Students participate in annual chess tournament

On May 5, students from kindergarten through 12th grades from across metro Atlanta attended the 26th Annual Beau Hardeman Chess tournament at Gresham Park Recreation Center in Decatur.

Named after Atlanta chess player Beau Hardeman, the event gives young chess players the opportunity to test and improve their skills against varying strengths and strategies of other opponents. It also recognized and celebrated the life of Atlanta chess player and chess coach, Hardeman who died in 2015.

“[Hardeman] was a part of the Atlanta chess community for decades,” said tournament director Chris Simons. “He used to teach for free at churches, recreation centers, schools, and [at Gresham Park Recreation Center], and Beau was our mentor, so we wanted to carry on the torch that he was holding.”

Since its inception, the event has provided players with a platform to showcase their abilities and learn from other competitors. It also provides an opportunity to network, build relationships, and foster a sense of community among chess admirers across the Atlanta area.

Essig Kemp (left) and Chris Simons (right) presenting trophies at the 26th Beau Hardeman Chess Tournament. Photo by Reginald Fuller

The tournament has also brought notable players from across the chess community, including Shanmukha Meruga – who is a national chess master and is ranked the 14th best player in Georgia, according to the US Chess Federation.

“Chess can be used as a catalyst to unlock a child’s passions, dreams, and help them learn different things about themselves they never knew,” said assistant director Essig Kemp. “It allows them to think about the consequences of their actions … and it helps them make better decisions by thinking through what they want to do first, before they actually put their plan into action.”

This year’s tournament brought in 42 participants, which was an increase from 2023, according to Simons. The competition consisted of five 50-minute rounds and lasted from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The players were divided by school grades (kindergarten through third grade, fourth and fifth grade, middle school, and high school). Trophies were presented to first-, second-, and third-place winners for each section. Every player who attended the tournament was given a ribbon for their participation.


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