Sixth-grader Lucy Dobson waited for her junior opponent to move a chess piece and then press a button on a blue timer. Across from her, Alice Song, a kindergartener, made her move, pressed her button, and then waited for Dobson.
Dobson, 11, first learned how to play chess before she entered kindergarten, thanks to her grandfather, Mike Sheehan. The prominent Scappoose attorney, economist and environmental advocate was also a chess enthusiast. According to family members, he would set up his chess board at Congregation Sharie Torah in northwest Portland during the early 1990s, when Portland saw an influx of displaced Jews who had fled their homes in the Soviet Union. He died in May 2018.
On Saturday, Sheehan's granddaughters competed in the first competitive chess tournament named after their late grandfather, in Scappoose.
The elementary school students were among 52 schoolchildren from across Oregon who competed in the inaugural event.
The Mike Sheehan Memorial Chess Tournament, an Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation-recognized competition, saw a turnout of children of all ages from across the state. Contestants were broken up into three divisions: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
In the beginner division, Rahul Chitram of Elmonica Elementary School in Beaverton took first place. Lazlo McClure, a fourth-grader
at Beaverton's Holy Trinity Catholic School, took
first place in the intermediate division, and seventh-grader Roshen Nair of Stoller Middle School in Portland came in first in the advanced division.
Cassy Brophy of Warren Elementary School was awarded the Kudos award for overall exemplary behavior and sportsmanship.
After winning her game, Dobson darted into an adjoining room to check a newly printed score sheet listing winners in each division. She scanned the sheet with excitement.
"I learned how to play when I was four," Dobson recalls, confirming with her mother, Sheehan's daughter, April Dobson.
"It's exciting to see something like this at the schools," Maddy Sheehan, Mike Sheehan's wife, said Saturday, as she scanned the room. "They're recognizing the intellectual sports. Oftentimes the artistic and intellectual activities don't have the same coverage as the sports do. If it takes root here, that would be such a lovely legacy for him," she noted.
Maddy Sheehan said she planned to donate a new chess set to the high school, to further student access to the game her husband enjoyed for so many years.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)