The epic 1972 chess “match of the century” between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky was held in an indoor sports arena in Reykjavik, Iceland.
The slightly less epic chess match between Awonder Liang and a rumpled newspaper columnist was held last Wednesday in a second-grade classroom at Van Hise Elementary School.
The event was handicapped early by Seeger Gray, 7, who approached the columnist and said, “Did you know that Awonder has a trophy that’s taller than he is?”
Awonder Liang, also 7, a second-grader at Van Hise, has many chess trophies. He is arguably the best chess player his age in the United States. He won the national first-grade championship at a tournament in Dallas last December and has been invited by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) to participate in the World Youth Chess Championships next month in Greece.
He is also, by many accounts, a remarkably normal kid, quick to grin, humble. His first-grade teacher at Van Hise, Katie Mahr, said, “He was a delight and a privilege to have in class.”
Awonder’s father, Yingming Liang, came to Madison from China 28 years ago to attend UW-Madison. Most of his American friends know him as Will. He worked as a scientist for UW-Madison after graduating and 15 years ago started his own business in international trading.
Yingming and his wife and Awonder’s mother, Liangxing Huang, have three other children between the ages of 3 and 9. All the kids play chess and Adream, the oldest at 9, tied for 12th in the national second-grade tournament in Florida in 2008.
But it is Awonder who has been a wonder, almost since he played his first tournament at age 5 in 2008.
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