John “Alexander” Zapata Hincapie, 23, won first place at the Challengers OKC Spring 2014 Open by winning all four rounds. He defeated former and current Oklahoma state champions on his path to victory.
Current Oklahoma state champion, Charles Unruh Jr., won second place; Shaun Graham-Bowcaster placed third and Dr. J. A. Montero finished fourth.
Zapata is from Medellin, Colombia, and came to the United States on Dec. 31. “Alex,” as his friends call him, is on scholarship at the University of Oklahoma and studies chemical engineering. He is a World Chess Federation rated “2007” level player who has won many tournaments. His new provisional rating is just 16 points away from the master level.
Zapata said his mother taught him to play chess when he was 7 but he didn’t start playing competitively until he was 14 and asked to represent his elementary school in a tournament. He placed third in that tournament and said to himself “maybe chess was a good sport to practice since I apparently had a natural talent for it.”
When asked if he wants to become a master chess player he said, “I planned that some years ago. Now I just play chess for fun.”
Zapata said he wants to become a researcher “who can have a huge impact in other people’s lives through my work.”
Unruh, 28, is the reigning state champion and will defend his title in June. He serves on the Oklahoma Chess Association Board and is a tournament director.
Unruh’s father, Charles “Chuck” Unruh Sr., is a previous state champion and master level player and serves as president of the chess association board.
The Challengers’ tournament was a 4 Round Swiss System. Twenty-two of the state’s top players competed on March 22 in downtown Oklahoma City.
The next Challengers tournament is tentatively set for May 17.
Tommy Hay is a member of the Challengers Chess Club.