Chess. It's considered the ultimate "thinking person's game." Just because it may not be as "flashy" as football or basketball, doesn't mean that it's not exciting to watch. Whether the game goes for 10 minutes or 6 hours, chess is one of those rare games that challenges the mind like no other.
Joshua Colas is just one example of an African-American chess whiz who can't get enough of the game. This trail-blazing teen has been racking up national championship awards since he took up the game at the tender age of 7. In 2011, Colas (along with Justus Williams and James Black Jr.) made history by EACH becoming a chess master BEFORE the age of 13. It's an accomplishment that less than 2% of the nearly 50,000 members of The U.S. Chess Federation EVER achieve; much less African-American kids. It's no wonder that these three boys have the chess world "buzzing."
In this interview, I chat with Guy Colas (Joshua's dad) to learn how chess has greatly benefitted his son as well as valuable tips on how to raise a chess champion.
A. Joshua was 7 when he started playing chess. I took him to Philadelphia to the biggest annual tournament in the U.S. (The World Open), where he saw many young kids playing chess. When we got back home, he told me he thought only adults played chess and that he wanted to learn how to play.
Q2. Describe Joshua's game: speed? tactical? both?
A. Joshua is one the fastest junior players in the nation. It is his strength and at times his weakness. He tends to calculate too quickly and sometimes forgets to double check his ideas. He is definitely a tactical player.
Q3. At what point did you know that this was going to be serious and how did you help Joshua advance his game?
A. About six months after he had learned the game, Joshua showed signs of a kid that had talent for the game. He was able to solve advanced tactical problems within seconds. I helped improve Joshua's game by repeatedly reviewing the basics of the game and making him solve puzzles.
A. It was an exciting moment because Josh knew that it was going to be something special to reach the status of chess master at 12; and it was something that we might not see again for many years to come.
Q5. How did all of the boys meet and do they still keep in touch? Is anybody aspiring to Grand Master status?
A. The boys met in various tournaments that were organized by Chess-In-The-Schools; that’s where Josh started playing rated tournaments. The boys definitely are still in touch though mainly through social media. Josh is definitely pursuing the GM title.
Q6. What have been the benefits of chess that you have observed in Joshua? How has he been able to maintain that interest given the allure of video games, cell phones, etc.?
A. For Joshua, the benefits of chess are that it has helped him to become disciplined about decision-making early in his life. Joshua tends to think first before taking any action because he’s learned from chess that there is a consequence for every move he makes.
Chess also helps keep him focused on doing something "positive" as compared to the many
other bad choices that society has to offer. The competitive aspect of chess is what keeps Joshua away from other games.
The pleasure that comes from playing chess can’t be described, the exhilaration starts even before the game starts and it builds up throughout the game. When you lose, you just want to come back for more and when you win, you feel smart.
A. Parents should start out with the fundamentals; then teach them a few openings for white and a few for black and let them play those openings for about a year. They should solve puzzles daily and I’d recommend they play on ICC (Internet Chess Club) to practice their openings. I also use Jerry Silman's books.
When your child loses a game during tournament play, don’t discourage him/her. Chess is a lifelong learning process and you can only learn from losing.
Q8. What are Joshua's future educational goals?
A. He has mentioned law and business but he hasn't settled on any specific field yet.
Q9. Chess, like so many other activities, can be expensive to maintain. Please talk a bit about sponsorship, The Joshua Colas Chess Fund and how people can help?
A. Joshua has been blessed by a gentleman named Ray Ainsworth, who has helped create a website for him where many generous individuals have helped sponsor him with his chess expenses. The Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) is also a main sponsor.
Joshua is very grateful for all of the financial support he has received from all of his sponsors. Without their help, he would not have been at the level he has reached now.
Q10. Is there anything else that you would like to share?
A. Joshua would like to become a Grand Master by the time he graduates from high school and write a book that will inspire every child to take up the game of chess.
To help Joshua Colas continue on the road towards Grand Master, visit his website at http://www.joshuacolas.com/ and consider making a donation.
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