Advait Patel, 9, plays his dad in chess at the Subway restaurant in Logan, which his family manages. Advait won the National Elementary Chess Championship in Nashville earlier this month.
LOGAN, W.Va. -- Coach David Saville says the best skill to have as a chess player is the ability to "visualize the future" -- like the time his student, 9-year-old Advait Patel, promised his mom the National Elementary Chess Championship trophy for Mother's Day.
"My sister had made her a nice present, so I told her I'd win that trophy for her as a gift. It started just as a joke," said Advait, a fifth-grader at Logan Middle School.
It ended up as no joke. Advait took first place at the competition in Nashville over Mother's Day weekend, beating more than 2,200 students from across the country -- and snagging the gift he'd promised his mom.
Advait also received second place at the Queen City Classic in Cincinnati earlier this month, outscoring more than 800 kids.
His next goal is to reach expert level by his 10th birthday at the end of August -- then, to become world champion.
With the progress he's made in two years -- progress most people don't make in a lifetime -- that's not farfetched, Saville said.
"There is no doubt in my mind he will be one of the best players in the world one day," said Saville, 54, currently the second-ranked chess player in the state.
He said Advait has a natural talent to calculate and memorize moves, making his skills "computer-like."
"It's amazing for a 9-year-old to actually calculate his progression and compare it to the competition to see how he needs to improve. You can't get him unfocused," Saville said. "I have to come up with creative ways to test him now just so he can learn. He pushes me so hard to become better."
Advait learned how to play chess from his grandfather in India, and said more kids his age should pick up the game.
"It's fun to play, and there's no brawl in it -- no fighting physically," Advait said. "It helps me with school, too.
"Math is a lot easier now. I've had straight A's ever since I started playing, because it teaches you how to focus. There is a lot of thinking in chess."
Saville hopes more local schools create chess clubs because of the game's mental and intellectual benefits.
"Chess is like life -- you have to act like a businessman and understand that all values aren't the same, but you can learn to control it. It's a science, and you need to calculate things in order to predict results. It also improves creativity and is a form of communication, and you need to be a good communicator to succeed in life," he said. "It really sharpens the mind, no matter what field you're in."
Saville said that, in addition to his natural talents, Advait has another secret to his success: supportive parents.
The Patels have traveled across the country to support his aspirations. This weekend, they were headed to a competition in South Carolina.
His collection of trophies can be seen on display at the Subway restaurant in Logan that his parents manage. A computer has been installed in the back so that Advait can log on to the International Chess Club after school to compete with users worldwide.
"The first time he won a competition, we thought maybe it was a fluke, but we soon realized how serious he was and how much the game meant to him," said Advait's father, Rupal Patel. "We can't afford to put him in traditional, proper classes, but he reads books about tactics and watches videos online to learn. He wants to be great, and we do what we can to help him."
Advait's dedication is nothing new to the family. His mother, Ruhi Patel, spent most of her life as a professional dancer, winning international dance competitions.
"If you do something, you do it right. You don't do it halfway. That's what we believe," Rupal Patel said. "If you pick up a sport or an art, you put everything you have into it and you excel in it. What is most important, though, is that he loves the game -- he loves the challenge."
While Advait says he has much further to go, all of the hard work has already paid off for his mother.
"People are starting to recognize him at competitions. They say, 'Oh, Advait, we've been keeping track of your record, you're doing so well,'" she said. "He tried to start a chess club when he was in the third grade, and there wasn't a lot of interest, so it's nice for him to be recognized by people like him who enjoy the same sport."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5100.