Alaskan Chess Making National Moves

The Opening

Alaska Pacific University (APU), a small, private, liberal arts and science college in Anchorage, Alaska has been leading chess in the Last Frontier for the past three years. A quiet, yet complex chess structure was formed by four students: Jonathon Singer (front left), Emily Smith (front right), Carson Kent (photo-below, back-left), and Kyle Mayer (photo-below, third from right) with the formation of a casual club known as Chess Fellowship (2016).

In that first year (2016-2017), the club quickly grew in members and requested university permission to submit paperwork to the United States Chess Federation (USCF) for collegiate affiliation. Though the university was known for its Olympic presence by the Nordic Ski team, there was opportunity to embrace a new niche for indoors through Alaska Pacific Chess.

After a few months of tournament practice, fundraisers and financial support from various sources such as APU's student government and Texas-artist Virgilio Portraits, the first collegiate team was formed for the 2017 Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship, in Columbus, Ohio.


The Middle Game

The first collegiate appearance was monumental for the development of Alaskan Chess, APU, and reintegration of the state on a national level. Though APU's chess team was down a player for the tournament, this did not stop two individual-points from being scored. Ultimately, the underdog-team left without medal, but mettle was brought back. Over the next 12 months, in preparation for the following Pan-Am of 2018, APU's club and team metamorphosed with new faces, spirit, and skill as community engagement in Alaska boomed with support. [Pan-Am]PC: WIM Alexey Root

The 2018 Pan-Ams: A New Year, A New Team, A New Story!

Left to right: Kayley McGruder, Emily Smith, Jonathon Singler, Emmanuel Perry

PC: Alaska Pacific Chess

Facing the results of the previous year in 2017, and the chess-program giants of 2018, the Alaskan team still sought the opportunity for growth by competing amongst the best. The best delivered, and the new team was unable to score through six-grueling rounds.

Despite the results, the tournament itself was a pleasurable experience as there were little-to-no issues seen by players from the hosting of Judit Szartay and Bay Area Chess at the SFO Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, San Francisco. The venue was a sight-to-see, and Judit and her team's experience were easily defined by the smooth transition of each round, pairing timeliness, and overall attention to details for each player and team.

PC: Alaska Pacific Chess  Location: SFO Hyatt Regency

PC: Alaska Pacific Chess

Location: SFO Hyatt Regency

As luxurious the hotel was, the team just had to see what the Bay-Life was all about:

The Endgame

On the horizon for 2019, includes community events with various scholastic programs, a state chapter, and the 33rd National Veterans Golden Age Games. Alaska Pacific Chess plans to continue forward as Anchorage's hub for rated and casual play, and a conduit for establishing statewide chess, in effort to re-bridge the relationship of Alaska and the USCF. Alaska Pacific Chess at Alaska Pacific University is a program that has substantial potential in the coming decade as competitive chess continues to grow in the state.

Who knows, maybe the 2030 Pan-Ams will be held in the Last Frontier...

Jonathon Singler