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Davis Journal

Chess player named best in state

Nov 29, 2021 01:15PM ● By Becky Ginos

Kelen Gold plays under COVID rules in 2021. Gold represented Utah in the national competition and tied for 13th.

CENTERVILLE—Kelen Gold has been playing chess since he was in kindergarten and it’s paid off. The Stewart Elementary sixth grader was recently named the best elementary school chess player in Utah at the Rockefeller Chess Tournament. He went on to represent the state in New Jersey and tied for 13th against 50 other players.

“It was mostly my dad who started teaching me,” said Gold. “Over time I liked it more and more and started practicing every day.”

Gold said the thing he likes best about competing is playing against a lot of people. “It’s always a different game. It’s never the same. You have to stay focused because you have to stay at the board for a long time.”

Stewart Elementary is one of the top ranked public schools in the state, said Steve Butler who coaches the chess program at the school. “To be able to reach that level you have to have supportive parents and a good program. It’s just been fun to see a lot of growth and understanding of chess.”

Kelen started in kindergarten and played really well, said Butler. “Starting in first grade he was the top student in the state every year.”

Butler has been at Stewart for 20 years and started playing chess in high school. “I watched Bobby Fisher in 1971 and got involved then,” he said. “I would play my dad. He was a really good chess player and taught me the game.”

It’s a great way for kids that don’t get a lot of recognition in other ways to be able to get it in chess, said Butler. “Kids might not be strong academically but they might be good at seeing the patterns in chess. It’s a combination of the left brain and right brain. Just because you’re academically smart doesn’t mean you’ll do well.”

It takes hard work to be where he’s at, said Gold’s father Jason. “He’s probably put in 1,000 hours and played in a lot of tournaments out of state.”

Jason said the thing he likes about chess is players have to be focused. “It’s really easy to get distracted in today’s culture. There are no phones or electronics allowed in the game. You have to focus, there’s no luck involved. It takes mental toughness to play one on one.”

Chess builds a strong work ethnic, he said. “It helps you to improve and apply it to other things in life. For me that’s the beauty of chess. I love it.”

“Every game I want to win,” said Kelen. “It’s fun. But if you don’t have the patience it’s probably not the sport for you.”