Colorado teenager wins chess championship just months after brain surgery

DENVER (KDVR) – A Colorado teenager became one of the youngest in state history to win the Blitz Chess Championship, beating dozens of adults for the top prize.

Blitz chess, or quick chess, requires players to complete all of their moves in just a few minutes. If your time is up before a winner is decided, you lose.

“In classical chess it can seem boring because it takes a long time,” said 17-year-old champion Griffin McConnell. “Blitz chess is just fun.”

Overcome struggles

But McConnell’s age is just the start of what makes his championship so amazing.

When he was 4 years old, his parents started to notice something was wrong and took him to a doctor.

“Mom said you just have to take a test, to see what’s going on, and I have epilepsy,” Griffin said.

Frequent seizures followed, with Griffin having multiple brain surgeries before his 10th birthday.

Griffin McConnell, teenager recovering from brain surgery, places 4th in Chess Championship (KDVR)

This includes a hemispherectomy, with doctors disconnecting one hemisphere from the other.

Her family say that at first it turned out to be a success. But around the age of 14, the seizures returned.

“It was just one seizure, after another seizure, after another,” said her father, Kevin McConnell. “It was bad.”

Griffin decided to have another brain surgery after noticing that his thinking ability was rapidly declining.

“The main reason was my thinking skills because chess is about thinking, it’s not a physical sport, it’s a mental sport, and my thinking was decreasing,” he said.

“Anything is possible if you work hard enough”

This operation took place in February, with the Colorado Blitz Championship scheduled for September.

Griffin went undefeated, beating his younger brother Sullivan to win the championship.

“I just kind of won,” Griffin said. “It was pretty amazing. I didn’t expect to win all of my games.

Griffin teaches chess at the Manning School in Golden and the Academia Sandoval in Denver.

He aims to be part of the US team at next year’s Chess Olympics for the Disabled in Russia.

He hopes to inspire other children, especially those with disabilities, to play sports.

“I don’t have half a brain, literally I can still do it,” he joked. “Anything is possible if you work hard enough at it and have this mindset that I’m going to do it, you’re going to do it, whatever your ability. “

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