Lubbock hosts first NATO Chess Championship in U.S.

Lubbock hosts first NATO Chess Championship in U.S.

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Every year, NATO countries hold a chess championship. For nearly thirty years, the United States pushed to host the tournament. This year, Lubbock is the first U.S. host to bring seventy-six active and reserve military members to compete against each other.

"Lubbock was always, we really want you, we're going to roll out the red carpet and they did," Colonel David Hater, Military Chess Chairman of the U.S. Chess Federation, said.

Ten different NATO countries are represented at the championship. The players are all affiliated with the military.

President of the U.S. Chess Federation, Michael Hoffpauir, served in the U.S. Army for 28 years. He said there is a correlation between war and the game.

"Chess is a warfare if you will over 64 squares on a chess board and instead of having to fight real combat some of the decision skills are the same about how to deploy your army, your forces and how to defend against attack and to make your own attack," Hoffpauir said.

Hater says the mental toughness translates even further.

"If I can think critically and examine possibilities and plans, if I can do that on a board of chess pieces I can do that in any area of life," Hater added.

Many of the players reconnect every year to continue to develop relationships between allies.

"It's appreciating how things are different in other parts of the world and how they are the same in other parts of the world," Hater added. "Really that type of cultural exchange is far more important than anything else we do here."

Lubbock and Texas Tech is home to one of the top chess players in the country, Grandmaster Alex Onischuk. He took on 12 chess matches simultaneously, without seeing his opponents next move.

"The game is so complex that you can play for your whole life and you can still improve with it. So I guess to understand the depth of chess then this is what really attracts it to people including myself," Onischuk said.

The world record for number of games played at the same time is 604. Next year, the championship will be in Berlin.

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