Chess champion shows his mastery during Wilsonville event
It seemed as if Nick Raptis' mind was working at warp speed.
While competing against eight players simultaneously, Raptis often glanced at one chess board, confidently moved a piece and then meandered quickly toward the board of his next adversary. This wasn't because he has a photographic memory. Instead, he often identifies the logical move immediately after spotting the board.
"I was able to train my brain to see a position and then analyze every outcome," Raptis said.
Meanwhile, many of his competitors racked their brains trying to avoid a costly mistake — only to inevitably falter.
Raptis, a multiple-time Oregon state champion, played against eight competitors at once during a fundraiser for Friends of French Prairie, a farmland advocacy group, at Charbonneau Country Club Wednesday, Jan. 29. People purchased the chance to play against Raptis or bought chess boards and the proceeds went to the not-for-profit corporation.
Raptis' matches against other top players can take three to five hours, but he dispatched seven of his competitors in under a half-hour. However, Preston Polasek, also a serious chess player, was able to force him into a draw.
"I've beat Nick a few times over the years," Polasek said. "He's beat me way more than that."
He added, "I think given enough time he would have probably beat me."
City of Wilsonville Planning Commissioner Simon Springall and his son, Benjy Springall, both hung on longer than most of Raptis' competition. Benjy, a 12-year-old who won a regional Chess for Success event last year, drew praise from Raptis following the match. Nevertheless, his plans eventually were foiled.
"I had a plan, but he spotted it before I even knew what the plan was," he said.
In Simon's case, he felt a brief moment of hope only for his optimism then to be dashed.
"At first I was thinking I was going to win a piece, and then he turned the tables on me and it was a struggle to stay alive," he said.
Like Benjy, Raptis was once a precocious chess player. In fact, his childhood friend Rhapsodee Murray, who Raptis vanquished during the event, remembers him winning every match during middle school. And she's never come close to beating him.
"You're defeated before you begin," Murray said.
Donald resident Daroll Nicholson, who lost relatively quickly, found going head-to-head with a top player exciting and enlightening.
"I made so many mistakes and he came at me and I got nervous, but it was really a fun experience," he said. "The fun of the experience is to be able to match your talent against someone like Nick."
Raptis, for his part, has some advice for budding chess players. He advised to begin with the same move every match so you start noticing patterns, perform the castling maneuver early in the match or at least at an opportune time, avoid moving pawns too frequently, learn to move pieces intentionally and think deeply about what your opponent's moves say about what they're thinking.
"When they're making their move against you, they're basically speaking to you without saying a word," he said. "You have to be able to listen to what they're saying by the moves that they're making."
Raptis thinks people can benefit from chess in other aspects of their lives, like analyzing the stock market or performing a job.
But for him, chess is more than a means to an end. It's an all-encompassing aspect of his life.
"He's no question, one of the best players around," Polasek said.
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