Printer Friendly

Chess mates forever; Young brothers find bond in success.

Byline: Miranda Jonswold

SHREWSBURY - Brothers Grant Xu, 11, and Albert Yiming Xu, 8, took their seats at their respective chess tables and set their clocks. Their opponents did the same. Several minutes passed. Grant and Albert sat in deep concentration before finally moving: Checkmate.

Grant and Albert recently competed in the 78th Massachusetts Open in Boxboro, the state chess championship sponsored by the Massachusetts Chess Association.

Grant competed in the blitz tournament, winning second place and the top Under 2000 prize. Albert swept first place out of 32 players with a score of 4-0 in the K-3 Under 600 section. The section numbers refer to a player's rating.

It was not the first time this has happened.

Grant, a fifth grader at Sherwood Middle School, has been playing the game for two years and has won 11 trophies; all are set carefully in a circle on a table.

When the family lived in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a couple years ago, a friend of Grant's introduced him to the game, said Ying Chen, the boys' mother. He lost several games before he took out books from the library to study chess more closely. His parents do not play, so he taught himself. He soon turned the tables and started beating his friend at the game.

"He didn't like to play with me any more," Grant said.

Grant joined the United States Chess Federation and started competing in Ohio tournaments. Now he competes once or twice a month when his schedule allows.

But chess is only part of Grant and Albert's lives.

"There's church on Friday and Sunday, (soccer) practice Monday and Tuesday, violin, tennis on Wednesday..." Grant said.

Oh, and they also have school.

Grant's next tournament is at the Boylston Chess Club next weekend.

Albert's next tournament will be when he's up to it. He's still young, Mrs. Chen said.

But whether they go to tournaments twice a month or twice a year, every game counts.

Grant and Albert, as well as other United States Chess Federation players, are rated based on their results in tournament play. The value reflects a player's relative strength. The more wins a player has, the more rating points that player will receive.

Grant's rating is 1847. Currently, this makes him the highest rated 11-year-old member of the Massachusetts Chess Association.

Chess "makes me think," Grant said. "When I go to competitions I make new friends. It's just a fun game."

It wasn't long before Grant introduced Albert, a third grader at Floral Street School, to chess.

"I started when I was 6," Albert said, before pointing to Grant. "I think I learned from him."

Albert has two trophies, including the one from the Massachusetts Open. He is currently rated 289 in the Under 600 section.Grant and Albert are among 100 to 350 members up to high school age who participate in about a dozen scholastic tournaments a year sponsored by the Massachusetts Chess Association. Aside from winning, they benefit from the intellectual stimulation of the game, said Maryanne Reilly, president, scholastic coordinator and committee chairman for the Massachusetts Chess Association.

"A lot of kids who are not being stimulated as much as they could be in school find a great intellectual challenge with chess," she said. "They really just get involved deeply with it, and it grows generally until high school."

According to Mike Nolan of the United States Chess Federation, the most active players are 10-year-olds, followed by 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds, 9-year-olds and 8-year-olds; Albert and Grant are at their prime.

Some start as young as 5 or 6, Ms. Reilly said. When children approach high school, schoolwork tends to overwhelm their schedules.

This year, nearly 400 people signed up for the Massachusetts Chess Association junior membership. Just less than a decade ago it was 275; the high point was in 2003 when it rose to 520 members, according to Bob Messenger, Massachusetts Chess Association membership secretary.

"There have been studies done that have really indicated that chess improves reasoning skills, spatial awareness and, interestingly, increased performance on standardized testing," Ms. Reilly said.

Studies - including Johan Christiaen's observations in 1975 over a year of a fifth grade class playing chess - have found that chess improves cognitive development, creativity, logical and critical thinking, self-esteem and social skills, among other things.

"You learn from your mistakes," Grant said. "You can concentrate better and it teaches you a lot of qualities you need to be successful and do well in your schoolwork."

To further improve his skills, he practices on Internet Chess Club for an hour a day with another real life opponent. If he's not on the Internet, he plays in front of the chess board by himself. He gives each side about five minutes. He meets with his coach, Grandmaster Larry Christiansen, 52, of Cambridge twice a month. Mr. Christiansen is a three-time winner of the United States Championship.

Grant plays the role of coach with Albert at home. "He helps me and goes over my mistakes," Albert said.

Although chess already demands patience, teaching others brings it to a different level. "It's sometimes frustrating when I teach him," Grant said. "I have to explain everything to him."

Along with patience, chess tests a child's ability to handle defeat.

"It teaches them how to lose and win gracefully," Ms. Reilly said. Children have to be able to lose. Many tears have been shed at the chess board.

"I have to hand it to these to kids," Ms. Reilly said. "It's very tough and they're very brave to take on this game."


CUTLINE: Shrewsbury brothers Albert Yiming Xu, 8, left, and Grant Xu, 11, are shown with their chess board and a few of the many trophies they have won for their chess prowess.

COPYRIGHT 2009 Worcester Telegram & Gazette
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 14, 2009
Previous Article:3 area schools named to top list; Newsweek cites AP students.
Next Article:Family left with a paid-for mess; Botched remodeling job rankles.

Related Articles
CHECK IT OUT; Junior chess competition is far from child's play.
BEST BROTHER AND SON EVER; Friends and family pay tribute to tragic Philip killed by Garda car.
Dig those moves, it's street-wise.
Checkout our tutor!
Unbeaten Tissir bags chess title.
Saudi Newspapers comment on local, Arab, International Issues.
Freida Pinto could be next Bond girl.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |