Ellsworth Airman wins 62nd Armed Forces Chess Competition

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Quentin K. Marx
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Airman 1st Class Charles Unruh, a 28th Munitions Squadron armament apprentice, won the 62nd Annual U.S. Armed Forces Open Chess Championship in Grapevine, Texas, Oct. 8-11, 2021.

Unruh competed against 51 Department of Defense members and won five games, bringing home the trophy for Ellsworth.  

“I was amazed and relieved to have won the tournament,” said Unruh. “Amazed because I was competing against many players with different strategies and skill sets to a point where I wasn’t entirely confident that I would win, but relieved in the sense that it was over and I could rest easy knowing that I won against skilled players.”

By tournament’s end, Unruh had racked up four awards: Oklahoma’s Armed Forces Champion, Top Active Services, Top Air Force, and the Armed Forces Open Champion. He was also given a commemorative chess board for winning the tournament.

Unruh was not always the chess master that he was today, however. He earned titles, victories, prizes by practicing chess his whole life with his mentor and inspiration.

“My dad was a big impression on my life with chess since he was the U.S. Armed Forces Champion of Ramstein Air Force Base in 1975, as well as a national master,” said Unruh. “My father trained, studied and played the game with me since I was four years old and he has been at my side throughout my chess career ever since.”    

Like Unruh’s father, 28 Munitions Squadron recognized his talent and took steps to help it grow.

 “My squadron was able to get me into the chess tournament at a very short notice and I am very thankful for them understanding my love and skill for the game to get me in,” said Unruh. “Knowing that there is a large group that has my back and that I am representing when I compete definitely helped me stay focused during the games.”

Even with his squadron’s support, Unruh could not have won the competition without the skills his father taught him.   

“If it wasn’t for my dad’s teachings, the support I have gotten from my squadron, and my military background I do not think I would have gotten as far as I have in my professional chess career,” said Unruh. “All of these things created a very good base for me to go out and compete professionally and if I didn’t have that base that was nurtured, I would have toppled over.”

The U.S. Armed Forces Chess Open Championship is held at different locations annually, such as North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, and features competitors from all Department of Defense military services.