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West Charlotte senior shines in scholastic chess
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2013 3:03 pm
by Herbert L. White


Gabon Williams is always thinking ahead of the competition, whether it’s a game of basketball or chess.

West Charlotte High School senior Gabon Williams finished fifth in the Supernational Chess Championships last month in Nashville, Tenn. The result was the best finish ever for a West Charlotte player. Williams, 16, is also a successful athlete as a member of West Charlotte’s basketball and track teams.

The West Charlotte High School senior finished fifth in the K-12 Under-800 section at the SuperNartionals in Nashville, Tenn., the country’s largest scholastic chess tournament. More than 5,300 competitors from every grade and experience level participated from April 5-7, and Williams won six of seven matches in a field of 186 similarly-rated competitors.

“I believe I finished my high school chess career on a good note,” said Williams, 16, who also earned a state championship as a player on West Charlotte’s basketball team two years ago. “In basketball, things didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but I had to have something go good.”

Williams finished in a six-way tie for second but ultimately earned fifth place with tie-breakers factored in. Still, his result was the best for a West Charlotte competitor in school history.

“He’s made relationships with kids from all over,” West Charlotte chess coach Spencer Singleton said. “This is his fifth time going to the nationals, so kids from Detroit, New York California, he’s met these guys and had a chance to fellowship.”

Williams, an International Baccalaureate student with a 4.6 grade point average, has to make efficient use of his day. There’s the academics, followed by basketball or track practice. Chess, which he learned as a sixth-grader from his grandfather, Otto Johnson, and piano practice round out the day.

“You have to balance it the best way you can,” Williams said. “Some days you have a lot of school work and you have to go to basketball and I have to miss out on my piano practice or chess practice. It’s a lot you have to focus on, and you have to buckle down and do it.”

Singleton believes Williams, who has academic scholarship offers from Wake Forest and Tennessee State universities,  has the potential to become one of the best chess players in the country.

“Most of his time is spent with (sports) but he has given me a little bit of his time to play chess,” Singleton said. “He’d definitely be a master as a player. He’s naturally gifted with intelligence and he works hard at whatever he does.”

Said Williams: “I just take it in stride. I  do what I can, and it usually works out well for me.

“I believe I could (become a chess master), but I believe it would take a lot more work on chess and a little less on basketball, but I love both and I try to be equally balanced.”

It didn’t take long for Williams’ success at the SuperNationals to spread across campus. For a school with a storied athletic and academic history that counts Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx among its alumni, Williams is a campus celebrity as well.

“Everyone was proud of me,” he said. “A couple of my teachers challenged me. I’ll play them when I get a little bit of free time.”

While Williams contemplates his college choices – Tennessee State has invited him to try out for its basketball team as a walk-on – he’s determined academics will come first. Competitive chess won’t be too far behind.

“I will be playing chess at whatever university I go to, whether they have a team or not,” Williams said. “I’ll keep up my United States Chess Federation account.”



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