Persistence and perspective are the two words that come to mind when speaking to Robby Schetlick, the 2013-14 NSCF Middle School Grand Prix chess champion. Just a minute into our conversation and I can feel his excitement for chess.
“I first learned to play from my dad. There was a chess set in this hotel lobby and we started to play. Of course, he would always beat me. When we came home, my mom found out about a chess club that met at lunchtimes at my school. From there it just took off. I started reading books and playing online and then entering tournaments. I loved it.”
A few minutes further along and it’s clear Robby’s excitement is an enthusiasm for life as a whole. The high school freshman is up most mornings before dawn for rowing practice and competitions. He’s also a long distance cyclist and is sure to keep his grades up as well. High school is a time when most kids will cut back on chess because of their other commitments. Robby, however, continues to meet with the Bronxville Middle School chess club because the high school doesn’t have a club.
“There are a lot of good players (in high school) and we are trying to get something organized,” he said. “I try to let them know that they can make time for chess even if it’s not as much as they might have spent on it when they were younger. Chess is something that once you know, you can always come back to it, so even if it’s just an hour or two, you get the enjoyment and the mental challenge. And it’s something you can do for all your life.”
Robby played his first NSCF tournament in February 2011 and achieved a rating of 492. Two years later he had reached 1343. “I like playing in the tournaments and especially now that I am in Future Masters, there are a lot of great players so I am constantly challenged. I have also been to Nationals and there you get to play against the best kids in the country. It’s tough but it’s also fun.”
Robby attributes his growth in chess to group lessons at his school, self-study and to playing in tournaments. “I started in 5th grade and most of the other kids had been playing for several years. But back then I had a lot of extra time.”
Now that he is in high school, he has indeed found there are only so many hours in a week and something had to give. For Robby it was piano lessons. “For me I chose to keep my chess up but piano is another thing I can always come back to. I have the foundation and it’s still something I enjoy so I know I will have that for all my life too.”
I asked Robby how chess impacts his studies and the rest of his life. “I think the best thing is it has helped me to plan but then be able to change the plan when circumstances change.”
Robby’s chess goal for this year is to continue to improve. “Some day I’d like to be a titled player, like an IM or even a GM. But it’s going to take time. For now I just want to keep getting better at chess.”