DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. - Nicolas de T. “Nico” Checa continued his prodigious climb in the chess world last weekend when he become the youngest player in history to win a New York State Chess Championship Title in upstate Albany.
Checa, an 11-year-old Dobbs Ferry Middle School sixth grader, outlasted his competition to become the youngest-ever New York State Champion in the 135-year history of the tournament.
"It has a lot of meaning for me," Checa said Tuesday. "It was one of the very first tournaments I ever played in. To be the State Champion is like a dream come true. During the tournament they have on display a huge trophy with the names of all the chess legends that have won it - Fischer, Capablanca, Nakamura, Benjamin."
According to the official state website, Checa took the $490 prize for taking the 2013 New York State Junior High Championship and also won the title of 2013 New York State Chess Champion for compiling the overall top score and a bonus prize of $100.
Checa, who won a national online chess tournament earlier this year, said he has become more patient during tournament play.
"I have changed a bit the way I approach the games," Checa said. "I no longer try to win the games early. I pay more attention to my opponents' mistakes. I try to be more patient with the pace of the game and the result. Having been invited to participate in the U.S. Chess Schools has helped me a great deal."
Checa's father and tournament companion Nicolas Checa said young Nico's youthful energy has been under control. He and Nico's sister Sofia are recreational players.
"Some times he can get a bit impatient, which can be counterproductive," Nicolas Checa said. "The typical game in the N.Y. State Championship could take up to five or six hours. If you don’t use the time, you don’t play your best and give your opponents an advantage."
Young Nico, who is also an avid soccer play, returned from his record-setting performance just in time to get back to school, which opened in Dobbs Ferry Tuesday.
"I want to make a contribution to my soccer team this fall and to my chess team - the U.S. Chess League New York Knights," he said. "In December, I will probably be playing for the U.S. team at the World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates.
And Dad sees a great future for his son, who has set high goals and achieved them.
"His ability to both have big dreams and work hard towards achieving them is a great strength," Nicolas Checa said. "His ability to study sets him apart. Be it chess, math, or soccer, he can get a lot done on his own with minimal guidance."
Winning the state title as a sixth grader has not completely sunk in yet.
"I cannot believe my name will be added to the (state championship trophy)," he said. "It still feels like a dream. Being the youngest person in 135 years to have won it tells me that it makes sense to continue to work hard and have big dreams."