Checkmate: Missouri Military Academy Cadets Visit World Chess Hall of Fame

Checkmate: Missouri Military Academy Cadets Visit World Chess Hall of Fame

Following the spring 2024 semester's academic finals, a group of Missouri Military Academy cadets — seven Chess Society members and two Troop 1889 Scouts — traveled to St. Louis to visit the World Chess Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Chess Club.

MMA’s Chess Society was founded in the fall 2023, thanks to a generous donation from Lee ’92 and Stephanie Merrell, which enabled the purchase of boards and timers. 

The Academy's chess society is led by Cadet Brayden Phelps, ranked among the nation's top scholastic chess players. Cadet Phelps's ranking is supported by his Elo rating system score of 1500 on Lichess during the 2020-2021 school year, which was achieved while competing virtually in Illinois state tournaments. His score aligns with the level of a top scholastic player in the nation.

MMA cadets with chess grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian at the St. Louis Chess Club. Akobian played on the bronze-medal-winning U.S. team in the 2006 and 2008 Chess Olympiads. 

The Chess Society met weekly in the library on Thursdays after study hall, where Cadet Phelps instructed cadets on strategy, defense, attacks and solving checkmate scenarios. In January, the Chess Society was joined by Troop 1889 Scouts who aimed to earn their chess merit badge. The new players, while having some experience, broadened their knowledge and became strong players by fulfilling the merit badge requirements.

On May 14, cadets received a guided tour of the World Chess Hall of Fame museum, which showcased signed chess boards from tournaments of famous grandmasters, chess as artwork, the history of chess and renowned female grandmasters. At the St. Louis Chess Club, grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian, also the head chess coach at St. Louis University, gave cadets lessons on chess strategy, including assigning points to pieces, sacrifice and movements that accomplish both defense and attack scenarios.

Founded in 1984, The World Chess Hall of Fame is run by the United States Chess Trust. Formerly located in New Windsor, New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami, Florida, it moved to St. Louis on September 9, 2011.

The following cadets attended the trip:

  • Cadet Brayden Phelps
  • Cadet Jacob Pehle
  • Cadet Jeffrey Clingenpeel
  • Cadet Tru Jones
  • Cadet Erick Bond
  • Cadet Amarbayasgalan Enkhbaatar
  • Cadet Batbileg Bataa
  • Cadet Malachi Imrie
  • Cadet Alexander Pro

Chess, a strategic game with origins in 6th-century India, fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Cadets involved in the chess society, or those who have earned the chess merit badge, typically excel academically, with many joining prestigious organizations such as Delta Phi, NSTEM or National Honor Society (NHS).

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