Shen 8th grader is a statewide chess champion – The Daily Gazette
REXFORD — Adarsh Neti, an 8th grader in the Shenendehowa Central School District, found himself in a losing position. Doubt immediately crept in, and Neti began to negotiate with himself, thinking that he might be satisfied with taking second or third place in his division at the annual school championships chess tournament. New York State in 2022.
Quickly, he changed his perspective.
“When I’m in a weak position, the first thing I do is say, ‘OK, I’m not losing. Let’s just find out what my weaknesses are, what my counterattacks are,’ 13-year-old Neti said. It’s one of the ways for me not to feel like ‘oh, no, I’m lost, I’m never coming back from this. It’s my way of fighting that loser spirit.
And Neti actually fought that sense of loss. He took first place in the annual New York State Scholastic Championships, K-8 Under 1,600 division (rating), beating over 50 other players. The tournament was held in March in Saratoga Springs.
Three months later, Neti continues to rack up chess achievements – on Saturday, June 18, Neti finished second in the Open section (odds of 1,400+) of the monthly Right Move Chess Foundation tournament, which hosts players from New York City and Greater Capital District Areas.
Neti started playing chess in first grade. It was then that his sister, Medha, who is 4 years older, was introduced to chess at school and asked their father, Prabhakar Neti, to teach the children more about the game.
For no more than a year, Prabhakar, a professor of practical, electrical, computer and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was able to regularly beat his son.
Then things changed.
“I started getting better and better,” Adarsh Neti said. “He’s a very good coach, but after equaling his level, I felt like I couldn’t really improve anymore.”
Neti started playing online and studying chess theory. In his first Right Move tournament as a 7 or 8 year old, he scored three out of four possible points, meaning he won three games and lost one. He now has an International Chess Federation rating of 1,600. For context, the best player in the world has a rating of 2,864.
“My dad didn’t learn chess and get better at chess while he was teaching me. He was just playing with me for fun and teaching me at the same time,” Neti said. “When I started playing with other people, it was like I didn’t know why I lost, so I was analyzing positions more and started learning more tactics, and that really got me helped me improve in the game.”
Yet, even though Neti’s father couldn’t help him with the chess game, he was able to help him with the mental component.
Prabhakar said his philosophy was to give children lots of space. This meant sending Neti to tournaments alone, even when he was in elementary school. During a tournament in 2019, Neti led much of the way, but eventually finished in 68th place. Afterwards, he told his father that he withered under the pressure.
“Where I started contributing to his game was making him stronger emotionally, and in pressure situations, how do you deal with that?” Prabhakar said. “Be able to see the silver line in the darkest cloud, and shoot it anyway. I would ask very few questions. I would ask why it happened, and based on that, I had my own understanding of its fluctuations and its ability to manage these fluctuations.
Now Neti says he feels more resilient, whether during a game of chess or elsewhere in life.
“If I get a bad grade on the test, I won’t let that bring me down completely. I just tell myself to study harder and then try to focus on the points that I missed,” Neti said.
Overall, Neti said he was a strong student who thought he wanted to become an engineer like his father one day. But he also enjoys playing tennis and watching sports with his friends.
Neti says he will continue to play chess — he looks forward to joining the high school chess club in the fall — in part because of the analytical skills and creativity the game fosters. But also because he likes it.
“I plan to go as far as possible,” Neti said. “Even if I start to hurt and get past my peak, I’ll keep playing because it’s fun.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.
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