April 28-May 4, 2000
Back Issues
IN THIS ISSUE
Researchers looking for causes of heart disease
Off the Shelf - recently published books by U.Va. faculty and staff
Onuf elucidates Jefferson's nation-making

All-University Outstanding Teaching Award winners

Q&A - Engineering Dean Richard Miksad
After Hours - On the roof or ground, Quillon takes chess to new heights
Faculty Actions from the April BOV meeting
In Memoriam
Hot Links - Cavalier Computers
ITC's Office Technology Conference to be held May 10
WFPA honors Sisson and Allen
TOP NEWS

By Rebecca Arrington

Stephanie Gross
U.Va. roofer Barry Quillon plans to be at the peak of his game come September when he defends his title as State of Virginia Amateur Chess Champion.

Barry Quillon's interests and occupations are as varied as the chess pieces he routinely maneuvers in competition.

Quillon, 45, has been an assistant manager at his family-owned restaurant, a bass guitarist, a sound man for a local band, and is today a U.Va. tradesman and title-holding chess champion.

A roofer at Facilities Management for five years, Quillon has been playing chess since fourth grade. Called "Checkmate" by some of his co-workers, the gregarious Quillon is down-to-earth (despite his occupation) -- except when he's playing chess. Then the U.S. Chess Federation member gets serious. The sport "requires a killer instinct," he said. "You can't be passive."

Quillon went to his first statewide chess tournament in 1971. "I was an unrated player when I won at age 16," he said. And he's been winning ever since -- the Southwest Virginia Open in 1996 and last year's Fredericksburg Open, to name a few.

History of chess

Chess first appeared in India around the sixth century A.D., and spread to the Middle East by the 10th century. In the 15th century, chess became known as the ³royal game² because of its popularity among European nobility. Rules and set design evolved slowly until both reached todayıs standards in the early 19th century. A general interest in chess grew during the 20th century as professional and state-sponsored players competed for an officially recognized world championship title and increasingly lucrative prizes. Tournaments, postal correspondence games and Internet chess now attract men, women and children worldwide.

To participate in sanctioned tournaments, you have to be a member of either the state or U.S. Chess Federation, said Quillon, who belongs to both. Based on their performance at these tournaments, players are rated on a point system and categorized (in descending order) as grand master, master, expert, A, B, C, D or E-level player. Currently, Quillon is an A-level player, and his goal is to attain expert status. He now has roughly 1,860 of the 2,000 points needed to qualify.

"I'll get it in the next two years," he said, noting that a person's age makes no difference in these classes. "I've played 5- and 6-year-olds in tournaments. ... incredible kids who have to sit on a milk crate to compete."

To keep his skills honed, Quillon plays competitively twice a week: with the Charlottesville Chess Club on Monday nights and with friend, Dennis Okola, on Wednesdays. "I'm always planning ways to wear him out," Quillon said, laughing.

Quillon also likes telling a story from his days as a member of U.Va.'s Chess Club. He was the only one to beat a professor, classified as a master, who sponsored a 25-board, simultaneous match. "I got his queen and king with a knight-fork move, which attacks two pieces at once," he explained. "Professor Krohl just stood up, shook my hand, and declared the match over. It was great."

Asked if he thinks the world is in search of another Bobby Fischer (Quillon's favorite chess player), he responded, "absolutely. He was a prodigy who single-handedly wrested the world championship from the Russians." Today's world champ is again Russian-born, Garry Kasparov.

"But a lot are knocking," Quillon said.

"I'm really impressed with the way women are coming along in the sport. Judit Polgar [of Budapest] is now a grand master. ... I predict she could be the first world champion who's female.²

Although Quillon doesn't collect chess memorabilia, he does have a few unique items -- some old U.S. Chess Federation magazines; a 4-foot-tall rook with a wizard's face, carved from a piece of pine by U.Va. arborist and chainsaw sculptor Jerry Brown; and an official federation chess set.

He stays up on the latest theoretical developments in the sport, too. "Right now, I'm studying the Sicilian Dragon variation of the Sicilian defense in response to E-4, or pawn to King four," he said, explaining that each square on a chessboard has a corresponding letter, A through H, across the board, and a corresponding vertical number, one through eight.

Technology has improved access to information about the game, he said, adding that electronic games build players' tactical skills. "Even grand masters only see three to five moves ahead."

Quillon's ability to scan the board and envision moves that others may not notice is similar to his perspective as a roofer. From this vantage point, he's able to see things that others on the Grounds never do -- like hawks and other incredible views of nature. "From a rooftop on the Lawn the other day, I watched a big hawk land in a squirrel's nest," he said, extending his arms up and down repeatedly to show how the massive bird tried time and again to upset the nest. "He didn't get the squirrel, though," Quillon said. "The crows showed up to harass the hawk, like they always do, and the squirrel took off."

The roofer finds his work at U.Va. interesting, especially the historic renovation projects. His supervisor, Mike Crawford, is a nationally certified roof specialist, and "a good guy who trains our six-man crew to do these intricate restoration jobs."

When he's off the clock, Quillon likes to unwind at home in Fluvanna with his wife, Julie Anne Trueblood, an interpreter for the hearing impaired at U.Va. Hospital. Their mutual love of music led Quillon down another path not too long ago -- that of sound man for Mississippi Tom and the Mud Cats (now The Tom Robbins Blues Band).

Quillon and Trueblood first heard them at a local restaurant about five years ago. "They were awesome," recalled Quillon. So good, in fact, that he and his wife went back the next night. That's when Quillon, because of playing bass in his younger days, struck up a conversation with the band's bass guitarist, Dennis Okola. Not only did Quillon gain a formidable chess opponent through their chance encounter, he was asked to be the band's sound man.

It was a great stint, said Quillon. Today, however, he and Trueblood only catch occasional live gigs. They mostly watch concerts on video at home -- and have enjoyed Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Harry Connick Jr.

Several times a year, though, the couple loads up their gear and their dogs and heads for chess tournaments. Quillon gives his wife a lot of credit for his success. "She's my support system." Their next big trip will be in September, when Quillon will defend his 1999 first-place title, which he also won in 1997, at the Virginia State Amateur Chess Championship.

"After Hours" chronicles the interesting and varied off-Grounds lives of University faculty and staff. If you have ideas for future stories, please share them with us via e-mail at insideuva@virginia.edu.


CURRENT ISSUE

© Copyright 2000 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

UVa Home Page UVa Events Calendar Top News UVa Home Page