The Missouri Bicentennial Chessboard is a life-sized granite chessboard at Deborah Cooper Park on Adrian’s Island in Jefferson City, Missouri, depicting some of the Show-Me State’s most significant people and historical moments. Spearheaded by Saint Louis Chess Campus’ Co-Founder, U.S. Chess Hall of Fame Inductee, and Scout Leader Dr. Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield, the chessboard is on permanent, public display for everyone to enjoy.
In 2020, I became part of the Missouri Bicentennial Commission, which Governor Mike Parson created in a 2018 Executive Order. Carrie Tergin, the Jefferson City Mayor and Co-Chair of the Missouri Bicentennial Commission, wanted to build a bridge at Deborah Cooper Park to Adrian’s Island to develop the land into a public park. I suggested adding a life-size chessboard to allow students to learn about the state’s history while enjoying themselves outdoors.
The project was unanimously approved. I worked with Dr. Michael Sweeney and the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO) to select 32 images to be engraved on the Missouri Bicentennial Chessboard, representing Missourians' contributions made in varied fields, including agriculture, music, literature, and sports. The chessboard also celebrates significant historical moments and personalities from the state’s history, including President Harry S. Truman, Dred and Harriet Scott’s courageous efforts to gain their freedom, and the innovations of George Washington Carver. Each image appears in the brochure, designed, funded, and produced by the staff at the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Saint Louis Chess Club, and accompanied by information written by the SHSMO team.
The Missouri Bicentennial Chessboard also features key contributions from young Missourians. Andrew Dowden, a member of Troop 6 in Jefferson City, engraved the squares on the chessboard as his service project to become an Eagle Scout. He created them using an Epilog laser engraver from the Sinquefield Invention Lab at the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation. The Lab has the mission to facilitate hands-on education and the invention of new ideas and technologies while utilizing problem-solving skills, creativity, and imagination in a team environment. It features many tools to foster creativity, including 3D printers and laser engravers. Dowden created the granite chessboard, which required a concrete base, and installed each of the squares with the help of Scouts and Scouters. Maya Thomas, a member of Troop 242 in Columbia, created the benches surrounding the board from 200-year-old Missouri oak wood as part of her Eagle Scout project.
In addition, the Missouri Bicentennial Chessboard is a nod to the Show Me State’s rich chess history. Saint Louis was one of three American cities to host the first World Chess Championship, held in 1886 between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort. Today, the Saint Louis Chess Campus, which comprises the Saint Louis Chess Club and the World Chess Hall of Fame, brings the best American players to Saint Louis for national championships and the strongest players from around the world for tournaments like the Sinquefield Cup and Cairns Cup. Their efforts have also led the United States Congress to declare Saint Louis the nation’s chess capital in 2014.
On August 9, 2021, the day before people around the state celebrated Missouri’s bicentennial, I announced plans for the Missouri Bicentennial Chessboard at a celebration on Adrian’s Island. Later, on May 1, 2022, the chessboard was unveiled during a beautiful ceremony attended by more than 150 Scout enthusiasts, chess grandmasters, Saint Louis Chess Campus colleagues, and my family. The program included dedications by Mike Parson, Governor of Missouri, Carrie Tergin, Jefferson City Mayor and Missouri Bicentennial Commission Co-Chair, and Shannon Bailey, Chief Curator at the World Chess Hall of Fame.
Attendees played a live game on the chessboard, including special guests First Lady Teresa Parson and GM Alejandro Ramírez, coach of the Saint Louis University Chess Team. Contributors also enjoyed commemorative, limited-edition Chessboard replicas, keepsake plates, and collectible coins from the World Chess Hall of Fame’s award-winning gift shop, Q Boutique.
I am proud to be a part of this project that combines two of my family’s passions: the Scouts BSA and chess. I hope this chessboard will offer Missourians entertainment and education for many years.
To view the entire Flickr album for Missouri Bicentennial Chess Board Unveiling click here!
To downlad a printable brochure click here!
To download a printable Missouri Bicentennial Chessboard Educator Packet click here!
7/28/2022: Scouting Magazine — Checkmate! Eagle Scout’s chess project a win with community
8/9/2021: Missouri Times — Missouri officials dedicate Bicentennial Bridge
8/8/2021: Fulton Sun — Statewide efforts culminate in bicentennial events
8/7/2021: News Tribune — Statewide efforts culminate in bicentennial events
8/7/2021: Columbia Missourian — Aug. 6-10 bicentennial schedule
8/6/2021: Lake Gazette — Aug. 6-10 bicentennial schedule
8/3/2021: Columbia Missourian — Show-Me 200 years: Join the state's bicentennial celebration
8/3/2021: Missouri Times — Capital city to host bicentennial celebration next week