When he was only 4, young Atulya Shetty started playing chess.
Now 14, he has advanced in just 10 years to earn many chess honors, including three overseas trips to represent the United States including one in October to Greece.
It came about when the teachers who ran his preschool would play the ancient board game while youngsters were in recess. The students, Atulya included, began watching – and many learned to play the game.
“I was just playing for fun,” said Atulya, now 14, who recently graduated from Clague Middle School and will be a freshman this fall at Huron High School. What he remembers now about those early years was “that I couldn’t stop playing.”
This year, he is one of 57 students to qualify for the fall 2010 World Youth Chess Championship in Greece, where he will travel with his dad to participate in the U14 category representing the U.S. as a delegate for the United States Chess Federation. He is one of three Michigan youngsters who will participate.
This is not Atulya’s first foray into international chess competition: He also represented the United States at the WYCC in 2006 in the Republic of Georgia and in 2008 traveling to Vietnam.
His first big win in chess came in the 2002 National K-12 Chess Championships in Atlanta where he won first place in the first-grade section. There was no looking back. In 2007 and 2008, he was named to the All-American Chess Team. In addition to his trip to Greece this fall, he is also among the top eight players in the country to be invited this July to the 2010 USCF Cadet Championship in Tennessee.
So, what does Atulya like about the game?
“It gives me a challenge, always,” he said. “It gives me something to learn.” He said, despite his years of developing in the game, he studies his competitors, especially their opening chess moves. He said he plays with a “tactical style,” which allows him to win chess pieces more readily.
He suggests others try the game and pursue it if they like it. “If you enjoy it, keep playing,” he advised. “Then you can just start learning from it. I pretty much do it because it’s fun for me.”
As summer starts, Atulya said he will begin to prepare in earnest for the fall competition in Greece. He works online with a chess coach in India.
And, although he loves chess, Atulya said is not sure that it will be something he does professionally. “It’s hard to make a living at it,” he said. “Some people who do it teach to make money.”
In school, he loves the subject of math and also has participated over the years in other activities including basketball, soccer and baseball. He also plays percussion in the school band. He is the son of Sharat and Sujata Shetty and has an 11-year-old sister, Mira, who recently attended King Elementary and will be at Clague this fall.
(Editor’s note: The district received special parental permission to write about this student and his achievement.)
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