Caleb Parker is 2024 HBCU Chess Champion!

Daniel Buckley (Engineering), Florian Dorleans (FAMU Alumnus), Caleb Parker (Computer Information Systems), Lee Parker (School of Allied Health), Dr. Daaim Shabazz (School of Business & Industry)
Daniel Buckley (Engineering), Florian Dorleans (FAMU Alumnus), Caleb Parker (Computer Information Systems), Lee Parker (School of Allied Health), Dr. Daaim Shabazz (School of Business & Industry)

At the 2nd HBCU Chess Classic, Florida A&M sophomore Caleb Parker won the individual event with 5/5. The event was held at the Georgia Institute of Technology near the Atlanta University Center, where Morris Brown College hosted it last year. Parker won a last-round game against North Carolina A&T’s Bobby Lewis by employing an intuitive sacrifice. More on that later.

“I learned from my mistakes and I’m just thankful for the opportunity to go at it again and become the individual winner.”

~Caleb Parker on US Chess Online

Parker, a computer information systems major, was brimming with confidence a week before the tournament. After playing a few games at the Black Dog Cafe in Tallahassee, he told The Chess Drum that he was prepared and fully motivated. Traveling with his father Lee Parker (a FAMU employee) and one of his recruits Daniel Buckley (FAMU-FSU Engineering), they arrived in Atlanta on Friday night. Perhaps arriving the night before made the difference. Last year, the FAMU delegation left early morning and arrived at Morris Brown College just prior to the first round.

As the teams started to arrive at the Exhibition Hall, excitement was building as some of the players from last year’s inaugural event weighed their chances. Defending team champion Howard University and their leading player Malik Castro-DeVarona (1768), who also the defending individual champion. While Howard would be without two of their top players, Hampton and NCAT brought larger contingents than last year.

Caleb in Action

Caleb chatting with Hampton’s Takayla Thomas before their first-round matchup.

After winning his first four rounds, Parker would play Bobby Lewis, who had also won his first four and was brimming with confidence after beating Spelman’s Jamila Thompson. Between rounds, Lee Parker, FAMU advisor and Caleb’s father, advised him to play quietly. The idea was to get a game he was comfortable with. Lewis had a confident aura, and hoping he would take risks was not inconceivable. The game started quietly with 1.Nf3, but then ended up in a sharp King’s Indian. It would proceed to be a thrilling climax to the tournament.

Caleb Parker (Florida A&M University)

# Player ELO School
Result
1 Takayla Thomas UNR Hampton-B
1
2 Donyai Johnson UNR NCAT-A
1
3 Matthew Rhone 1035 Howard-A
1
4 Xavier Ntamere 1167 Howard-A
1
5 Bobby Lewis 1384 NCAT-A
1
Score: 5/5 1st Place

Results: Team, Individual, Alumni


HBCU Chess in Perspective

One of the biggest differences between the HBCU event and tournament play seen in events nationwide is the socialization that takes place before games between competitors. Parker mentioned in an interview with The Chess Drum, that this was one of the more positive features of the event. Many players took the time to become acquainted and learn about their respective academic journeys.

This was a very powerful aspect of such an event. This atmosphere is also present at the Pan-American Intercollegiate. However, there is something different about the HBCU community that makes the interactions more positive. These players will enter the work world and perhaps join the same networks in the coming years.

If you look at the ratings of the players, many are new to tournament play (unrated), while others are still gaining experience. Several mentioned that they learned to play during the “COVID-19 boom.” Other players (such as Parker and Lewis) are clearly hundreds of points stronger than their ratings. This untapped segment may be able to build an HBCU network and, from strengthening ties to the chess community, become tournament regulars. Most importantly, they will gain all the benefits of chess for academic fulfillment.

Participants at the 2024 HBCU Chess Classic
Participants at the 2024 HBCU Chess Classic

This is a new untapped market of new college-age players. Unlike international students who attend powerhouse chess universities (and are already titled players), this segment may add to the long-term chess-playing population who may teach others and also introduce their children to chess.

The tournament venue was well-suited for the event. However, there was a trade-off. While Georgia Tech allowed more room than the Morris Brown facility, it lacked the historical and cultural context. Perhaps next year, the event will return to an HBCU campus and there will be a campus tour as part of the chess weekend.

Caleb in the News!

Caleb Parker was the subject of an article in the FAMUan, Florida A&M’s news outlet. He was also featured in Melinda Matthewsarticle at U.S. Chess Online. This is a wonderful moment, and it will serve as a catalyst for rejuvenating chess at one of the premier HBCUs. Caleb had a chance to discuss his thoughts with Daaim Shabazz, Associate Professor at FAMU and founder of The Chess Drum.

Caleb Parker and FAMU's Eternal Flame
Caleb at FAMU’s Eternal Flame with championship trophy

Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Meet the Kings & Queens of HBCU Chess!

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