Chandler boy, 7, competing to be world chess champion

By Weldon B. Johnson
 The Republic | 
Kevin Chor is, in many ways, a typical 7-year-old.

A recent visit to his parents’ Chandler home caught him raiding a bag of Halloween candy he’d collected through trick-or-treating, and he loves to play basketball, soccer and video games. Plus, he collects insects and scorpions.

But Kevin also has a fondness for exotic foods — a favorite meal is antelope — and he’s looking forward to a trip to the unlikely destination of Maribor, Slovenia.

Kevin happens to be the top-ranked second-grade chess player in the U.S., which is the reason he’s headed to Slovenia. Kevin will take part in the World Youth Chess Championship, which began Wednesday and runs through Nov. 19.

“I’m excited about going,” said Kevin, who’s a student in Chandler’s Academically Talented Students program at Knox Elementary School. “I haven’t been there before. I’m not nervous. OK, maybe a little bit nervous.”

Kevin and his father, Michael, left Phoenix on Friday to give him a chance to adjust to the time difference before tournament play begins. Once he gets started, he will face some of the best players in the world in the 8-and-younger age group. He’ll have to adjust to styles and techniques he may not have experienced.

But Kevin is confident of his abilities.

“I like winning,” he said. “I like working out strategy.”

Kevin’s rise in the world of competitive chess is astounding. He learned the game less than two years ago, and neither of his parents is a particularly skilled at it.

“At the level he is now, you really need a parent who is really good at chess to take you to the next level,” Michael Chor said. “It’s difficult to do that with a paid coach because they have other students they’re responsible for. So in (the tournaments) we’ve gone to, he’s always at a disadvantage because neither of us knows chess.”

In Slovenia, Kevin will get time with U.S. Chess Federation coaches. Beyond that the Chors will have to improvise.

“In between rounds, the parents are working their child hard in chess to prepare them for the next round or to do a post mortem on the games just played,” Michael Chor said. “For us, we don’t have that capability, so he’s going to go on the Internet and practice.”

Kevin learned the game shortly after his fifth birthday. He received a chess set as a present, but it sat on a shelf until one day he told his mother, Amy Ni, that he was bored. Ni opened the chess set and suggested they learn to play.

“There was a little instruction book that came with it that just told you how each piece moved. It didn’t get into any details or strategy or things like that,” Ni said. “I taught him the names of the pieces and how each one moved. He liked it, so we sent him to chess camp. 

That’s where he started to learn strategy. The coach at the chess camp really encouraged us to enter him in tournaments.”

His parents were skeptical at first. Michael Chor confides that he’d dreamed of his son playing in the NBA or on the PGA tour, but hadn’t really thought about chess.

However, Kevin did well in local and state tournaments, and at last year’s American Open Championship in Orange, Calif., he went undefeated in winning his age group.

“That’s when we found out he was a pretty good player,” Michael Chor said.


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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