D.C. chess kids match wits with N.Y. masters

Fifteen-year-old chess master Justus Williams, from New York City, takes on 10-year-old Fredrick Parse, of Brent Elementary, in D.C. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — From pin to fork to skewer, some talented D.C. kids put their best pawns forward as they took on three young chess masters from New York City.

It was part of Chess Challenge in DC, a free program for kids which runs chess clubs in 18 District elementary schools. Executive director Suzy Hirsch says the kids were selected by their coaches to go up against three 15-year-old boys from the Big Apple, all three of whom became chess masters by the age of 13.

She says many of the kids in the program can identify with the three masters: “They don’t come from affluent families and they have learned chess well.” The young chess pros have traveled the United States and the world, playing the game that they love.

“It’s a really humbling experience for a bunch of kids to look up to us and want to play us,” said Justus Williams, one of the three masters.

Fellow master James Black says he hopes to teach the kids that “to want something, you have to work very hard and study and make sacrifices.”

Master Joshua Colas says his best advice to the young players was, “It doesn’t take a genius to play the game; all you just have to have is patience and just be humble.”

The three played 10 elementary kids at a time, going board to board until it was down to the last student. Fredrick Parse, 10, of Brent Elementary, hung in the longest last year; he says the key to success is “not making too many crazy moves.”

Eva Doones, 9, lasted only a few minutes: “He made moves that were really hard on me and I didn’t really know how to do it.” She wasn’t disappointed, though, and says she has learned a lot playing chess: “I’ve learned how to think things through and have patience.”

Damari Dean, 9, goes to DC Preparatory School, and said after he lost to one of the masters, “Well, he might have beat me, but it was nice to get to play the best people in the world.”

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