Late start chess quest

By Dan Hindmand
Staff Writer

Junior Arun Nair at IHSA for chess
Junior Arun Nair at IHSA for chess

In any sport, a late-start can be disastrous. Imagine if a runner in the 100-meter dash exploded from his blocks, only to trip on an untied lace.  Or after the snap, the quarterback waits a fraction of a second too long for that perfect throw and winds up on the bottom of a pile of helmets and bodies.
Late-starts can be fatal.
Yet, junior Arun Nair, who placed fifth at state this year for chess, didn’t jump on the band-wagon until his sophomore year.
Until his second year at Prospect, Nair, who learned  how to play chess at eight years old, wasn’t a big figure on the chess scene. He would play tournaments at the Mount Prospect Public Library, but other than that, his chess career was quiet   At least until he heard about chess club on the announcements during his sophmore year. He figured it’d be fun and joined. That year, he came in seventh at state, losing his last match.
“You have to learn not to move quickly,” said chess club coach Don Barrett. “Learn to study the board, then move one piece.”
The big thing, according to Barrett, that separates chess from Prospect’s other sports is “if you lose its your fault.”
When you hit a grand slam and the wind blows it past the base line, you can put some blame on Mother Nature. When you lose in chess, you can’t whine that the wind smashed your queen with a rook.
Keeping that in mind, Nair has rocked the chess boards this year. For example, despite Prospect’s loss to Schaumburg in November, Nair was able to defeat his opponent by playing patiently from a weak position. Barrett says that in his senior year, Arun will probably be Prospect’s second best player.
“I’d love to see him play in the top 10 at state,” said Barrett, “but it gets harder as you move.”
However, the thing to keep in mind is how unpredictable chess can be. You’ve got to “watch out for crazy moves,” according to Nair. In chess, it is estimated that there are between 10^43 and 10^50 legal positions. One position can have between zero to 243 moves.
Barrett is in agreement, saying, “a game can turn on one move.”