With a title like grandmaster up for grabs, you know this isn’t casual chess.
Already an international master, Kansas chess champion Conrad Holt, 18, awaits word on whether he will be awarded the highest honor bestowed upon competitive chess players.
“It just sounds cool to say you’re a grandmaster,” said Holt, who is ranked No. 8 nationwide among junior chess players, according to July rankings posted on the U.S. Chess Federation’s website. He is the top-ranked player in Kansas.
“And you get a ‘GM’ in front of your name,” his mom, Rebecca Holt, added, laughing.
Later this month, Holt will travel to Athens, Greece, to receive the expected title and compete in his first World Junior Chess Championship. The tournament, for players under 20, will be held Aug. 1-16.
In March, Holt fulfilled the requirements to become a grandmaster-elect, after defeating a certain number of higher-ranked competitors. If his application is approved by the World Chess Federation in August, he will be one of a few U.S. chess players under 21 to earn the title in the past decade.
“We’re very proud of him,” Rebecca Holt said.
His dad, Keith Holt, introduced the game to Conrad at age 7. At 11, the boy played his first U.S. Chess Federation tournament. By then, Conrad was honing his chess skills by playing against opponents on the Internet.
“He was pretty young when he left us in the dust,” Rebecca Holt said.
At 15, Conrad tied for first place in his rating category at the 2008 World Chess Open, the world’s largest open-class tournament at the time.
Today, the World Chess Federation ranks Holt No. 33 among all active U.S. chess players, according to its website.
Holt graduated from Andover High School in 2011. He studies physics at the University of Texas-Dallas. His family lives in Wichita.
He competes in tournaments across the nation “to get the level of competition he needs,” Keith Holt said.
“He works very hard at everything he does,” he said, “whether it’s chess or school work.”
Rebecca Holt agreed.
“He just makes us proud over and over,” she said.
Will he ever stop playing chess?
“I guess if I ever got bored with it,” Holt said.
Next week, Holt will compete in his third U.S. Junior Closed Championship, an invitational tournament for the nation’s top players under 20. It’s July 10-15 in St. Louis.
The competition is old hat for the teen, who anticipates a win.
Last year, he tied for second place.
“No matter how bad you do, you always win a prize,” Holt said.
“The World Junior (games) will be more exciting. I’ve never been to Europe before.”