Masterfully played in the Yune

Published 6:43 pm Friday, January 17, 2014

CHECKMATE — Clay Polk is ready to bring chess home to Picayune. Jodi Marze | Picayune Item

CHECKMATE — Clay Polk is ready to bring chess home to Picayune.
Jodi Marze | Picayune Item


Clay Polk, a 24-year-old mechanical engineer employed with Mississippi Aerospace, is pursuing his love of chess and sharing that love with others through The Grand Picayune Open Chess Tournament that will be held Jan. 25 at Sun Roamers RV Clubhouse.

The tournament is expected to draw people from both Louisiana and Alabama to compete for cash prizes and attempt to boost their rankings

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“I’m not sure, but this may be the first United States Chess Federation rated tournament to be held in Picayune,” Polk said. “It is the first that I know of or that anyone can remember.

“I feel like this tournament will draw in Louisiana chess players, as well as Mississippi. There used to be a state border war between the two. It was a tournament in which players from the two states competed against each other. The state that won the most games won the border war.  It had died out after Katrina. A lot of players were displaced.

“I most want people to know that the tournament is the first rated tournament to be held in Picayune that I know of. If there has been one it was so long ago, no one even remembers it. This is first time that Mississippi players will get to compete with Louisiana players since Katrina.”

Chess has strong roots in Louisiana and has a made come back post-Katrina, Polk said.

“Louisiana has a strong history in chess and was home of the greatest chess player of all time, Paul Morphy,” Polk said.

Paul Charles Morphy was born on June 22, 1837 and died July 10, 1884. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and was considered to have been a prodigy and the greatest American master chess player of his era.

By age nine he was considered one of the best players in New Orleans. At the age of twelve, Morphy defeated visiting Hungarian master Johann Löwenthal in a match of three games. Morphy, an unofficial World Chess Champion only played chess for 15 years.

The Morphy mansion, sold by the family in 1891, is today the site of Brennan’s, a famous New Orleans restaurant.

Polk goes to New Orleans on Tuesday and Friday nights for chess club tournaments. “They hold rated games on Tuesday night which means you have to sign up with us chess federation and the statistics from the game goes toward your title with the federation,” he said.

The Grand Picayune Open Chess Tournament will also give competitors the opportunity to boost stats for their federation rankings, since the federation sponsors it.

“The point of this tournament is to bring chess players of all ages and skill levels to Picayune, give them an opportunity to play chess in a rated tournament and hopefully bring back the Border War tournaments,” Polk said. “There will be beginner players in an unrated section and the cost will be $5. There will also be very high rated players, who tend to walk around between their matches, observe others and give tips.

“The higher the level, the more giving of information someone is. They are not as concerned about being the winner and more in tune to enjoyment and furthering the sport. Don’t get me wrong — it is a competition and no one is going down with less than all of his or her effort.

“A high level of chess it really is like a sport,” Polk said. “I don’t have anything to cite but I have read things that say a high level of chess releases the same endorphins as it does when someone plays sports. I believe it.”

The tournament begins at 9 a.m. with registration held from 8 to 9 a.m. Time control is set for 40 minutes per person with a five second delay. Entry fees are $30 for adults and $20 for scholastic entries. Unrated entries are $5. Players can register at the door.

Polk advises everyone to bring his or her own board. Cash prizes will be awarded based on 80 percent of the entry fee. For more information go to