Think chess doesn’t qualify as a `real’ sport? Check again, mate

Emily Arthur

Editor’s note: This story is the fourth in a weekly series profiling “Hidden Stars” across campus. A “Hidden Star” is someone who doesn’t normally get recognized and who excels in club sports, intramurals or other recreational activities. The series will run on every Tuesday throughout the semester. If you’d like to nominate someone to be featured as a “Hidden Star,” e-mail that person’s name, phone number, e-mail address and a brief paragraph about why he or she should be recognized to [email protected].

To everyone who says chess isn’t a sport, sophomore Pete Karaginais has an answer.

“I didn’t think golf was a sport either until I went out and played 18 holes,” Karaginais said. “You’re exhausted at the end of the day.

“I ran track in high school and play basketball still, but the most tired I am is after a chess tournament.”

Karaginais should know – he’s been playing since he was three.

“I wasn’t that great. I just learned the moves,” he said. “I played in my first tournament when I was five, but I still wasn’t very good.”

That’s changed. Karaginais said he started to really get involved in the sport when he was a freshman in high school, and he hasn’t stopped playing since.

On Sept. 8, Karaginais tied for first place in the Iowa Open in Iowa City, traditionally the strongest tournament in Iowa throughout the year. He had three wins and two draws, scoring a 4.0 out of five possible points.

“He’s been playing for a while now, and he’s had a lot of good results lately,” chess club president Femi Oyekan said. “He especially played well in the Iowa Open.”

Oyekan met Karaginais, the vice president of the club, last year through the club. Now the two are roommates and playing partners.

“He has a good style of play,” Oyekan said.

Karaginais serves on the board of directors for the Iowa State Chess Association, has won several tournaments in Illinois, had strong showings throughout the United States and is the reigning state junior champion.

Chess has been challenging for Karaginais, but he said it’s been one he’s met positively.

“It’s definitely an intellectual challenge,” he said. “It’s different than a lot of your standard board games. I’ve found that the more you know, the more you don’t know. It’s a lot of theory. It’s more than just a game.”

The English major said it’s also helped him in other avenues.

“Chess should be taught in the schools, because it encourages how you think in general,” Karaginais said. “It helps with study habits, teaches and encourages imaginative, creative thought.”

Karaginais said he’ll continue to be involved with the chess club throughout college, and he encourages others to get involved.

“We meet every first and third Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Pine Room in the Memorial Union,” he said. “We play until we get tired. Everyone is welcome, member or guest.”

The club has 50 registered members, but usually about 10 to 20 people show up to play.

To be a good chess player, Oyekan said there are a few qualities someone needs.

“You need to have a competitive spirit,” he said. “Also a strong knowledge about the game, and it also helps if you’ve been playing awhile.”

Karaginais obviously has those going for him.