The two princes of Idaho’s royal family of chess schemed and scrutinized to overthrow the other’s king in record time, Friday afternoon.
“He’s better than me,” Carl Harmon-Vellotti said of his younger brother, looking at him from across the chessboard. “And he’s only 13.”
Those of us with siblings know it takes a certain humility to admit our little brothers and sisters have surpassed us. Carl seemed to have developed that modesty a little earlier in life than most.
Then again, when it came to chess, he didn’t really have a choice.
“It’s sort of like a whole-family thing,” Carl said.
Not just sort of: Carl’s father holds the record for most wins all-time at the Idaho Scholastic Tournament, and Carl’s little brother is the best player and the only chess master in the state.
No black sheep himself, Carl won the state tournament last year.
“I’ve won it before,” he told us lackadaisically.
The 17-year-old champ said at one point he didn’t want to defend his crown. And it certainly wasn’t a game against yours truly that changed his mind.
“I’m a pretty logical person,” Carl said. “So, playing a logical game helps a lot.”
Carl defeated the author in about six moves. Beating hunger in Idaho won’t prove quite as easy, but, Friday, this chess champion believed he had a plan to put that growing problem in check.
“Some teachers here at the school: They’ve pledged like five cans per game,” Carl said.
Five cans for every game Carl won at the state tournament, Saturday. So, if he were to win all five of his games, those teachers would owe him 25 cans.
On the eve of the tournament, Carl had collected pledges for as many as 350 cans (assuming he wins all his games) from dozens of people.
One in six Idahoans doesn’t know from where their next meal will come. Carl’s chess-game pledge-drive probably won’t fix that, but the Idaho Food Bank said it would help.
“The need continues to grow for free emergency food,” Idaho Food Bank Vice President of Development Jenifer Johnson said.
If Carl does lose a game (it sounded like that would be a surprise), he planned to front the food wagered by those friends, family and supporters expecting him to win.
His only guarantee of success?
“I really will play my best,” Carl said.
He almost can’t help it. Chess runs in his blood.
To pledge to Carl’s cause shoot him an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call (208) 713-2486.