Checkmate! Eagle Scout’s chess project is a win for the community

Before his Eagle Scout project, Andrew Dowden did not know how to play chess. Now he’s falling in love with the game because his project helped commemorate his state’s bicentennial and caught the attention of the governor.

Andrew, 17, of Troop 6 in Jefferson City, Mo., didn’t know what he wanted to do for his Eagle Scout project. While her troop was camping on the property of Jeanne Sinquefield, she approached the Boy Scouts with an idea for a project. Sinquefield is a supporter of scouting and was instrumental in the creation of the chess merit badge. With the 200th anniversary of the state of Missouri taking place last year, Sinquefield thought a bicentennial chessboard would make a fun and educational site for visitors.

Andrew liked the idea. Working with Sinquefield and the city, he planned to create a 14-foot granite chess board with laser-etched images of state historical figures and events that would be installed at Adrian’s Island Park, just steps from the Capital Building. of State.

To complete the chessboard, Maya Thomas of Girls Troop 242 in Columbia, Missouri, would install two wooden benches made from 200-year-old oak for her Eagle Scout project. The wood was cut in 1910 to be used for a barn, and she would help reuse it for park benches.

make moves

As with many Scouting projects, Andrew faced challenges that he and his team of volunteers had to overcome.

First, he was doing this project during the COVID-19 pandemic, and material shortages caused delays. He faced more delays while waiting for the city to build a bridge to the island park. He also met with an engineer to ensure that if the island flooded, the chessboard would remain in place after being installed on its 18-inch concrete foundation.

“I learned a lot, but I think the most important thing I learned was planning every detail of the project,” says Andrew.

The 32 images around the chessboard depicting Missouri history and people included President Harry S. Truman, Dred and Harriet Scott and George Washington Carver, as well as music, railroads, agriculture and sports .

“What I’ve enjoyed the most is working with my fellow scouts and especially seeing how happy it makes people to learn about Missouri history and play chess,” says Andrew.

A masterful ceremony

The project was ready to be unveiled in May. Missouri Governor Michael Parson and First Lady Teresa Parson, along with members of the World Chess Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Chess Club, were there to see it. After a brief ceremony in which the Governor, Maya and Andrew spoke, participants and scouts stood on the chessboard.

The governor and his wife moved the king’s and queen’s pieces, and they and the scouts played an inaugural game while two state chess grandmasters called the moves.

“I will be able to go see my project which will be there for the rest of my life”, says Andrew. “I hope that tourists who come to Missouri will come to the Capitol, walk across the bridge and learn the history of Missouri and also have fun with a game of chess. It’s a great place to spend the day. »

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