Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kearsley coach Mike Skidmore gets inducted into Chess Hall of Fame

But, it wasn't great valor or even a wicked jump shot that landed Mike Skidmore in the Hall of Fame. Instead, it was instead his cunning strategies and all those checkmates.

Skidmore joined earlier this month an elite group of only 14 others named to the Michigan Chess Hall of Fame since its formation 20 years ago by the Michigan Chess Association.

There will be no multimillion dollar contracts, wax figures or Vince Lombardi trophy. Not even a crown for one of chess' kings.

Skidmore will get just a plaque, lifetime membership to the association, and be featured in an article for the association's magazine.

For Skidmore, the honor itself is worth more than any glamorous prize.

For the past 30 years, he's coached the Kearsley High School Chess Team, leading teams to win several state and national championships over the years.

Just as he's shared his knowledge of the game with his students, he also is sharing his honor.

"It's nice because it means some of the people in Michigan chess are recognizing what we do here," Skidmore said. "It's not about the individual honor. It's about the kids, the team and what they do."

The association exists in name only. There are no headquarters or offices. Instead board members meet four or five times a year at different locations.

The organization produces a bi-monthly magazine and bulletin of events and is responsible for organizing state championship events.

Hall of Fame inductees must have made a significant contribution to the growth, development, and prestige of chess in Michigan and the MCA, the selection requirements state.

Skidmore paid his dues by serving two terms on the MCA board, serving as chair of several sub-groups, editor of the magazine and coordinator of the U.S. Open Denker Invitational Tournament of Champions.

Skid, as he's affectionately called by his players, taught himself to play chess in fourth grade and went on to earn himself both local and state titles.

He started his first job coaching chess at Daly Jr. High School in 1973, the year after chess legend Bobby Fischer became the first American to win the World Chess Match igniting enormous interest in the game.

And, now, his students enjoy it when Skidmore occasionally makes rookie mistakes -- allowing them that rare chance to beat him at his own game.

"It's exciting because I know how experienced he is and how many people he's played and beat," said student Zach McComb, a 17-year-old senior.

Skidmore said he wants his students to learn more than just how to be good chess players.

"The kids are learning life skill through this game," Skidmore said. "I tell them to take those chess decision making skills and apply them to your life."

Flint Journal extras

More about 'Skid'

• Name: Mike Skidmore

• Age: 60

• Job: Chess coach and media specialist for Kearsley High School

• Family: Married with adult children

• Nickname: Skid

• How long have you been playing chess? "Since fourth grade. I taught my sister to play so I could beat her."

• How many games have you won? "Too many to count."

• Have you ever lost to any of your students? "Yes, but only when I'm tired or off my game."