Jose Silva from Hidalgo, Texas, has become the first soldier from the Rio Grande Valley to be crowned a chess king of the U.S. Army.
A medical technician at Fort Lewis, Washington, he shared first place with an officer, Captain Chris Pitts from Fort Bliss, Texas.
The top six men from the Army advanced to compete against The Marines, Navy and Air Force this summer.
“Right now Captain Pitts and I are playing chess against each other to prepare,” Silva said, “but I also think I have a good chance of winning the championship too.”
“It is an honor to represent the Army in this upcoming competition; it would be a greater honor to represent the United States in the NATO Tournament in Germany,” Silva added.
This did not happen, this year, but there is another chance next year.
“A man who speaks with a quiet ferocity and measured words, Silva likens chess to boxing,” wrote Jim Simpson in The Volcano, the Fort Lewis newspaper.
“It’s important to know how to hit your opponent, but it is just as important to know how not to be hit by him,” he explained as he carefully fingered a chess piece. “Like a boxer, a player can be winning right up to the end and then lose.”
Playing to win, said Silva, is dependent on mental toughness.
“For a soldier, mental toughness is everything, and chess is an excellent way to develop that,” he added. “Soldiers should play chess.”
Silva said the longest match he has played lasted almost eight hours; his shortest match lasted just 30 minutes.
He has played chess for more than 20 years, and he practices every day.
“I read a great deal. I study different strategies. I stay in good shape and I play as often as I can,” he added. I am very fluid and feel very good about my game.”
Specialist Silva mailed an Army trophy he had won, to honor a chess star in the Rio Grande Valley who had helped him as a school-age player.
Paul Fisher, no relation to world former champion Bobby Fisher, appreciated the gift and praise from a young player who he used to defeat, but helped the teen-ager by showing his mistakes after a game.
A champion in Indiana who moved to the Valley, Fisher is now more than half blind, and appreciated how Silva remembered him as a former champion who shared his chess skills with others.