A Champion

Competition and AchievementAwesome Moments

There is one thing that every scholastic chess player dreams about. There is one thing every scholastic chess player wants.

Yet every year, less than two dozen scholastic chess players out of the thousands who show up get it. This wish is to be the winner at the National Scholastic Chess Championships. I am one of the few to be crowned with victory in this event.

It all started on Sunday, December 12, 2004. I was in Orlando, Florida, playing in the championships in the fifth grade section. I had five points out of five so far. I was on board two. On board one, another player named Christian Tanaka was facing someone with the same score, as I was facing Josh Dubin. My game was just beginning. The position was equal, and I was wondering what would happen.

My clock was ticking down. I started the game with two hours to make all of my moves. I had about an hour and a half left. Top level chess players find it easy to use up all of their time. I hardly noticed that mine was ticking down. Some games can last six hours. There are simply an extraordinary number of possibilities that a player sees and has to process.

This is what I love about chess. There are so many possibilities. Every game is different, and the complexity of strategy and tactics are amazing. There is a wonderful depth to the position. It isn’t what it seems. The player never knows if there is something that he or she isn’t seeing.

Suddenly I saw it. I focused and saw what would happen. It was a combination of moves that led to winning some pieces. I checked it several times to make sure. It worked. I carefully played it and won a slight advantage. There were trades on both sides. Finally, it simplified to a peculiar endgame. I was starting to think that my efforts had come to naught, for this endgame is extremely difficult to win. I was beginning to wonder what kind of tournament standing a draw would put me in.

Then he started to fall apart. I don’t know why. Sometimes if you get down material, your mentality changes from playing for a win to playing for a draw. I wasn’t really worried about that, though. I was trying to capitalize on my advantage. It was gradual over five moves, but I won with eight minutes left on my clock.

I was very excited. I had dreamed about winning this tournament for three years prior to this event. Since then, I had played in seven of these events besides this one. I had not won a single one. The best I had done was a tie for second, that spring. At that tournament, I had scored six out of seven points. Now, I had a perfect score. There was a real possibility that I might actually win.

But first I had to face Christian Tanaka, who had also won his game. We each had six points. A win would catapult the victor into first place. A draw would result in a two way tie for first, with six and a half points each. On board two, two other players were facing off. A win by one of them and a draw between me and Christian would result in a three way tie for first.

Christian had white. He played an opening that I knew, but he forced trades. He might have had an opportunity to gain an advantage, but he didn’t go for it. We just kept trading and trading and trading. Eventually there was just a king and pawns on each side. No more trades ensued, but the pawns dead locked each other. There was no way either side could win. We agreed to a draw.

I was so excited! I tied for first in a National Championship! My mood was not damaged when I found out that Christian’s opponents had done better than mine, resulting in his win of first place on tie breaks. I was a champion!

Zachary Young is 14 years old and lives in New York City. He attends Stuyvesant High School. He enjoys playing chess and studying history and math.

Like what you're reading?

Sign up for the KidSpirit newsletter!

Let's make sure you'll get the best content for you:

Thanks for Signing Up!

You'll receive the next issue of our newsletter in your inbox