Mid­west City teen is first four-time state cham­pion

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - METRO | STATE - BY KAELYNN KNOERNSCHILD Staff Writer kkno­ern­schild@ok­la­

Leave it to Joe Veal, who him­self cov­ets the ti­tle, to de­scribe the tal­ents of Ok­la­homa’s top chess player. “Frankly amaz­ing,” said Veal, who’s played the “Game of Kings” for 28 years and added, quite frankly, he’s never seen any­one like Ad­vait Pa­tel. He calls him a gift to the state.

“When he walks into the tour­na­ment, ev­ery­one thinks about that sec­ond prize,” Veal said.

On June 25, Ad­vait won his fourth con­sec­u­tive state cham­pi­onship, the first in Ok­la­homa his­tory to do so. Later this month, he’ll head for Nor­folk, Vir­ginia, vy­ing to win a na­tional tour­na­ment where he placed sec­ond last year.

Ad­vait Pa­tel will be a ju­nior at Carl Al­bert High School this fall. He is 14.

The quiet, mod­est teenager doesn’t like to fo­cus on his early suc­cess. He shrugs and non­cha­lantly an­swers ques­tions.

His dream?

“(To) be one of the best play­ers in the world, I guess,” Ad­vait said.

Dressed in a gray T-shirt and khaki shorts, Ad­vait, born in Mum­bai, In­dia, sits in the liv­ing room of his par­ents’ mod­est Mid­west City home, across from a stock­pile of tro­phies and plaques sta­tioned in the cor­ner of the room.

With his hands clasped around his knee, he di­vulges the se­cret to his suc­cess: hours of study and prac­tice.

In the sum­mer, Ad­vait said he spends four to five hours each day sharp­en­ing his skills. He de­votes his time to study­ing books about the cen­turies-old pas­time and an­a­lyz­ing strat­egy of on­line op­po­nents.

“He’ll do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make his weak­nesses go away,” said Ru­pal, his fa­ther.

He’s quick to re­spond to ques­tions, sim­i­lar to the way he makes a move when play­ing chess — quick, cal­cu­lated and con­fi­dent.

Af­ter years of prac­tice, Ad­vait’s learned win­ning has more to do with the per­son across the chess board than the pieces scat­tered on its top.

When he be­gins a match, he scru­ti­nizes his ri­val, ex­am­in­ing strat­egy. He goes on the of­fen­sive; con­trol­ling the pace of the game to faze his chal­lenger.

Ad­vait is com­pet­i­tive, hates los­ing, never for­gets a loss and some­times even holds grudges against his op­po­nents, he said.

Those me­mories fuel his mo­ti­va­tion to win his next match.

“Those losses stick out more than wins for sure,” Ad­vait said.

Age is only a num­ber

Ad­vait learned to play chess while on va­ca­tion in In­dia at age 7. If it was too hot to go out­side, he stayed in­doors and learned the game from his grand­fa­ther. He main­tained an in­ter­est when he re­turned home to West Vir­ginia, and his par­ents en­tered him into his first open tour­na­ment.

“He was crushed,” said his mother, Ruhi.

But in­stead of giv­ing up, his com­pet­i­tive spirit forced him to want to im­prove. Af­ter he lost, he told his fam­ily he would come back to win the tour­na­ment. Two years later he did.

“I found out I was pretty good, so why not keep play­ing?” Ad­vait said.

In 2014 and at age 11, Ad­vait moved to Ok­la­homa and swiped the ti­tle of Open State Cham­pion from Charles Un­ruh, who’s played com­pet­i­tive chess since he was 18. That year, Un­ruh came in sev­enth place.

“I’ve lost to a 7-yearold be­fore,” said Un­ruh, 31. “Chess is one of those weird games where it doesn’t care about age. It’s more about skill than it is about any­thing else.”

Un­ruh doesn’t mind los­ing to Ad­vait be­cause he’s such a great player, he said.

He ex­pects Ad­vait to be­come the state’s first grand­mas­ter.

Ad­vait is con­sid­ered a se­nior mas­ter, one norm, or high-level per­for­mance, away from be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional mas­ter. His goal is to be­come a grand­mas­ter be­fore he goes to col­lege, a des­ti­na­tion he said he hasn’t given much thought to yet.

Ad­vait al­ready has a long list of ac­com­plish­ments, from skip­ping the fourth grade to play­ing chess blind­folded, some­times par­tic­i­pat­ing in up to six games si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

He ac­knowl­edged he’s pretty good at math, but said he en­joys world his­tory more, wish­ing he could re­tain more his­tor- ical facts. In his free time he reads, ev­i­dent from the pile of books neatly stacked on a book­shelf in his room.

He also swam com­pet­i­tively, he said, but that got in the way of chess prac­tice.

If Ad­vait wins the Denker Tour­na­ment of High School Cham­pi­ons in Nor­folk, he’ll re­ceive a $5,000 schol­ar­ship and an $800 prize. He also will qual­ify for the 2017 U.S. Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship, an in­vi­ta­tion-only tour­na­ment in St. Louis.

He an­tic­i­pates the com­pe­ti­tion will be tough, un­like tour­na­ments in Ok­la­homa, which he ca­su­ally com­pares to prac­tice.

Veal, who serves as the Ok­la­homa Chess As­so­ci­a­tion vice pres­i­dent, is con­fi­dent Ad­vait, who ranks third in the U.S. for his age, has the abil­ity to win the tour­na­ment.

“When a per­son that young wins the en­tire cham­pi­onship, it’s a boon for the en­tire state,” Veal said.

A fam­ily ef­fort

His mother beams with pride while talk­ing about her son’s ac­com­plish­ments. She doesn’t know much about chess, she said, but she’s deemed her­self to be her son’s en­cour­ager, sup­port­ing him at tour­na­ments and matches.

Ruhi and Ru­pal seem­ingly go the ex­tra mile to en­sure their son has the op­por­tu­nity to ex­cel at ev­ery turn. But fi­nan­cially, they can’t give him ev­ery­thing.

The Pa­tels own Fu­sion Kitchen, an In­dian restau­rant, in Mid­west City. Ruhi does fundrais­ers once a month at the restau­rant, selling all-you­can-eat meal tick­ets for about $15.

About two years ago, Ru­pal cre­ated a GoFundMe page, try­ing to col­lect do­na­tions for his son’s trav­els. The fam­ily re­ceived al­most $1,000, a drop in the bucket af­ter ac­count­ing for tour­na­ment en­try fees, travel ex­penses and ac­com­mo­da­tions.

Now that Ad­vait is get­ting older, he has op­por­tu­ni­ties to travel far­ther from Ok­la­homa, mak­ing the ex­cur­sions more ex­pen­sive. In the past few years, he’s qual­i­fied for in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments, but has never par­tic­i­pated be­cause his fam­ily can’t af­ford to send him.

To have more op­por­tu­ni­ties ... bet­ter com­pe­ti­tion, Ad­vait has to travel out­side the state. To­gether, the Pa­tels have trav­eled to 35 states, Ruhi said.

“It’s ef­fort as a fam­ily to go,” she said.

De­spite time and cost, Ruhi and Ru­pal are sup­port­ive of their son and want him to achieve his goals.

“It’s just his pas­sion,” Ruhi said. “We just kind of nur­tured it.”


Right: Ad­vait Pa­tel, 14, moves a piece in a game of chess at his house in Mid­west City.


14-year-old Ad­vait Pa­tel stands next to his tro­phies at his house in Mid­west City.


Ad­vait Pa­tel, 14, makes a move in a game of chess at his house in Mid­west City.

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