Chess player Jared Schwartz attributes his proficiency in chess to “intense learning at an early age”. Pointing out that chess is its own language, Jared said, “Learning a language at 40 is hard where learning one at 6 is easier.”

The seventh grader at Solomon Schechter Upper School in Hartsdale said he first learned to play in a kindergarten class taught by Sunil Weeramantry, executive director of the NSCF. “I enjoyed playing with my friends even though I was losing most games.”

By first grade, Jared knew he could excel at chess. His class was taught by NSCF Instructor Jon Rigai, he participated in the after-school chess club and also joined the weekly NSCF chess club at the Girl Scout House in Scarsdale. He started playing in tournaments, initially just in the Saturday club and then in the NSCF Grand Prix. By second grade he had a rating of 1166 after winning first place at a tournament at Greenwich Country Day School (see picture at right). “When you first start playing in tournaments you can go up (in rating) pretty fast.” The next few tournaments weren’t so successful and he saw his rating drop substantially. “I was a little unhappy, but I still liked playing. Learning to lose is a hard thing sometimes. I remember one game (where) I was playing pretty well. I made a silly mistake and it was a hard loss. You have to just recognize it and move on.”

For 3rd and 4th grade, the after-school chess program was taught by Danny Rade. In 3rd grade, Jared took fourth place in the Westchester County Scholastic Chess Championship. The summer between 3rd and 4th grade, Jared attended a week-long chess camp with Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov, then, in 4th grade, he got a dedicated coach. George Alexopolous helped Jared increase from his rating of 832 at the end of the 3rd grade to 1278 at the end of 4th. He competed against many higher rated players from across the country in the USCF Grade Nationals in Orlando. And he finished second in the 4th grade section of the 2014-15 NSCF Grand Prix.

After George took a full-time job in New Jersey, Jared was again looking for a coach, this time signing on with NM Chris Welcome who helped Jared increase his rating to 1480 by the end of 5th grade. He won the 5th grade section of the 2015-16 Grand Prix.

In 6th grade, continuing to work with Chris, he found he was again having to teach himself how to handle losses. “I was demoted to the Championship section (for the NSCF Grand Prix tournaments) and was feeling a little bad. But then I won 4 out of 4 at my next tournament and was back (in Future Masters).” Again, Jared had chosen not to focus on the loss but to learn from the experience. That year he went to the New York State Scholastic Championships: “I beat a student rated over 1700 in round 4, which built my confidence quite a bit.”

Excelling in School

In addition to chess, Jared really enjoys geography. “In 6th grade, in the Geography Bee, I came second in the entire school.” Because geography is not taught as a dedicated subject, he said the age or grade of the student you are competing against doesn’t matter as much as in subjects where someone has been exposed to more information in their classes. “Just because someone has a year of school on you, it doesn’t matter. Chess is the same.” One thing he doesn’t do as well with is reading, where he says a lot of school reading is focused on fiction. “I like to read facts. I had a book about different countries. I wrote out all the countries in the world in order of population and then I tried to memorize them. I looked at the list a lot. When I had my mom ask me, I could recall the first 40 countries.”

Jared is an honors student in math and in his spare time likes to watch science videos. While he’d like to one day become a grandmaster, Jared says he doesn’t read chess books. “Mostly it’s just working with my coach and playing.”

Another passion for Jared is getting more chess instruction in Solomon Schechter and he’s enlisted his family to help lobby for that. The Schwartz family encouraged the school to offer chess as a middle school elective (again with the NSCF’s Chris Wellcome leading the class). Jared says the motivation is to increase the school’s understanding of the value of chess so it gets more support and becomes ingrained in the culture. “I don’t want chess to end at Solomon Schechter upon my graduation.”

With inspiring students like Jared promoting it, we are confident chess will continue to thrive at Solomon Schechter for many years to come.