Griffin started playing chess when he was just 4 years old – and it was love at first move. He rapidly learned the strategy behind the game, challenging his father in numerous games of chess. But at the age of 5, Griffin was diagnosed with epilepsy. In two short years, it went from being manageable to life threatening. With the goal of being seizure-free, Griffin had two brain surgeries to remove the portion of the brain with seizure activity. The surgeries failed to stop his seizures, but they did not fail to end Griffin’s love of playing chess.
One long year later, at the age of 8, Griffin underwent a left functional hemispherectomy, a surgical procedure that disconnected his left cerebral hemisphere so that the seizures originating there had nowhere to go. This disconnection caused Griffin to have permanent disabilities, both physical and cognitive. He needed intensive therapies for many years to help him learn how to talk, walk, and function with a "new" body and mind. Griffin was seizure-free for about six years.
Unfortunately, his seizures returned a year and a half ago and medication has not controlled them. As early as this March, Griffin will undergo a left hemispherotomy, a surgical procedure that will remove most (or all) of the remaining tissue from his diseased left side, to reduce or eliminate his seizures. Throughout all of the ups and downs of his epileptic journey, Griffin continued to play chess. Griffin is a former Colorado Scholastic State Chess Champion.
Now, Griffin has a new goal – becoming a chess master – and with laser-like focus, he spends 15-20 hours studying and competing in online tournaments each week. His recent accomplishments show that all this hard work pays off.
He placed third in the first and second FIDE World Youth Chess Championships for the Disabled, in 2017 and 2018. He was invited, as the sole player representing the United States, to compete in the first FIDE Confederation Cup for People with Disabilities in Ankara, Turkey, in 2019. Griffin helped Team Americas win a bronze medal and was the only player in the tournament to win all four of his games. He was selected, by the tournament directors and judges, as the best player in the tournament; at the age of 15, he was also the youngest. In December 2020, Griffin played Board 2 for Team USA in the first FIDE online Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities and helped the team to a Top 10 finish. He played against higher rated players in all seven rounds and, despite having several seizures while playing, won four of his games.
Team USA has been invited to compete in the first, in-person, FIDE Chess Olympiad for People with Disabilities in July 2021. This tournament will be held over the board and take place in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia (Covid permitting). We are raising money to cover the cost of food, lodging, and round trip airfare for each of the four team members, one alternate, the coach, and one caregiver per team member, if needed. If, because of Covid, this tournament is cancelled, then all money raised will go toward the costs of the 2022 Olympiad held in Moscow, Russia.
Thank you in advance for any and all support. You can follow any health updates about Griffin on our Facebook page Eagle Lion.
- Mirza Peljto
- Sinclair Toffa
- Christopher Cox
- Dennis Norman
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