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King of the board

Searcy teen competing in national chess tournament

By Angela Spencer

This article was published July 24, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.


Michael Kidd, 14, is a ninth-grade chess player from Searcy who is representing Arkansas in the Dewain Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions in Orlando, Fla. Michael’s favorite chess piece is the knight.

Like a knight striding across a checkered background, one Searcy teen is aiming for his opponents’ kings this coming week.

Michael Kidd will represent Arkansas in the Dewain Barber Tournament of K-8 champions in Orlando, Florida. He won the Arkansas Scholastic State Chess Tournament and will compete against other winners from all over the country.

Kidd, who is 14 years old, has been playing chess for seven years. This will be his second time to represent Arkansas in the national tournament, and he said he has worked on improving since last year.

“I needed to start paying more attention when I start moving my pieces, not see something and start moving immediately,” he said of what he learned from last year’s experience. “You have an hour and a half on the clock. You shouldn’t rush.”

Kidd said one thing he has worked on is not looking at his opponent, which is an important, yet unnatural, strategy.

“When you’re playing, you’re not supposed to look at the other person’s face because if they start thinking really hard, it can mess with your mind,” he said. “When it’s not my turn, I want to look up.”

Another challenge Kidd has had to face is a lack of other chess players in the area. This year’s state tournament consisted of only six players, compared to last year’s 15.

“When I was in seventh grade, I had to go to the high school for chess club,” he said. “I was beating the high-schoolers, and they usually got mad when I beat them.”

Kidd will be a freshman at Searcy High School this year, and he said he has one friend at school who will play chess with him.

Earlier this summer, Kidd attended the 13th Annual Mid-South Summer Chess Camp in Memphis, where he met and played against many people.

“[The camp] was pretty cool because there were a bunch of Grandmasters and other people who were good,” Kidd said.

Kidd is also part of the Internet Chess Club, where he gets to virtually compete with people, and he said he has a phone app he can use to practice against people online.

Back in central Arkansas, Kidd has a chess coach, Tony Davis, with whom he has been working for several months.

Davis said he is very proud of what Kidd has already accomplished.

“He’s going to be my model student,” Davis said.

Chess players are rated based on their wins and losses. A higher rating indicates a stronger player. Points are gained when a player performs well or better than expected, and points are deducted when a player loses or doesn’t perform as well as expected. The amount added or deducted often depends on the rating of the opponent.

Kidd is rated at 898. Masters are generally rated at 2,200, and Grandmasters are rated at least 2,450, but there are other stipulations for Grandmasters as well.

Ultimately, Kidd said, he just wants to continue to improve his chess abilities.

“I just want to get good at it. I want to be able to play really well,” he said. “I want to be able to teach other people how to play so it will get really popular.”

Kidd will compete Saturday through Tuesday against children from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or


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