Stuart simply paid attention to everything I would share with him in our first night briefing. We wish Stuart the best on his trip the World Youth Championship in Turkey.
R.I. chess whiz, 14, heading to world championships
01:00 AM EDT on Monday, October 19, 2009
BARRINGTON — Steven T. Finney remembers the day he knew he would never play chess with his son again.
The boy, Stuart, was 11 at the time. He sat across the table from his father, but with his back to the board. Steven had his son rattle off the first 15 or so moves for both black and white, “so at least I’d have a good position to start from,” Steven said.
Even with that head start, and his son playing with his back to the board for the rest of the game, the boy won handily.
“He very quickly went past me,” Steven said.
Now 14, Stuart has moved past a lot of players since then. Two weeks ago, he was in Mexico, where he won a gold medal — six wins, no losses, one draw — in the 14-and-under group at the North American Youth Championships. Next month, he’s off to Antalya on the Turkish coast, along with about 2,000 other young players, for the world youth championships. It’s gotten to where the Finneys are thinking of looking for sponsors.
Looking back, his parents said, the signs were there. At 2, Stuart was easily finishing complicated jigsaw puzzles. He got his first chess set at 5, Steven said. He took to it immediately. “It suited the way he thinks,” Steven said.
He won his first tournament game at 7.
“Schools started at 9, and it was always a struggle to get him out of bed,” Steven said. “But on Fridays, chess club was at 8, and he was up and raring to go.”
Stuart’s coach, David Griego, a senior master with 10 Rhode Island and 3 New England chess championships, said one of Stuart’s strengths is that, particularly for a 14-year-old, he as a very keen, analytical mind.
“He has a good combination of aggression and precision,” Griego said. “He’s not recklessly aggressive.”
Stuart, who also plays the piano like his sisters, Emma, 11, and Laura, 12, said his favorite part of the game is the middle, when pieces have been exchanged and the board has opened up, letting him be creative with his attacks. He said he felt the weakest part of his game was the opening.
“There’s a lot of memorization,” he said. “You make one mistake and you can lose the game from it.”
Griego and Stuart were in the Finney family basement Friday for a training session. Griego said sometimes they will replay one of Stuart’s tournament games, but at that session they were working on the opportunities and risks from a particular opening. White had pieces positioned in the center, ready to press an attack, but black had counter-attacking possibilities on the flanks.
They analyzed the position like the Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Tom Brady might go over game films. At times, their hands flew over the board almost simultaneously, playing out different scenarios from the position. They would switch off playing black and white, exploring whether black could pull off a goal-line stand if white pushed down the center or what might happen if black tried a “Hail Mary” attack at the deep left corner, at white’s castled king.
He’s extremely objective,” Griego said, “extremely objective. Sometimes he’ll win a game and say ‘I shouldn’t have won that game.’ You never hear players say that. It’s always ‘I was winning all along.’ ”
“All along, at his tournaments, one of the things I like is that he’s a gentleman,” said his mother, Irene. “He doesn’t get unduly upset. I get more upset than he does.”