After a year without practice and two agonizing days of games, Jason Spector '09 took the crown at the Maine state chess championship.
Last weekend, Spector's performance at the tournament earned him first place for the second year in a row. Only this time, he had to share the title?with a Bates professor.
At the championship, which was held at the University of Maine, Orono, Spector competed against more than 40 players, ranging from high school students to middle-aged adults. The tournament ended on Sunday night in a draw between Spector and Steve Dillon, a professor of English at Bates.
"Basically I hadn't played for a year, so I was pretty rusty," Spector said.
After a year without serious training, Spector had a slow start. Each player was allotted an hour and a half each for their first 40 moves. In one game, Spector had only five or 10 minutes remaining to complete 20 moves. This is when he bounced back.
"I kind of just clicked back. All of a sudden, I felt like I could see everything more clearly," Spector said.
He said that he "thought on [the other player's] time" by predicting what moves his competitor would make, as well as what his responses would be. In some games, Spector calculated up to 15 moves ahead of the game. He explained that every time he tried to predict his opponent's move, he had to consider multiple possibilities.
"Say you calculate five moves ahead, there would be a lot more than five moves in that calculation," Spector said.
Spector described the first day of the tournament as "brutal," as he competed from 9:30 a.m. until midnight.
"It was completely and utterly draining," he said.
His longest game, against a Colby student, lasted four and a half hours.
"When I'm playing [chess], it's not something I'd consciously think I'd enjoy. Afterwards, I get satisfaction from really testing myself," Spector said.
"It's a mental challenge I don't get to experience in any other way," he added.
At Bowdoin, it is not easy to for Spector to find expert-level competitors. Although he said there is one other Bowdoin student who plays as seriously as he does, he has been creative in making his own competition. He has played against friends while blindfolded, for instance.
Spector said that he hopes to play more chess between now and next year's championship. He also has plans to stay engaged with the game by running a clinic in Brunswick this summer for beginner and intermediate players.
"I'd like to start teaching a little bit to stay involved," he said.