Kevin Low taught himself how to play chess before he turned four.
He was bored at preschool so his mother Vivien Lai introduced him to dinosaurs and board games.
“He learned too quick,” she said. “I say why don’t you learn something that I do not know, which is chess.”
Low could read at three so she directed him to chess websites and library books.
Fast-forward four years and Low has just returned from the prestigious North American Youth Chess Championship in Toronto. Entrants included children from the United States, Mexico, Haiti and Costa Rica. Low competed in the under-8 male category, placed third and was awarded the Candidate Master title. His game improved over last year when he was the National Grade 1 Champion.
Low, who’s entering Grade 3 at Dr. George M. Weir elementary in Killarney, says he plays chess a maximum of two hours a day.
“It’s fun to calculate things,” he said. “It’s good to train your brain, I guess.”
He began studying chess at what Maxim Doroshenko, owner and director of Vancouver Chess School, says is Metro Vancouver’s only full-time chess school last September.
Doroshenko, junior coordinator for the B.C. Chess Federation, says Low possesses a “brilliant” memory, a competitive spirit and learns from his mistakes.
“Kevin played with five players who would be in top 10 in the world according to their rating,” Doroshenko said. “It is even more amazing because U.S. players, they have much more practice, they have more tournaments, they have more coaches and we just started here.”
Low will compete at the World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates over Christmas.
“It’s kind of scary to me. I’m not sure if he’s ready but he told me, ‘Mommy, I’d like to go,’ so I will support him,” Lai said. “It’s actually kind of a pressure to me when I watch them play. You sit outside the room for four hours waiting to know what happened.”
Lai believes more B.C. children should learn chess.
“It’s a time for B.C. kids or kids at this age doing something more healthier [than] playing computer games,” she said. “There’s no communication when you play in computer games, but there’s a lot to do when you play chess. At least they can travel around and meet new friends and they can talk about chess all day long.”