The Chess Champ
Sheila Sarhangi
Honolulu Magazine / February 2010 / Our Geniuses

He’s 11 years old, weighs 76 pounds and he can kick your behind in chess with his eyes closed. In April 2009, Ford Nakagawa beat competitors in his age bracket to earn the title of United States Chess Federation 2009 national champion. (He’s actually co-champion since he shares the title with a kid from Massachusetts.) His parents taught him how to play when he was 8 years old, and, after roughly seven months, he entered his first tournament—a state scholastic championship in which he tied as the winner. He’s been the state champ or co-champ of his age group for three consecutive years since. “We don’t even try to play him anymore; we’re not even a challenge,” says his father, Bert, who adds that the game has helped Ford improve his concentration and schoolwork. So what does Ford think about when he’s knee-deep in a match? “Winning and the trophy,” he says, grinning.


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