MIDWEST CITY — Advait Patel might be the best young chess player in all of Oklahoma, and at just 11 years old, he’s only going to get better.
His family recently moved to Oklahoma from West Virginia. He brings with him a No. 2 ranking nationally in his age group. He has held that ranking for about six months. He is a three-time elementary school national champion and recently won the Oklahoma Chess Association state championship.
His interest in chess was piqued during a visit to India when he was 7. He spent two months playing the game with his grandfather.
“There wasn’t much else to do,” Patel said.
He has played the No. 1-ranked player three times, with each game ending in a draw. The most recent game was last month in New York.
Before tournaments, Patel spends hours studying opponents online. He learns their preferred strategies and studies their tendencies. It’s not unlike the way a football coach would prepare for an opposing team.
“There are definitely styles I like to play,” Patel said. “One of the guys I’ve beaten — he likes to play theoretical, so I played something that took him out of his comfort zone, and he didn’t know how to respond. Book moves are easy to play against, but when someone is aggressive or quiet, you just have to play.”
Summer is fun for Patel. There’s no school, and he can spend hours playing online. He will be in eighth grade in the fall, having skipped third grade. And despite being the youngest person in his school, he has fit in.
“People treat me like they would any other kid,” he said. “I’m treated the same.”
The family attends 30 to 40 tournaments per year. They hope to travel to South Africa in the fall for the world championships. His mother, Ruhi Patel, and father, Rupal, are supportive of their son’s pastime — even if it means their son regularly dominates them in chess.
“I’m an OK player, but I’m not ranked,” Rupal Patel said. “So when he first started playing, I played the game of my life and beat him. And then he was so angry, he thoroughly crushed me for five games and then when he was satisfied he had put dad in his place, he went to sleep.”
The thought process in chess is something every child should be exposed to, Ruhi Patel said.
“It’s good that he is so passionate about it,” she said. “A lot of kids start playing at an early age and they quit because they get interested in something else, or they don’t like the time it takes. But I think it should be promoted in schools. It really helps academically. Even if they don’t become a great player, it helps in so many areas.”
Advait’s goal is to become a grand master. He is years away from achieving that, but given what he has achieved, it seems well within the realm of possibility.
“I love doing things that are competitive, and it’s something I know I want to continue to do,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn before I achieve what I would like to.”