The boy, Stuart, was 11 at the time. He sat across the table from his father, but with his back to the board. Steven had his son rattle off the first 15 or so moves for both black and white, “so at least I’d have a good position to start from,” Steven said.
Even with that head start, and his son playing with his back to the board for the rest of the game, the boy won handily.
“He very quickly went past me,” Steven said.
Now 14, Stuart has moved past a lot of players since then. Two weeks ago, he was in Mexico, where he won a gold medal — six wins, no losses, one draw — in the 14-and-under group at the North American Youth Championships. Next month, he’s off to Antalya on the Turkish coast, along with about 2,000 other young players, for the world youth championships. It’s gotten to where the Finneys are thinking of looking for sponsors.
Looking back, his parents said, the signs were there. At 2, Stuart was easily finishing complicated jigsaw puzzles. He got his first chess set at 5, Steven said. He took to it immediately. “It suited the way he thinks,” Steven said.
He won his first tournament game at 7.
“Schools started at 9, and it was always a struggle to get him out of bed,” Steven said. “But on Fridays, chess club was at 8, and he was up and raring to go.”
Stuart’s coach, David Griego, a senior master with 10 Rhode Island and 3 New England chess championships, said one of Stuart’s strengths is that, particularly for a 14-year-old, he as a very keen, analytical mind.
“He has a good combination of aggression and precision,” Griego said. “He’s not recklessly aggressive.”
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