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Checkmate: Even state's top chess players blunder in blitz.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Knights, bishops, castles, queens and pawns hustled to protect kings on half a dozen chess boards Friday afternoon at ChessWays, Eugene's youth chess club.

Chess camp was in full swing as ChessWays President Jerry Ramey called for a 25-minute game and then for five-minute blitz games for the dozen youngsters crowding the tables on the second floor at the Veterans Building on Willamette Street.

Ramey's young players aren't just run-of-the-mill competitors. Several are among the state's best. The Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation recently published its list of 2005-06 Chess All Stars ranking student competitors from kindergarten through high school based on their United States Chess Federation rating system scores.

Among Friday's players: Morgan Jones, a seventh-grader at Hamlin Middle School in Springfield, with the third-highest score for his age in the state; Erik Skalnes, a fourth-grader at Edison Elementary School ranked fifth in his age group; and Eli Stein, a second-grader at East Side Elementary School ranked second in his age group.

"I'm second? Who's first?" Eli demanded when he learned about the listing.

Coach Ramey, who views chess as a sport, not a game, said the students are competitive. "It's rewarding to me to see them grow up in chess and become really good," he said. Ramey has coached several local students to state and national championships.

Morgan said he has only been playing for 1 1/2 years. His favorite thing about chess: "trying to solve difficult strategies." The worst thing: "I hate making blunders," he said.

When Erik learned he was headed for a blitz round, he cringed. "I'm a good chess player but I die in blitz," he said.
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Title Annotation:Recreation
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 26, 2006
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