Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill wins NFL charity chess tournament in unlikely sporting crossover
Eight players, including Arizona Cardinals star quarterback Kyler Murray and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, took part in the ‘BlitzChamps II’ to crown the NFL’s best chess player.
The tournament, a series of ‘Blitz’ chess games in a single-elimination bracket, also had a $100,000 charitable prize fund.
Blitz chess is one of the sport’s fastest format of games, with players permitted no more than 10 minutes during games. It requires players to think fast and move at lightning speed.
After defeating New York Jets duo Wes Schweitzer and Chazz Surratt in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Drue Tranquill locked horns with Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in a dramatic final.
Despite having a rating 100 points higher than Awuzie, Tranquill – who signed for the Chiefs in the offseason – faced a stiff test with the Bengals star the reigning ‘BlitzChamps’ champion having won the inaugural tournament last year.
Tranquill won the opening game of the final with a bold queen sacrifice to deliver a back-rank mate. He called the tactive “probably the move of the day” afterwards. A back-rank mate is when a player delivers checkmate by attacking their opponent’s back rank, per Chess.com.
Needing to just avoid defeat in the final game to win the title, the 27-year-old Tranquill was able to hold out for a draw and earn himself the accolade of the best chess player in his sport and $25,000 for charity.
“I’m so excited just to be a part of this. I got brought on, I think a couple of days ago,” he said afterwards.
“I’ve never really played in a chess tournament at all. I have just enjoyed playing chess throughout my time at the NFL, playing teammates so this was so cool to get out here and raise some money for charity.”
When asked if he thinks he is akin to the Patrick Mahomes of chess now, Tranquill quipped he would need to have two ‘BlitzChamps’ titles to his name before he can put himself on the same level as the Chiefs quarterback.
And like the Chiefs and Bengals in the NFL, we could see Tranquill and Awuzie begin a high-level chess rivalry between the two franchises.