Chess champion finds kindred spirits with new club

10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Press-Enterprise

Chess lovers have a new home at the Riverside Public Library thanks to a Poly High School student, who also happens to be a nationally ranked chess competitor — No. 60 in his age group.

Sunil Deolalikar, 15, began playing in kindergarten. Just in time for his sixth birthday, he took second place in his age group at the National Elementary School Championships in Phoenix.

Riverside had a chess club for almost 40 years, but it disbanded in the 1990s, said the previous club director James Williamson. There hasn’t been another chess club in the area — until now.

“We wanted a place to play,” Sunil said.

Sunil grew up in Seattle, where chess clubs were common in elementary schools. His sister, Nisha, 17, began playing chess in second grade. She will represent California at the Susan Polgar National Invitational Tournament for Girls at Texas Tech on July 27-Aug. 1.

“I like that chess is so much more than a regular board game — other games you can memorize the strategy,” Nisha said. “You have to put your whole self into the game — it’s just you, the board and your opponent.”

The family moved to Riverside when Sunil was in fifth grade and found, to their dismay, that there were no scholastic chess tournaments in the area.

“When the kids moved here, they got to playing adult tournaments,” said Pama Deolalikar, Sunil and Nisha’s mother. To improve their national ratings, the children had to compete. So they began to compete with adults.

“I think chess has been good for my kids,” Deolalikar said. “The club meetings are open to everyone — all levels of play.”

David Call and his 7-year-old son, Jacob, saw the chess club mentioned in a newspaper and decided to check it out recently.

Here is the full article.

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