Underwater chess aficionados are flooding Blacktip Island for Saturday’s Seventh Annual Underwater Cage Chess Championship.
“Blacktip’s one of the top producers of underwater chess grand masters,” said island native and event founder Rocky Shores. “It’s also home to some tough SOBs. Having the tournament here was a no brainer.”
The world’s top Underwater Cage Chess masters will compete this year, including defending champion Cassia Nimzovitch, Jacques ‘Boom-Boom’ Fisher, Sea Itch Anand and local favorite Shores. Competitors will square off in 30 feet of water offshore from the Sand Spit bar.
“Think of it as scuba diving meets mixed martial arts meets blitz chess,” tournament director Roy Lopez said. “It’s the ancient fight for survival in the primordial goo, with the winner crawling onto dry land victorious.
“Sure, you can say ‘knight takes pawn on E7,’ but in UCC, that knight’s in for a fight. In past tourneys we’ve seen well-trained pawns take down knights, rooks, even a queen,” Lopez said.
Divers playing the Sicilian dragon defense usually employ some variation of sea dragon kung fu. French defense aficionados often opt for subaqueous savate.
“Last year’s winner used a deadly combination of the Albin Counter Gambit and a bite to her opponent’s regulator hose,” Lopez said. “The action was so thick all you could see was a cloud of bubbles and the odd fin or bishop flashing free.”
“For training, I watch a lot of Aquaman cartoons,” said Shores, last year’s runner-up. “Old Sea Hunt episodes are good, too.”
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Lopez added. “Some poor patzer last year opened with an old-school Giuoco Piano and a double-hose regulator. We hauled up what was left of him after six moves.”
Matches last until checkmate, resignation or one competitor runs out of air.
“If your tank runs dry, you forfeit as soon as you tap out or pass out,” Lopez said. “Stalemate’s rarely an option.”
All matches will be shown live at the Sand Spit on closed-circuit television. The tournament champion will receive the coveted Golden Queen Triggerfish Belt and a $50 gift certificate redeemable at the Sand Spit.
“It is wonderful to see the younger generation get involved,” defending champion Nimzovitch said. “End of the day, we do this for the kids. Diving just now, I saw two children trying to drown each other on their safety stop. It was heartwarming.”