8-year-old chess prodigies take on school club Friendship | Allegany County

FRIENDSHIP — The eight-year-old Allegany twins, who are good at gambits, castling and chess and checkmate, traveled to Friendship Central School on Wednesday to compete against student members of the district’s chess club.

In addition to being the youngest in the room, Juliana and Sylvia Bysiek had the added challenge of playing six students each at the same time.

For their first simultaneous chess display, the two girls went undefeated, each winning their games against half of the club members present. The girls said they had a lot of fun, although they were nervous and thought some matches were difficult.

“I liked playing them all at once and I liked winning,” Sylvia said.

“I liked that I could win too,” added Juliana.

The twins, both home-schooled, are the children of Ed and Evelyn Bysiek of Allegany. The girls learned to play chess shortly after turning 4 when they received a double set of chess and checkers for Christmas. Ed Bysiek said he and his wife planned to teach checkers to the girls, but Sylvia and Juliana took a liking to chess pieces instead.

“I thought we had to show them how they moved, and very quickly they learned the rules of the game,” recalls their father. “And when they were still 4 years old, they entered their first tournament.”

In 2020, just before the pandemic, the twins began training in earnest and have been developing their skills as young champions ever since. Bysiek said after many in-person activities were shut down by the pandemic, chess became Juliana and Sylvia’s favorite recreational activity.

“They’ve trained pretty much every day, been to a lot of tournaments, and they’re both currently ranked among the top 50 girls in the country for their age,” he said. “Sylvia actually beat the 8-year-old No. 1 in the country in an online match this summer, so they’re pretty good.”

While competing online against children and adults, as well as playing a lot at home, Bysiek said the girls were introduced to a number of locals interested in chess and participated in clubs and tournaments. regions, including the Bradford Chess Club. As freshmen, the girls finished in the top 10 in the Pennsylvania Scholastic Chess Challenge after competing mostly against middle schoolers, their father said.

“I really like tournaments,” Juliana said. “I like playing people in real life.”

The twins have since played in more than a dozen tournaments, both in person and online, highlighted by a trip to the World Open in Philadelphia last year.

“There are hundreds of kids in this huge hotel ballroom competing at every level,” Bysiek said. “The best part is all the different families you meet from all over the country.”


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The Bysieks also connected with Friendship Chess Club Moderator Garry Reynolds, a United States Chess Federation master who was responsible for setting up the exhibit.

After a long disconnect due to COVID restrictions, the Chess Club was relaunched in January. Students in grades 3-12 are invited to participate every Wednesday after school. Reynolds said the district will host a regional tournament on April 23 for schools in Southwestern New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania.

“They were quite nervous coming in,” Bysiek said of Wednesday’s simultaneous exhibit. “Not knowing any of the kids, how good they would be or what the play would be like, it was a harrowing experience for them.”

There have been many simultaneous exhibitions of famous chess throughout the last century. Bobby Fischer, probably America’s most famous player, played in several in the years leading up to his 1972 world championship victory, including playing 50 opponents simultaneously in 1964.

Ed and Evelyn Bysiek are both educators and started homeschooling their children at the start of the pandemic. The change went so well that they continued with it even when schools returned to in-person instruction.

“It made it easier to add extra-curricular activities into the girls’ regular learning,” he explained. “Chess is a regular part of their curriculum, and they get lessons, do homework, and take tests similar to what they do for reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

Bysiek said chess is a game that teaches girls skills they can use for the rest of their lives – being able to multi-task, understanding that actions have consequences and doing your best. is always sufficient.

The twins’ favorite chess player is Ailen Mena, a female FIDE master from South America with whom they take lessons every week.

Juliana and Sylvia plan to compete in several local, state and national tournaments over the next few months, highlighted by another trip to Philadelphia for the World Open in late June.

“I trained a lot and started when I was 6,” Sylvia said. “I play at least two hours a day.”

Juliana said her biggest influence was her father. “He taught me how to play,” she says.

Although they still play matches against Bysiek almost every day, who usually wins now?

“Uh, us,” the twins said proudly.

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