roofer Barry Quillon plans to be at the peak of his game come
September when he defends his title as State of Virginia Amateur
Quillon's interests and occupations are as varied as the chess
pieces he routinely maneuvers in competition.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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,
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
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
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.
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."
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."
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."
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).
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.
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.
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.
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