Aydin Turgut, a third-grader from Mount Zion, Ill., has made a name for himself nationally as one of the best chess players in his age group. | AP Photo/Herald & Review, Lisa Morrison
MOUNT ZION, Ill. — Without hesitation, Aydin Turgut already has his opponent in a panic as he moves his chess pieces into the perfect position.
Even as the opponent prepares his next move, Aydin seemingly has decided his next move — and several ones after that. And in a blink of an eye, Aydin smiles as he declares “checkmate!”
Not bad for an 8-year-old with a 9 p.m. bedtime.
Despite his age, the Mount Zion third-grader already has made a name for himself nationally as one of the best chess players in his age group.
He’s represented the United States in chess tournaments in Brazil and Slovenia, and earlier this month, he placed first among 800 in the kindergarten-to-third-grade class at the U.S. SuperNationals in Nashville. The victory qualifies Aydin to represent the United States later this year in the PanAmerican tournament in Brazil, the North American tournament in Canada and the World Youth tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
As he sits by his trophies, which tower over him, Aydin has a simple response for what drives him to play chess.
“I like to win,” he said.
Chess success seems to run in his family.
Aydin’s father, Tansel Turgut, is a correspondence chess grandmaster and has the highest rating in United States. He has been playing chess with his son for years and said he started to notice the potential at a very early age.
This potential was put on display in 2011, when Aydin went up against nearly 300 other competitors in the kindergarten-first-grade division in the United States Chess Federation National Elementary Championship and was named a national co-champion. Aydin went home with the trophy, though, because he played the tougher opponents.
“It was very important tournaments for him . all of these kids are very smart,” his father said.
Unlike many children, Aydin lives and breathes chess. Aside from tournaments, Aydin practices chess at least 10 hours a week and receives lessons from a coach in California. If he practices chess, Turgut said, his son gets to play video games on weekends, among other things.
“When he first started getting into Star Wars, I told him if he played chess and got better, he could watch it on the weekend,” Turgut said.
Turgut also told his son that if he won in Nashville, he could dump a bucket of ice on his head in a scene reminiscent of a Gatorade bath seen in professional sports.
And after the win, Turgut stood by his word as Aydin dumped the ice on his father’s head.
Aydin also stays sharp by going to weekly meetings of the Decatur Chess Club, where members see Aydin’s skills. What’s more, members say the 8-year-old is getting even better.
Josh Rohrscheib, co-president of the club, said he has seen Aydin become more aggressive in his play, as well as develop even better situational awareness for positioning.
But what sets Aydin apart is his drive to win, Rohrscheib said.
“(Aydin) has a mathematical mind; he handles the match like an adult,” he said. “Aydin has such a strong will to win; he refuses to lose.”