He’s quite small for his 12 years of age and barely speaks above a whisper when addressing strangers.
But at a chess board – albeit with a booster seat under him – the Foster City boy bullies adults twice his size into submission.
A week ago, Daniel won the World Youth Chess Championship in Antalya, Turkey, besting 160 opponents in 11 rounds for the under-12 boys’ division. (He qualified for his age group because he was under 12 as of Jan. 1.)
On Tuesday, he faced what might have been an even bigger challenge to the shy sixth grader – speaking publicly about his victory to an audience of more than 50 at San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Institute Library and Chess Club.
He quietly demonstrated how he won two of the games at the tournament, shuffling magnetized wooden chess pieces on a large board propped against a window in the club’s chess room while reciting the plays in a jumble of letters and numbers that are unintelligible to those unfamiliar with chess.
“The idea of this is to prepare F4, F5,” he said explaining a move from game 10 of the tournament.
Daniel entered the tournament as the 13th-ranked player internationally in his group. Girls play in separate divisions.
“I really didn’t think I had a chance,” he said, pausing before uttering the catchphrase of all great competitors. “I just did one game at a time.”
The win made Daniel a Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) Master, an international distinction coveted by competitive chess players – adults and children alike. Two months earlier, he earned master status with the United States Chess Federation.
While there are a number of chess phenoms across the country and the world, Daniel has the talent and dedication to land among the most elite players and claim the title of grandmaster, said one of his coaches, Michael Aigner.
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