Teenager a wizard of the chess world
By Billy Cox
Published: Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 7:18 p.m.
The kid who beat Bobby Fischer’s record to become the youngest grandmaster in the history of American chess warms slowly to strangers.
But put Ray Robson behind a chess board, and the shy Clearwater teenager who can see up to 20 chess moves into the future becomes an aggressive, tactical player in one of the world’s most difficult and brainy board games.
The home-schooled 10th-grader, who attained grandmaster status two weeks shy of his 15th birthday last October, put his developing reputation as a young prodigy to the test at a recent chess event in Hungary.
That’s where his showdown with one of the game’s old lions unfolded, along the banks of the Danube River in the town of Paks. Robson was the youngest and lowest-rated player ever invited to the invitation-only Gyorgy Marx Memorial tournament. His opponent — 58-year-old Dutch veteran Jan Timman, once hailed as “the best in the West” during the Cold War.
The stage was a school room with a busted air conditioner. They’d been matching wits for nearly five hours; both were exhausted. It was Robson’s ninth game in nearly as many days. They were headed for a draw.
Suddenly, Timman overplayed his position and attacked. Robson blocked for time until he could find the seam. Which he did. Quickly. He sealed off Timman’s escape routes and turned his advantage into a noose, which he tightened with each subsequent move. The game ended in short order and Robson was the victor.
But the Timman smackdown was not to be repeated. Robson lost his final game; in fact, the top junior player in Florida won just two of 10 games against his European elders.
“I really don’t like to lose, ever,” grouses the willowy teenager, still one month away from qualifying for a driver’s license.
That competitive restlessness — which began at age 3, during his family’s brief stay in Sarasota — has propelled him to venues as far-flung as Turkey, Iceland and Ecuador.
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