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This teen just became Arkansas' youngest state chess champ ever

William Donham brought home the state title to become the youngest winner in the state's history and he’s already got his sights on defending his title in 2023.

WHITE HALL, Ark. — Every Tuesday night you can find 16-year-old William Donham at the Little Rock Community Chess Club. He said this club is crucial to the chess community and helps bring the game to schools.

"A welcoming face to chess and really advocates for chess being in the schools and just kind of having a home for people," Donham said.

The 16-year-old White Hall native has loved the game since he started playing it back as a child in the 1st grade. 

"I think I was just kind of fascinated by it," he said. "It was a new game and I really liked it from the start."

That fascination is exactly why Donham travels down to Little Rock every week, all in the practice of working on his craft and developing into a better and more skilled player with every game. 

And despite the wins and losses, he describes the competitiveness of the game as one of the more appealing aspects of it. 

"Probably just the competitiveness. You love to win but it hurts to lose. When you come back from a loss it feels even better," Donham said.

Those competitive juices inspired William to enter tournaments. His eyes on the 2022 Arkansas State Championship.

"You can be 5 years old or 80 years old. The guy who usually wins is 70-years-old.,” Donham said.

He didn't let any age gap stop him either. Donham quickly proved he belonged, making it all the way to the final round. 

"Last match I was very afraid because it got very close at the end," he said. 

It was a match that included nearly 70 moves and lasted around 4 hours from start to finish. The entire time, Donham's heart was racing.

“I was on edge and the adrenaline was running,” he said.

Despite the intensity of the situation, the 16-year-old's patience proved to be the difference. 

“I was able to just hold the position and make it to where he couldn’t win,” he said.

Donham brought home the state title to become the youngest winner in the state's history, and now he’s already got his sights on defending his title in 2023.

"Retain the state title and get my rating above 2000," he said. 

If you're interested in attending chess club, they are located at the Mosaic Church - Little Rock 6221 Colonel Glenn Road Suite A. 

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