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The Caw: John Urschel Is Down To Play Le'Veon Bell In Chess

Posted Jan 19, 2017

The Steelers running back made a video in which he went undercover to show off his chess skills, and says he made it to the Ohio state championship. Urschel is aspiring to be a grandmaster one day, and faced the best player in the country last May.

Ravens math whiz John Urschel got word from a bunch of his friends that Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell claims to be a pretty good chess player.

Yup, it’s time to take this whole Ravens-Steelers rivalry thing to another level.

Bell made a video with DraftKings in which he went undercover as “Professor Bell” to crash a meeting of the Pittsburgh Chess Club. Bell says he started playing chess when he was 13 years old and went to the Ohio state championship.

Well, Urschel would like to test his skills.

“I think it would be cool to play,” Urschel told me when I called to see if this is something we could really make happen.

“I didn’t know he was a big chess person. I like to play chess, so I figured I’d let him know that if he ever wanted to play, I’m down.”

It shouldn’t be all that hard to coordinate this offseason. Bell and Urschel don’t have to meet in person. They could play online, like on Chess With Friends.

“Maybe we can call it Chess With Acquaintances,” Urschel said with a chuckle. “That’s probably better than friends.”

Bell said in the video that he watches film of other chess players. Not sure if he was joking, but Urschel most definitely is not when he says he studies other chess players.

Between his offseason football training and preparing to return to his MIT doctoral program in applied mathematics, Urschel studies to try to model his game after Georg Meier, who he dubs “a young Ulf Andersson.” Yeah, I didn’t know who that was either.

“I just go through all of his games,” Urschel said of Meier. “I try to figure out, ‘What is he thinking? Why doesn’t he make this move? Why doesn’t he make that move?’  He has a very strong positional chess sense. He’s extremely accurate in his end game, which is something I aspire to be.”

Last May, Urschel took on Fabiano Caruana, who was the No. 3 player in the world and recognized as the US Chess Grandmaster of the Year. Urschel also battled 50 Baltimore kids at the same time.

So bring it on, Bell. That is after you’re done carrying the Steelers offense in the playoffs.

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