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Champions Reunite in 15th Annual Holiday Swiss

By Bill Broich, NTD, IA

When Dan Houts was paired with Matt Carnahan in the second round of the 15th Annual Holiday Swiss held January 13th at the Holiday Inn in Des Moines, Iowa, it was a sweet homecoming for both players. Houts and Carnahan, friends for forty years, teammates, and chess adversaries, hadn’t played a competitive game of chess against each other since the 1980s. On this day it was Carnahan who came out on top.

The two grew up in Mitchellville, Iowa, a town with a population of 1670 in 1990, approximately twenty miles east of Des Moines. It was in Mitchellville when the two youngsters met in a chess club. Carnahan’s father, Steve Carnahan, a guidance counselor, and chess enthusiast at SE Polk School, started the Mitchellville Rookies Chess Club for the local kids in the mid-nineteen eighties. The club met at the Mitchellville Christian Church on Tuesday nights during school. The rest, as they say, is history.

Having grown up in Lake View, Iowa, I know the excitement created when kids from small-town Iowa take on the big schools. In the mid-nineteen seventies, the Lake View-Auburn girls basketball team won two State championships. In those days there was one class for girls’ basketball, and they played six-on-six. Lake View, with a population of 1,200, and Auburn, with a population of approximately 300, combined had 40-50 kids per class in the 1970s and they competed against the Des Moines schools that had at least 250 kids per class.

The Rookies would go on to compete against not only the best teams in Iowa but also completed against the best in the Midwest and eventually against the best teams in the country. A group of small-town Iowa kids took on the world! It had to have been exhilarating for the kids and the community. The elder Carnahan led the team of Mitchellville youngsters to accomplishments rarely matched. Team members, Andy Fells, Brandon Eastridge, Matt Carnahan, Cory Selby, Ryan Carnahan, Danny Houts, Jason Stoddard, and Harry Redman captured 1st place at the Mid-American Scholastic Team Championship in 1986. Dan and Matt graduated from SE Polk High School in 1993.

Houts recalled, “Some of my best childhood memories are road-tripping to many tournaments throughout the Midwest with the Carnahan family and all our teammates. Loading up in the station wagon and hitting the road. I have so much respect for Steve for etching chess into my life and putting up with us youngsters, we were a lot to handle but Steve did it elegantly, masterful!” Carnahan stated “Dan and I faced each other and traded wins in tournaments, including one state championship final. I won in 6th and 8th grade, and don't recall which year we faced each other in the finals. Pretty sure we played each other in both of those tournaments.”

Mitchellville Rookies Chess Club accomplishments

2nd place, Region VII Championships, Omaha, Nebraska, November 1985.

1st place, Mid-American Scholastic Chess Tournament, Lincoln, Nebraska, December 1986.

1st place Iowa Elementary Team Championships, 1987.

2nd place Iowa Junior High School Championships, 1987.

16th place National Elementary Championships, Terre Haute, Indiana, 1987.

The Des Moines Register, 27 May 1987, page 60.

Dan Houts and Matt Carnahan meet again. Photo by Bill Broich


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