Huron student to put chess skills to the test at fundraising event Saturday
At just 4 years old, Atulya Shetty started playing chess — and was winning from the very start.
During his time at Gretchen’s House, a local childcare center, he watched two of the teachers play chess during recess and learned the game from them. Within no time, he was going to a chess club and taking on all comers.
Ten years later, he’s returning to Gretchen’s House, 1580 Dhu Varren Road, to raise money for a trip to Greece this fall for the World Youth Chess Championships. Atulya, a 14-year-old freshman at Huron High School and Michigan’s youngest chess master, will be playing 20 to 30 people simultaneously.
Photo courtesy of Sharat Shetty
“It’s usually a big challenge,” he said. “You have to be focused on every single game at once, thinking one thing in one game and have a different idea in another. You’re switching mindsets constantly from one game to the next.”
The cost to participate in the event is $15. Atulya’s father,Â Sharat Shetty, said this would be the third exhibition his son has performed, never losing a match. The fundraisers usually generate between $300 and $400 for trips to tournaments.
Shetty said he’s amazed how far his son has progressed from the time when Atulya was kneeling on chairs during games to reach across the playing board. Shetty said he knew his son was good but he didn’t know how he would stack up against other players until his son finished second in nationals when he was five.
“He competed quite well; he finished tied for second place and it was like, ‘Oh, he does match up with the best in the country,' ” Shetty said.
Other chess players in the Ann Arbor area took notice of Atulya as well.
Jennifer Skidmore, who met Atulya and his family through chess club and became a family friend, said she could tell when he was in kindergarten that Atulya was special. She said he’s really matured in the way he plays and his thoughtfulness and his memory are big advantages.
“He’s a brilliant kid,” Skidmore said. “He’s very personable and talented and has a whole wide variety of interests. It keeps things in perspective.”
Now that he has entered high school, Atulya is dealing with a new situation Â — balancing high school and chess.
“I usually come home and get my homework done first and then work on chess,” Atulya said, adding that he reads chess books and uses computer programs to study. “There’s been a few late nights.”
Shetty said he makes sure his son is staying up on homework and other schoolwork before he’s allowed to play chess. He said the balancing act of school, extracurricular activities — Atulya is on the drumline at Huron — and chess is work for the whole family.
“It is a thing we focus on and he wants to do well in school, too,” Shetty said. “Sometimes it's hard to do all the homework and find the time for chess.”
To register for the event, e-mail Skidmore at firstname.lastname@example.org or register at Gretchen’s House on Saturday.
Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.