Former professors are chess mates

Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

On any given Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, former OBU political science professor, Dr. Tony Litherland, might be found in the GC focusing intently on the chess board in front of him. Litherland’s next move in the hopes of defeating former OBU adjunct professor of Design, Brad Price, once more. All the while, the men are surrounded by two or three curious onlookers and the cacophony of noise common to the GC at lunch hour.

This twice-weekly meeting-of-the-minds for strategic combat has been Price and Litherland’s habit for three years now, Price said. Even with over 90 years of experience between the two, each man says the exercise is important for keeping their skills well-honed.

Litherland began his chess journey at the age of 11, and has played an estimated 70,000 matches since then. Out of those matches, he credits himself with around 35,000 wins. Losing in chess, Litherland said, isn’t something to be afraid of.

“I once played a man for six years or about 10,000 games before I beat him,” Litherland said.

For the last 15 years, Litherland has sustained his hunger for competition purely through friendly matches and through the OBU chess club which he led until his retirement in 2016.

“The most challenging OBU opponent was former OBU international track student Alex from Zambia,” Litherland said. “I could only beat him about 10 percent of the time. He was an excellent chess player trained by Russians working overseas back home in Zambia.”

Price also began playing in his youth, inspired by the character Paladin from the late-50s TV show “Have Gun Will Travel.”

“It’s about a cowboy who goes and catches bad guys,” Price said. “And, his symbol is a black knight.”

Beginning in 1986, Price did a seven-year stint in Columbia as a missionary. While there, he discovered the Columbian people’s affinity for chess. He regularly went to chess clubs in the town of Cali to play and remembers Columbia having quite a few grandmasters.

“One day I got to play against the grandmaster in a simultaneous chess match,” Price said. “There were 24 of us playing against him, all at the same time, and I was the first one he beat, but it was fun.”

Now Price passes his time with Litherland and also visits a man in Norman every week. Both men, who Price said are ranked as “club players,” also welcome any students who are curious to challenge them to a game.

One student who has taken up the gauntlet this semester is junior biblical languages major Marshall Proctor.

Proctor became familiar with the rules of chess around 2nd grade, but seldom played. Thus far he has entered six matches with Litherland and Price, all of which he has lost. For him, it’s been a learning experience.

“He usually – at least Tony does – he’ll go back to whatever point that he felt mattered in the game, and then he’ll walk you through it,” Proctor said. “Like, ‘You did this wrong, and see the knight took that and that led to this.’ So, Tony will at least walk you through why you lost.”

In spite of the losing streak he’s on, Proctor still enjoys chess for the uniqueness of each game.

“It’s sort of like mental wrestling,” Proctor said. “You’re trying to think logically, think through all of your decisions, sort of microcosm of life, just trying to make sure that you don’t do something here that messes up something there.”

For Litherland, the meetings with Price are a nice dose of friendly competition.

“Currently…Brad Price is a very challenging player and I feel fortunate to beat him 50 percent of the time,” Litherland said. “Normally he wins more than I do.”

So, if you’re hungry for some mental competition, take a stroll to the GC on Tuesday or Thursday and have a seat with Litherland and Price. They’d be more than happy to indulge a budding chess player

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