21st annual "I Have A Dream" chess tournament Sunday Chess TV
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Seven-year-old Dereck Amerson clutched a lollipop as his face lit up after checkmating Gracie Brown, a fourth-grader and fellow classmate at Roosevelt Elementary.

“That was quick!” Amerson quipped.

Amerson joined more than 90 students and adults at Mills Elementary School on Monday for the 21st annual “I Have A Dream” Chess Tournament.

The tournament was Amerson’s first after being taught to play two years ago by his older brother.

“I didn’t want to beat her,” Amerson said of his match with Brown, “because she is my friend.”

But as a friend walked by, Amerson couldn’t help but brag. “I was the first one done!”

Stepping up to the board

Such is the joy and love of playing chess. Following the retirement of longtime tournament director Audrey Poudrier, two recent Klamath Union High School graduates stepped up to co-direct the tournament.

“Mrs. Poudrier … was my first chess coach,” said tournament co-director Ciara Dykstra. “So I volunteered, and so did (co-director) Devin (Landrum) to be the directors and put on the tournament because I didn’t want to see chess fall downhill in the community because I think it’s very important for the kids.”

Dykstra’s father, Marvin has also directed chess tournaments in the community, which further inspired her to take up the reins.

Dykstra and Landrum split up the work of directing the tournament accordingly.

“She was doing all the pre-registration,” Landrum said. “I was certified and taught by Marvin Dykstra to enter all the results in, contact the state so that it could be a rated tournament. So I know how to work the Swiss chess system and do all the stuff you have to do to make the rounds happen.”

Chess focus

The two share such a devotion to the game that they focused their senior projects on chess: Landrum helped coordinate some tournaments and Dykstra organized a summer chess camp.

After experiencing a bit of a hiccup in the morning when nearly 40 people showed up without registering in advance, the five-round tournament got underway with 92 participants, including teams from Triad, Roosevelt and Mills, among other schools, and ran as smoothly as could be.

“We didn’t know how many people we were going to have so we didn’t know how many (chess) boards we needed,” Dykstra said. “Now that that’s over, I’m a little calmed down.”

Next move

Dykstra said she and Landrum are discussing taking over chess programs at Ponderosa Middle School and their alma mater, KU, possibly creating one team from both schools.

“It’s just an idea and we’re thinking of it,” she said. “We want there to be chess there, too. I think we’re going to combine them to make it easier.”

Dykstra said Mills would also play host to two tournaments on Feb. 27: “For the Love of Chess,” which is open to everyone; and the area’s regional tournament, which will qualify ranked players into the Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation State Tournament, scheduled to take place April 29 and 30 at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center.

Those interested in playing chess can also check out the Klamath Falls Chess Club, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Klamath County Library, and on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at Old Town Pizza downtown. The club is open and free to chess players of all ages and ranks.

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