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Chess Fest in downtown Tucson expected to attract 300 or more Saturday

Who’d think chess could attract upward of 300 people to downtown?

Jean Hoffman would think that.

Her first Chess Fest last year at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., drew 200 to 300 people, and Chess Fest, from noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday could bring in 300 to 500 people, said Hoffman, co-founder of 9 Queens, a local nonprofit that teaches chess to girls and at-risk youth.

Admission is free.

“Tucson is an emerging chess capital,” Hoffman said.

Catalina Foothills High School won the national high school team chess titles in 2005, 2007 and 2008, and Hoffman estimates 10 to 20 local schools send chess teams to Southern Arizona Chess Association events.

Catalina Foothills chess team members will have workshops for chess players of any level, Hoffman said.

The 2009 Arizona state chess champion, Levon Altounian, will speak at 2 p.m.

Chess Fest will offer speed chess matches, where players have 10 minutes to finish a game, from 1 to 4 p.m. Speed chess last year had 72 players, and Hoffman believes 100 to 150 will play this time. Registration is at noon or by e-mail at chessfest09@gmail.com.

“This is not a serious, intense competitive day,” Hoffman said. “The lessons are meant to be fun. A lot of people have chess phobia. We’re trying to get people over that. It can be a fun game.”

The fun will be evident at 5 p.m. with the Human Chess Match, where children age 5 through middle school age will enact chess figures on a life-size chess board behind Hotel Congress. More fun: City Council members Rodney Glassman and Karin Uhlich will face off across a chess board at 1 p.m.

Chess Fest also will have live music and an art exhibit at Maynard’s Market in the Historic Depot, 400 E. Toole Ave., across from Hotel Congress.


Chess world loses former Catalina Foothills High champion

One of Catalina Foothills’ three-time team champions and 2006 national high school champion, Landon Brownell, 19, died April 21 when, while driving, he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree near Bakersfield, Calif. Mr. Brownell had reached national master level in chess and his death and career were prominently reported by the U.S. Chess Federation.

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