Rowan James wants to be a super grandmaster.
The seven-year-old Sooke resident has only been playing chess for about a year, but already seems to be making a name for himself in the chess community.
Rowan first learned to play chess when his older sister, Olivia, introduced him to the game last year.
“She showed him how the pieces move and he took to it,” says Miranda Aloma, Rowan’s mother.
Rowan had never played chess before that, but he did enjoy working on puzzles when he was younger.
“He was very good at doing puzzles,” Aloma says. “He had a mind for it.”
Rowan has played in competitions in Chicago, Toronto, and most recently, in Vancouver at the Canadian Youth Chess Championships.
He will also be competing at the 2012 Canadian Chess Open in Victoria this week (July 8 to 13).
Rowan’s chess skills have “shot up really quickly” in the time that he’s been playing, Aloma says, adding that he’s been dubbed the most promising new player by the Victoria Junior Chess Club, of which Rowan is a member.
The homeschooler spends several hours a day studying chess and watching tutorials online, his mom says, but he’s “just a regular kid.”
“He certainly has the passion and the love for the game,” she says. “It’s unusual to see someone love something this much, which is esoteric to me, but to him it’s just fabulous.”
Rowan has set big goals for himself, but he says, it will take 10 or 20 years to reach his ultimate goal of becoming a super grandmaster of chess.
“First, I want to be a chess expert, then a FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs) master, then a national master, then an international master, then a candidate master, then a grandmaster, and then a super grandmaster,” Rowan says.
In order to earn the title of super grandmaster, a player must stay in the top 10 of FIDE’s, also known as the World Chess Federation’s, rating list for a year.
“Everyone that’s coached (Rowan) says he’s got a lot of potential. He’s got a lot of big goals,” his mom says.
In late June, Rowan attended a week-long summer camp at the Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess in Lindsborg, Kansas. Campers learn how to improve their playing skills and take part in different tournaments and chess games, such as Blitz, Bughouse, and Ladder Climb.
Rowan came home with two trophies, winning first place for best overall performance at the camp, an award in Blitz, as well as “every single game” he played in, Aloma says.
Rowan excels in many different aspects of the game, according to his coach Andrew Ng.
“He is a very quick learner, and he hangs on to every word during our lessons, which is evidenced when I review the games that he plays,” 17-year-old Ng wrote in an email.
“He incorporates concepts that we cover together in many of his games, and he has improved significantly since we first met.”
New Jersey-based Ng meets with Rowan online once a week for an hour-long game of chess using an interactive chess board on chess.com, while also talking over Skype.
“In all of our lessons together, Rowan has been remarkably astute, intelligently processing every concept I’ve thrown at him and noticing potential strategies we haven’t even covered together yet,” Ng says.
“I can certainly say that at his age, I was not nearly as strong of a player.”
Ng also started playing chess at six years old. He’s been a professional chess coach for five years and is currently a national master with the United States Chess Federation.
Although Rowan is very young, he’s the most promising student Ng has had, Ng says, adding that Rowan has the most potential out of any young player he’s known.
Aloma adds, “He’s really passionate about chess,” adding that as long as Rowan wants to continue playing chess, she’ll continue to support his goals.
“As long as he continues with the same enthusiasm and passion, I believe, he has the potential to become a super grandmaster.”