WATERVILLE — The 20 remaining players in Sunday’s Maine Closed Chess Championship settled into their chairs at the Best Western Plus Waterville Grand Hotel on Sunday afternoon for the final round in the two-day tournament.

They turned off their cellphones, wound up the clocks to time the matches, started fresh scorecards, laid out pencils and arranged the black-and-white pieces on the tables.

In the corner of the room, the two highest-ranked players in the state squared off. The last pair to start, they spoke in whispers, shook hands and started the clock for what would become 3½ hours of some of the best chess in the state.

Matthew Fishbein, 16, a sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School, and Jarod Bryan, a 46-year-old data analyst from Augusta who had won the championship five times going into Sunday’s match, each offered to draw – or call it a tie – twice during the match.

In the end, Bryan came out on top for his sixth state chess championship in his almost 30-year career as a chess player.

“It was quite a game. It was very complex tactically, but in the end, experience beat youth,” Bryan said.

The championship, which is held in Waterville annually, draws chess players from around the state. This year, 27 players competed in five rounds that took place most of Saturday and concluded with the Sunday afternoon round. The tournament is open only to players who live in Maine or attend college in Maine and are members of the Maine Chess Association, which sponsored the event.

Bryan and Fishbein are the only chess players in Maine who are United States Chess Federation national masters, a ranking determined by points that players earn based on their performance in tournaments. A player who earns 2,200 points is a master.

Fishbein, the recent winner of the Maine State Scholastic Individual Chess Championships, tied as a state champion in 2012 and 2013.

Bryan has been a master since the age of 19. He began playing chess while a student at Cony High School in the 1980s.

Fishbein finished tied for third in the tournament, while 14-year-old Joseph Powell from Friendship surprised the field with a second-place finish.

Powell, who plays for Waldoboro’s Medomak Valley High School team, said it was the best tournament he’s played in his life.

It earned him a nod from the state champion. “It’s quite an extraordinary feat,” said Bryan.

As for his own performance, Bryan described the match against Fishbein as a battle that provided a long and constant, but rewarding, mental challenge.

“I always get a high out of a good intellectual challenge,” he said. “Chess isn’t like any other game. There are more possibilities than there are atoms in the universe.”

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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