Colorado teenager finishes 4th in state chess championship just weeks after brain surgery

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DENVER (KDVR) – The game of chess requires immense mental focus, with the best players in the world thinking of dozens of moves in the future.

It’s not a game one would typically consider playing just a few days after brain surgery, but 16-year-old Griffin McConnell is not your typical child.

The Golden, Colorado, teenager and former state chess champion has suffered from epilepsy since the age of six. Frequent seizures and constant headaches have recently become too much to handle.

“I thought the seizures were gone, then after the seizures returned, I was a little disappointed,” he says.

Her father Kevin says the family made the difficult decision to have a fourth brain surgery earlier this year.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough, they knew that probably meant Griffin wouldn’t be playing in this year’s State Championship.

“We had told him before that there was no way you were playing the state, and he was like ‘I get it, I get it’,” Kevin said.

But when Griffin got home from the hospital last Thursday, he told his parents he wanted to play. After seeing him play in an online tournament, they agreed to let him participate, along with his 14-year-old brother Sullivan.

Griffin finished fourth on Saturday night, while his brother Sullivan finished fifth.

“He had in mind that he was going to play in this tournament, and your mind is amazing, it’s more amazing than your body,” said Colorado State Chess Association president Brad Lundstrom. “He’s so positive, inspiring, kind and funny, that it makes you cry to get to know him.”

Lindstrom says Griffin’s performance was even more astonishing, considering the trauma to his brain and body over the past few months.

“You would probably get slaughtered by these kids,” Lundstrom jokes. “We have young players who are very, very good. “

Griffin hasn’t had a seizure since his last surgery and hopes to someday teach chess.

“I want to help people and I want to inspire people, so I want to be a chess coach,” Griffin said.

For his parents, seeing him play was a victory in itself.

“The victory is that he’s home, healthy and pain free,” his father said. “It’s incredible.”


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