MOUNT VERNON — To Walker Griggs, a sophomore at Mount Vernon High School, kings, queens, knights, bishops, rooks and pawns are common — and nearly constant — companions. He is Ohio’s 2010 10th-grade Chess Champion, and has earned an expert rating with the United States Chess Federation.
Walker, now 14 years old, first learned the basics of chess from his parents Jeane and Ron Griggs, and also participated for a time in the chess club at Wiggin Street Elementary.
His interest in chess was reawakened three years ago when he was searching through a bookshelf looking for strategies for video games. In the games section, he discovered a book called “Weapons of Chess” by Bruce Pandolfini. And chess became his avocation.
“I really liked the concept of pawn structure and positional chess,” explained Walker. “Young kids, when they get introduced to the game, it’s usually all about tactics, tactics, tactics. ‘I’m going to go kill my opponent’s king.’ A lot of people seem to think that pawns aren’t as important because they are of less value. In fact, it is completely the opposite. Pawns are the soul of chess. ... I didn’t actually play for quite a while,” he said. “I was just interested in the theory, which is a weird way to get started. After that I joined the Mulligan Chess Club in Columbus.”
He then convinced his father to set up the Internet Chess Club and plays online as well as at Mulligan.
Tournament play is more intense than Internet play, and Walker competed in his first scholastic chess tournament in January 2008. He came home with a 3 1/2 out of 5, or three wins, a draw and a loss.