Wright-Patt Chess Players Bring Honors Back to Air Force > Robins Air Force Base > Article View


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Two Airmen from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base won Air Force honors at the 61st United States Armed Forces Chess Championship, held Oct. 10-12 in Virginia Beach, Va. .


1st Lt. Eigen Wang, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, won the Air Force title and third overall this year, while Maj. Gordon Randall, director of operations, 88th Comptroller Squadron, finished second. of the Air Force and fourth overall. Both received plaques for their achievements.


Eligible participants generally include past and present members of the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Navy, Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service of USA, ROTC students and military academy students, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 20 people could attend this year. Usually, about fifty players compete. Yet such victories are nothing new for the pair – last year Wang took first place overall in the same tournament, while Randall was tied at four for second place with three wins and two null.


The two faced off twice in Virginia Beach, with their first draw and the second a victory for Wang. They also played each other casually and were roommates at tournaments.


“After every game, he’s pretty much the first person I go to to review everything and see where I made mistakes,” Randall said. “I also watch his game to see how he did.”


President of the American Chess Federation, Mike Hoffpauir, a retired colonel, led the tournament.


“We were very lucky to have him with us and as tournament director,” Randall said. “It was a big deal.”


Randall thanked Hoffpauir and Tom Belke, who has played competitive chess for 49 years, with Wang adding his thanks.


“Tom organized the event; provided venue, food and beverages; and made sure we were safe,” Randall said. “It was very, very well organised. He is highly respected and, year after year, generously donates for the trophy, prize pool and more. Without him, we certainly couldn’t have done it this year.


“The games were held safely in different rooms,” Wang said. “We were able to practice social distancing. It was a great accomplishment.


start early


Wang learned the rules of chess at the age of 6 in an after-school program in New York and began training with a coach and participating in tournaments at the age of 9.


“At that point, I was really in the game,” he said.


He has been playing ever since.


“Chess is a great game of thinking and strategy. It brings out my competitive side. Over the years it has brought me into a great community of chess players and people across the country,” said Wang.


The game helps him in his job at NASIC to make decisions, “see the big picture” and determine the best steps forward, he said. “Chess helped me discover some facets of myself that I probably would have had a harder time living with otherwise. It helped me to fit in better with the rest of the world.


Wang’s advice to young people and others considering getting into the game?


“Play your own game; play your own style and the way you want to play. Creativity and individualism are important aspects of the game, so don’t let others try to control the way you play too much,” he said.


The best way to stay alert is to study the games of the world’s best players and grandmasters, Wang noted. Doing it online is effective, he added.


“Studying this way can help many players understand the game,” Wang said.


A book he recommends is “My System” by Aron Nimzowitsch.


Randall taught himself


Between 2006 and 2020, Randall has participated in the United States Armed Forces Chess Championship 10 times and 149 national and international tournaments in total. He began representing the Air Force as an Air Force Academy cadet in 2005.


He started playing at age 4 after picking up a book to learn the game. Competitions started at age 12.


“It’s one of the only games where everything is right in front of you. There’s no rolling dice,” Randall said. “If you beat your opponent, you performed better.”


He recommends people get into the game for its many benefits: critical thinking by taking different “decision tree” paths to reach an end goal; meet new people; play all his life; and be part of something that is internationally appreciated and universal.


“It’s a common language that you can ‘speak’,” he said.


Randall trains by playing at least an hour or two online every day and studying other players and the history of the game.


And after?


“I will try to improve, keep training, play in online chess tournaments – that’s how chess is these days with the pandemic.”


From Berlin to Belgium


Last year, Wang and Randall competed as part of the US team at the 30th NATO Chess Tournament in Berlin. Randall has participated in NATO competitions four times, Wang once. Wang placed second at his first international competition.


“It’s a huge, huge deal,” Randall said. “We’ve had quite strong players before, but this is the first time for this achievement. It is definitely something special. He is an extremely strong chess player.


Randall said NATO events are the ones he is most proud to attend because of their scale. He took part in them in Great Britain, Hungary, Texas and Berlin.


Both have been selected to participate in next year’s NATO tournament in Belgium.




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