JBB Chess Tournament tests decision-making skills

Story and photos by Sgt. Chad Menegay
13th Sustainment Command Public Affairs
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Many have compared chess strategy to military strategy and tried to draw parallels between the two. In chess, players tactically position personnel (pieces) for battle. A player conquers his or her adversary by offering them no choice but to surrender — checkmate.

Service members who competed in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation-East chess tournament here May 13 largely downplayed the comparison, but did speak about how chess can improve decision-making skills.

“Once you really play, then you’re definitely using a strategy,” said Sgt. 1st Class Geoffrey Christopher, a motor sergeant with the 18th Human Resources Company, 15th Special Troops Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a New York City native.

“You get to counter the other person’s strategy,” he said “You get put in different situations you have to react to.”

Christopher said that, at a higher level, there’s definitely backwards planning involved in chess.

“If you get put in a tight situation and can think your way out of it, that’s going to apply to pretty much anything you do in the military,” he said.

Christopher said he plays, because it’s mentally challenging.

“It makes you think steps ahead,” he said.

About 20 Army, Air Force and civilian workers played in the three-hour tournament.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Barbour, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of recreation with the 332nd Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of recreation, and a Birmingham, Ala., native, put the tournament together.

Barbour, who’s been playing chess for two weeks, said the idea for the tournament stems from the Air Force Chess Championship at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, also happening the same week.

There’s also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization chess tournament in September, Barbour said.

“The least I could do, I felt, was to start the base-wide tournament involving all personnel — Army, Air Force, civilians,” he said. “As far as I know, there never has been any chess tournament or activity on this base since I’ve been here.”

They should have more chess tournaments or a club where people can build their skills. A new player could come over and see how the game is played, said Sgt. Jerry Oliveira, an electrician for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 37th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, and a Honolulu native.

Oliveira said he plays because it’s different every time, even though the rules stay the same.

“I’m very observant of the board,” Oliveira said, “and I’m watching all the pieces all the time. I’m watching the moves they set up, to see if they’re trying to lay a future trap or ambushes.

You always want to try to keep fighting, because they could make mistakes later, and you could turn it all around, said Oliveira.

“One thing I’ve learned is to never give in no matter how bad the set up is,” he said.

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Senior Airman Wes Carter (left), a journalist with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, and a McAlester, Okla., native, watches intently as his opponent, Sgt. Eric Heiselman (right), a maintenance noncommissioned officer for the 14th Movement Control Battallion, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a native of New Hampton, Iowa, sets up pieces for the upcoming match May 13 at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation-East chess tournament at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

 

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Army Sgt. Eric Heiselman (left), a maintenance noncommissioned officer for the 14th Movement Control Battalion, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and a native of New Hampton, Iowa, plays out a difficult match May 13 at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation-East chess tournament with Senior Airman Wes Carter, a journalist with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, and a McAlester, Okla., native. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

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Sgt. Jerry Oliveira, an electrician for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 37th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, and a Honolulu native, studies the chess board May 13 at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation-East chess tournament. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

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Senior Airman Wes Carter, a journalist with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, and a McAlester, Okla., native, weighs his options after getting put in a troubling situation during the Morale, Welfare and Recreation-East chess tournament May 13 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)