Chess enthusiast from Cottage Grove wins K-4 championship in Portland

April 28 - Isaiah Fattal, 9-year-old of Cottage Grove, won the state championship in K-4 chess last weekend, April 14-15, with a 5-0 record during the Chess for Success tournament in Portland, Ore. The youth invitational, Chess for Success, drew qualified players from all of Oregon and Southwest Washington at the Portland Expo Center. 

Fattal plays in the South Valley Athletics leagues, likes baseball and basketball, and ran in the Jingle Bell 5k in December, but chess is his passion. He started playing a year and a half ago, and has learned about chess tactics such as forks, pins, skewers, trades, sacrifices and much more.

He has augmented his talent with a dedication that springs from his enjoyment of the game. He has studied opening like the “King’s Indian Defense”, the “Sicilian Defense” and the “Queen’s Gambit”.

Fattal started attending chess camp through Southside Chess last summer in Eugene and has also joined two after-school programs. Jerry Ramey, the director of Southside Chess, has nourished a vibrant and cooperative chess culture in Eugene. Fattal also plays on chess.com.

In the qualifying rounds last March, Fattal lost one high-pressure game, but still qualified for the state tournament. From that loss, the young chess player learned to pace himself and to take an extra moment to think through his moves.

Interestingly, the young chess player is grateful for that loss which taught him the lesson that helped him win the state tournament, he said, “I’m glad I lost to Jayden (his opponent). I learned a lot from it."

Winning the K-4 invitational in Portland gave Fattal an automatic admission back into the tournament next year.

Chess is one of the world's oldest games which still played today and is surging in popularity again. It originated in India about fifteen hundred years ago, moved through the Persian and Arab worlds through the Mediterranean and eventually the rest of the world.

The game pieces have slightly changed over time. The bishop used to be an elephant, and the queen only became the most powerful piece in the late middle ages in honor of various female monarchs in Europe.

It has been played by Benjamin Franklin, sending letters across the Atlantic to tell his opponents of his next moves, and by the great tenth century Caliph Haroun al-Rashid.

In a world divided, chess is a language that brings people together across the world. The game is experiencing a resurgence, including in media, of which films like the “Queen of Katwe” and the “Queen's Gambit” are the cinematic expressions.

Currently, the world championship is taking place in Kazakhstan and will last through the end of April. It is the only game that leaves nothing to chance -- no dice, no cards, just skill.

Chess has offered Fatal the opportunity to develop the skills of the game while making friends of many ages, learning to be resilient and growing from his mistakes. And Fattal is excited to continue to hone his skills and enjoy the battle on the board.