Making the right movesJJ Foster fell asleep on the way home from his first chess tournament – in his car seat. That’s because he was only 5 years old. Now, at age 9 and in 3rd grade, he’s an old pro. And he has a room full of trophies to prove it.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
JJ Foster fell asleep on the way home from his first chess tournament – in his car seat. That’s because he was only 5 years old. Now, at age 9 and in 3rd grade, he’s an old pro. And he has a room full of trophies to prove it.
JJ, the son of Sean and Shelli-Kae Foster of Alexandria, took an interest in chess when he was 3 or 4 as he watched his older brother, Kagan, play. The boys’ father taught them both how to play, and Kagan, now 12, started entering tournaments.
When JJ was in kindergarten, he followed in his big brother’s footsteps. Kagan was entered in a tournament in St. Cloud and JJ wanted to play too.
“I had JJ with because Kagan was really into it,” Shelli-Kae explained of how JJ first got bit by the chess bug. “I threw JJ in his division so he had something to do. He ended up really enjoying it and sticking with it.”
JJ took home top kindergarten honors at that first competition. Then he got the traveling and trophy fever.
“I like going places and getting trophies. It’s like fun,” he said of why he likes the tournaments. And what does he like about chess?
“Winning,” he said with a grin.
“I had no expectation of him winning and he got first place in his category,” his mother added.
That was the start of a lengthy list of chess accolades for the young player (see related sidebar for the tournaments he has participated in this year). So far, he has amassed a shelf full of 18 trophies.
For practice, JJ plays chess almost daily with his dad, Kagan and brother Manford, 14.
“When I play Manford I usually win. When I play Kagan, he usually wins,” JJ said, adding that in the ongoing competition with his dad, he’s “dominating the series.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Sean teased.
To further hone his skills, JJ has attended two chess camps and plans to attend another one this summer. He also plays online with friends he has met at tournaments.
JJ is a member of the U.S. Chess Federation, which rates players according to their record. This can determine the division in which they are placed in certain tournaments, rather than just age.
At the National Junior High championship in Minneapolis in April, JJ competed against kids from all over the U.S. up to 8th grade. The 3rd grader earned 3rd place out of 169 players.
A boy of few words, along with the occasional “cool” and “awesome,” his reaction to adding a large trophy to his collection was, “Whoa!”
JJ’s chess success recently earned him the honor of being selected as the “3rd grade success story” for Alexandria School District 206. He attended the end-of-the-year district celebration and had to answer five questions about his success story.
Chess isn’t the only hobby that keeps JJ busy. He is also in soccer and loves to play football and hockey. His dedication to chess is simply because “it’s fun” and he “likes to win.” Although he’s passionate about chess and works hard, he has also developed a mature, realistic attitude about his love for what he knows is just a game.
“It’s not like my world is going to end if I don’t play.”
JJ Foster’s 3rd grade chess
• December 2009 – Winter open in St. Paul, 1st place, K-3 division;
• January 2010 – Frozen open in St. Paul, 3rd place, K-3 division;
• February 2010 – Grade level state championship, 1st place, grade 3;
• March 2010 – Pillager, 1st place, 4-6 division;
• March 2010 – Minnesota Scholastic, Minneapolis, 4th place, K-3 division;
• April 2010 – National Junior High Championship, Minneapolis, 3rd place, K-8 division, under 750 rank;
• April 2010 – Minnesota State Championship, Minneapolis, 4th place, K-3 division;
• May 2010 – Minnesota tournament of Champions, 5th place, K-3 division;
• May 2010 – National Elementary Championship, Atlanta, Georgia, 22nd place, K-3 under 800 division;
• May 2010 – National Elementary Blitz Championship, Atlanta, Georgia, 1st place, K-3 600-699 division.
Join a team, be a coach
If interested in being part of a local chess team, or being a coach, call Sean Foster at (320) 846-2232.