University of Arizona junior Warren Harper is out to rock the world of chess.

The 19-year-old computer science major from Houston is headed to St. Louis to compete in the 2010 U.S. Junior Closed Chess Tournament. The competition runs today through July 19.

On the line are bragging rights and a $3,000 top prize. We caught up with Harper by phone in Houston:

Q. How long have you been playing?

A. “I didn’t start playing until I was 13 – older than a lot of people. What happened was, basically, I had quit baseball, and I was looking for something else to do. I had a $50 Best Buy gift card and saw a “Chess Master” computer game. I got that because there was nothing better. I just started out playing against that.”

Q. Any chance you’ll pursue chess as a career?

A. “I don’t think I’ll ever make it a career. I taught chess in high school. I enjoyed that more than anything else, and I teach at Sam Hughes Elementary School in Tucson. Most of the kids are in first through third grade.”

Q. Is it easy or tough to teach kids that age?

A. “Kind of easy. I’ve been teaching since the age of 14. I was just a year or two older than the people I was teaching. Some kids are discouraged that they’re lower-rated than other kids and stuff. I give them confidence and help them improve quickly.”

Q. What’s the longest match you’ve ever played?

A. “Six and a half hours. It was a draw.”

Q. How do you keep your head in a match for that long?

A. “You have to clear your mind. Walk around, look at other games. Think of something else other than chess. Otherwise, you get tired too easy and make mistakes.”

Q. Do chess strategies come to you in dreams?

A. “I don’t remember ever dreaming about chess, but when I was young and I would travel and sleep in hotels, my mom said I would call out chess moves in my sleep.”

Q. What do you want to do after graduation?

A. “Computer science. I’ve enjoyed programming, and I’m working on understanding mainframes, so that’s also possible. I hope to work for a big company – maybe as an outside contractor. I’d like to live in either Texas or Arizona.”

Q. What does chess do for you in life?

A. “I think it teaches you not to really worry about your mistakes, but make sure you learn from them and don’t repeat them.”

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or

To learn more about Warren, check out his bio