Friday, January 7, 2011

WRHS will miss Dexter Gannon

Dexter Gannon
Wood River High School students were saddened earlier this week by the death of  fellow chess player, Dexter Gannon.  He took his life early Friday morning  after leaving a friend's house and remained missing until his body was recovered Tuesday afternoon.  I realize that this has been an agonizing time for friends, families, and students that knew Dexter.
Dexter on far right
The WRHS Chess Club and its members decided to give the Gannon family a board with signatures and condolences rather than sending flowers.   The board also included signatures from other students and teachers that knew him and his family.  Students were very thoughtful and by the end of today the board was filled with over 50 signatures.  Nick Bruck, WRHS Co-President will be presenting the Gannons with our condolences at tomorrow's funeral.  Our feeling is that the family might keep the board, give it to his friends, or bury it with Dexter's remains.
Dexter playing Nick Bruck
Not many people realized the extent or the impact Dexter had with our chess club and my hope is to display his interest in the royal game and share some of his life with you.  Brad Thomas was a chess clubber and encouraged Johnny Dilley to come and play more formally with us.  Johnny was a good player that  relished a challenging game with lot's of smack-talk, where he could nonchalantly snatch opponent's pieces and then crush them psychologically.  Everyone wanted to beat Johnny, but rarely could.  Dexter, a close friend of Johnny and Brads came to club with them one day and quietly beat most everyone, including Johnny.  His was a quiet and very confident style.  Where Johnny would do homework or read a book while playing his opponent, Dexter would quietly stare at the board for long periods of time before making a respectable move.  Whether Dexter won or lost, he remained poised.
Johnny and Dex
During those years, Dexter was an iconic figure that all of my players wanted to be like.  The younger and more inexperienced players would try to emulate Dexter's game - King's Indian, however without the understanding.  He was admired, rivaled, and respected.  You would suppose a great combination for a chess player.
Dex at Scholastic Novice, 2006
His first tournament (and our club's) was the 2006 Scholastic Novice Championship.  Out of twenty-three competitors, Dexter earned 3rd place.  That particular tournament had Johnny Dilley winning 1st place.  Tournament play and the nuances of the game were new to me and our club.  I didn't really do much of anything for my players, but provided them a place to play, socialize, and have fun.  Dick Vandenburg encouraged me via e-mail to bring some kids to this tournament.  I remember the hazardous conditions with trucks overturned and travel at 30 mph (at most) on the ice covered roads.  We arrived at the tournament late but excited to see what would unfold.  Our equipment at the time were $3.00 chess sets from King's Department Store (the ones that would scatter if you breathed too heavily).
My most favorite Chess Picture (Can you say distracted?)
We set our sights on the 2006 Scholastic Championships and won a 2nd place team trophy.  I as well as the students were hooked on the game after that.  Dexter scored 3 pts. and was the highest scoring player on our team.  Everyone felt that it was because of Dexter that we surprisingly won something.  I think Dexter actually began to study chess after that tournament.  He was playing by his wits alone before that.  He consistently was the highest scoring player in all our tournaments afterwards.  He was our first WRHS Blitz Champion and WRHS Bughouse Champion (with Johnny Dilley) and is on our school plaque.
Dex, Johnny, Danny, and Kitt in-between rounds
Dex (as known by friends) is one of the reasons our club actually teaches chess.  Kids wanted to beat Dex and Johnny at club, so I had to learn how to teach them.  Danny Mills and Kitt Conner became their principal rivals.  They were sponges for chess information and soon became our best players, exceeding Johnny and Dex in ability.  Johnny Dilley was very helpful teaching and training other players.  And, Dex appreciated the attention.  Ironically, he would show players better moves, but if a student asked Dex to show them something, he would end up leaving that particular night early.   Even if I asked him to learn something or to teach the club something, he would flat out refuse to and then disappear for a few weeks only to return with new material, forcing us to learn more.   Dexter was a complex fellow.  He wanted a "hands off me" world and aspired to control his own destiny through his own auspices.
Dex wins first place in Christmas Blitzkrieg Tournament
I don't think Dexter ever really thought of himself as a player, however, as I would pressure him to come to tournaments.  Several times I had to drag him to a tournament.  "Where's Dex?"  I would call, wake him, and then ask Ms. Dilley to pick him up.  He would arrive with deranged hair, sit down at the boards, yawn, and then play a thoughtful game.  Again, I think he enjoyed the attention and appreciated the control.
Dex makes it to the endgame with NM Luke Vellotti
I wonder if Rice University has a chess club that Dexter could have participated in?  Sadly, I did not see Dexter after he graduated from WRHS and I suspect he moved away from a game that gave him focus and challenged him in ways that school could not.  At times, the world is as unforgiving as a chess game. More often, you can control your destiny as much as you can control the moves your opponent makes.  I am more convinced than ever, no matter how bad the blunder, never resign. Rest in peace.

Service is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 8, at 2:30 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum.

More Photos:

One of my laugh-attack pictures, so funny

The Heinous Ogden Hotel
Dex on far left

Xbox nights before a tourney???

These guys were always screwing with me


  1. Very nice eulogy. We will miss you Dex.

  2. Rest in Peace Dear Dex.

  3. This is a wonderful eulogy to Dex, a person I never knew but who seemed amazingly gifted. My thoughts are with his family and all those who knew him and loved him on the second anniversary of his passing. Thank you for this remembrance, Mr. Porth.


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