their father and both are now seasoned players.
“I’m too weak for them,” Dalip Singh said of his children’s advanced skill level.
CJ Elam, 17, of St. Charles, Missouri, who came with his father, Jeff Elam, was also looking for points.
“I hope to get some scoring points,” said CJ Elam. “If you win against someone you get points, if you lose you get nothing, obviously.”
His father also came to play. He wasn’t in the open field chasing the jackpot, but was in the reserve contest and was looking forward to a head-to-head competition.
“It’s a much more responsive experience,” Jeff Elam said of being able to play face-to-face rather than online where many games have been hosted due to the pandemic.
They also enjoy traveling to different sites, but found it difficult during COVID-19.
“We went to Indianapolis, Des Moines, but during COVID it’s been hard to find tournaments,” Jeff Elam said.
When they travel, they come with his wife and daughter and enjoy the sights and entertainment. They have already made a stop at Snake Alley to see the historic site.
Burlington’s Role in Iowa Chess History
Chess has also had a historical connection to Burlington.
Chess in Iowa has been sanctioned since the Iowa Chess Association began in 1899, and Burlington has always played a part in history.
According to Vigil, at the turn of the last century, a famous two-week Iowa Open tournament was held in town.
“It was a gentleman’s game and could be played as the wealthy liked,” Vigil said of the tournament’s length. “The game has changed over the years and is now more equal. It crosses all socio-economic lines and represents all walks of life.
So Burlington players were young and old and from all walks of life, just as Carl Dunn had preached when he was president of the Iowa Chess Association.
Vigil met Dunn at the Lee County Fair years ago and they became friends.
“Dunn was an exceptional person and had a wealth of information,” Vigil said. “He helped me when I started as president of the Iowa Chess Association.”
The weekend tournament also had special guests as Dunn’s widow Marlene made an appearance and Timur Gareyev, a grandmaster and top 30 player in the United States, also spoke to the participants.
Gareyev is famous for his nickname, The Blindfold King. This comes from when he played 48 people at the same time blindfolded in a Vegas tournament.
Play continued on the open court on Sunday as the competition tightened to crown a champion.
“It’s a big event,” Vigil said. “I hope this will help create more youth clubs in the region.”
Trevor Magnus won the open contest, beating Grandmaster Gareyev. Former Iowa national champion, national master Joseph Wan, is tied for second with Gareyev.