The Armed Forces Open Chess Championship is a USCF Heritage Event, National Championship, held annually during the Columbus Day Weekend, this year occurring on October 8 – 10, 2022. To date, this National Championship has a 63 year history. The first AFO, sponsored by the Department of Defense (DOD), was held in 1960. Now days, this five round Swiss System, FIDE rated event, is sponsored by the USCF Miltary Committee. The event is hosted each year via rotation between the services: Navy Marines, Army, and Air Force. The last few events were held at: Army, West Point, NY, 2017; Air Force, Andrews Air Force Base, MD, 2018; Marines, Camp Lejeune, NC, 2019; Navy, Virginia Beach, VA, 2020; and Army, Grapevine, TX, 2021. This year was hosted by the Air Force, at the base Chapel, 87th Air Base Wing, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, in New Jersey. This year, was the first time in its history that the event was hosted in New Jersey.
In addition to the USCF Military Committee sponsorship, upon notification that the AFO was to be held in New Jersey, the New Jersey State Chess Federation (NJSCF) quickly and generously provided their support. The NJSCF funded many awards, breakfast and lunch to the players for each day (Monday’s last day of play breakfast only) of competition; and beautiful triple-weighted Staunton Style Chess pieces and bag. Expert game analysis for special awards was provided by Pete Tamburro, of the NJSC. Moreover, it was a pleasure having on-site representation from NJSCF, Secretary Kamillia Sharuda. She had the opportunity to play in both Blitz and Bughouse competitions and to take part in the group photo with the players! NJSCF’s support allowed for funds donated to military chess to use for other such memorable things as the AFO 2022 T-shirts, which were provided to all participants. Outstanding support and way for the NJSCF to show other states, that when it comes to supporting such events in their backyard, how it’s supposed to be done!
The AFO was divided into two events, the AFO Open Championship, open to Active Duty, Military Retirees, Cadets, Midshipmen, College ROTC, and Mobilized Guard/Reserve; and over the past few years, the Veterans Open. The Veterans Open is dedicated to “Those who have served” which includes anyone who has served in the military that received an Honorable Discharge.
The AFO is all about the comradery and friendship, and of course, fierce competition. Players pay their own way to play. They come from all over the globe to compete in this tournament, some as far as Hawaii and Japan. There is no entry fee; there are no monetary prizes awarded, only trophies and gifts donated by contributions from the U.S. Chess Federation, the U.S. Chess Trust (both 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations), and via public donations.
Many AFOs have themes dedicated to the event that is distinctive and specific to the location in which it is held. For example the Navy may have as its theme, something particular to military boats, the Army with tanks, etc. This year, the Air Force theme was dedicated to military battles particular to or having connections with New Jersey. For this, the Air Force host created special award certificates dedicated to such battles but with chess themes. The following were the special Air Force Certificate awards:
- Best overall game played: General George Washington Award “Perseverance and Spirit have done wonders in all ages”
- Best sacrifice to win a game: Delaware Crossing Award “Victory or Death”
- Best tactical/combination win: Major Thomas B. McGuire Jr. Award “He Fought with Gallantry and Intrepidity”
- Best fighting game win: Battle of Bunker Hill “Bloodiest Battle of the American Revolution”
- Best female game: The Molly Pitcher Award “A Fearless Hero in the Battlefront”
- Best positional (strategic) win: The Battle of Trenton Award “Hatching a brilliantly daring plan”
- Best veteran service game: Brigadier General Hugh Mercer Award “From Culloden to Princeton, served at 3 Wars in 30 years”
- Longest (moves) game played: The Battle of Monmouth Award “A Sweltering Day, Beat out and with heat and fatigue”
- Shortest/quickest win: The Battle of Mount Holly Award “The more we can attack, at the same instant, the more confusion we shall spread”
- Biggest upset win: The Battle of Princeton Award “Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat”
- Best academy game win: The Baron Von Steuben Award “My dear Duponceau, come and swear for me in English, these fellows won’t do what I bid them”
- Worst blunder to lose: The Battle of Brooklyn Award “When The Apple is Lost”
The special prize awards complemented the main event’s many trophies and class prizes, including those for Blitz and Bughouse. This years All Commanders-in-chief Trophy, fought over by the various academies, was awarded to the Army West Point Cadets. The overall AFO champion was won by Army West Point Cadet, Addison T. Lee, with a score of 4.5 (1st on tie-breaks), who defeated two former AFO previous champions, Robert Keough (5 times champion) and Andrew Peraino, on his way to the win. Cadet Addison T. Lee also won the Blitz Championship as well.
Note: We can place one of Cadet Addison’s best win here…
Note: We could also place a few additional games that won the special prize awards…
The tournament arbitrator and ongoing supporter of the event was Mike Hoffpauir, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), National Tournament Director” and President of the U.S. Chess Federation.
This year’s hosting service was the US Air Force, coordinated by Leroy Hill, U.S. Air Force (Retired), Air Force Committed Chair Member, and former U.S. Armed Forces Open Champion who, additionally, represented the US at several annual NATO Chess Championships.
Results for the AFO can be found online at: link to the cross-table (shows main event scores and rating results) for both the AFO and Veterans Sections. Blitz results: are here. Prize lists for the main event, bughouse and blitz: go to this link.