Donation Brings National Chess Tournament To Stillwater

Thursday, March 22nd 2007, 8:47 am

By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) A retired businessman donated $50,000 to bring a national chess championship to Oklahoma for the first time in at least 50 years.

Frank Berry, an avid chess fan and player, provided the donation to host the tournament in Stillwater after its original sponsor in Seattle backed out in January.

"We host a lot of chess championships here, and I thought it would be a good idea to bring the national championship here if I could," Berry said.

The U.S. Chess Federation's crowning event will feature 34 competitors -- including a few wildcard entrants from Oklahoma -- playing May 15-23 in Stillwater. Uninvited players will be allowed to enter the tournament at a fee of between $5,000 and $50,000, based on their chess ranking.

Movses Movsisyan, the highest-rated player in Oklahoma, and Tom Braunlich, who achieved the highest professional ranking of any Oklahoman when he played in the 1980s, both plan to enter.

"I'm not expecting to win, but I think I'll be able to represent Oklahoma pretty well," said Braunlich, an Oklahoma State University alumnus who lives in Tulsa.

Movsisyan, a University of Oklahoma mathematics graduate student who came to the state eight years ago from Armenia, is the only Oklahoman to be ranked at the international master level in professional chess.

"I didn't think I would see the U.S. Championship in Oklahoma in my lifetime," he said.

Berry, who spent 14 years with 3M Co. in Los Angeles before Retiring and moving back to Stillwater, said he understands that finding big corporate sponsorships for chess tournaments can be difficult. He didn't mind sponsoring the championship if it meant seeing some of the nation's brightest players.

Berry said the event, which will bear his name, can help decide who might be able to compete in the world championships.

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