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11 Year-old Chess Champion

Leo Marzoratti is only 11 years old, but he's already a "ranked" chess champion, taking First Place at his first

chess tournament, held on March 3 in Westford by the Massachusetts Chess Association. He's been playing the strategy board game since he's been five years old and over the past two years has become part of the free "Chess Village" program offered from 1-5 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Milford Town Library.

"This club," as his mother Adrianne Marzoratti said, "has been a tremendous find for us" because it offered her son a chance to be challenged beyond playing with family members.

Chess Village's first home was in the Ruth Anne Bleakney Senior Center, but it soon outgrew a room at that location and, this year, moved into the library, explains club director Patty Young. Today, the group has more than two dozen youth participants. Phil Mercurio, who competed in chess tournaments in his younger days, acts as a mentor to the club's participants.

Young noted that chess will teach children many things, including: how to classify things, learn pattern recognition, decode, make choices, learn game theory and learn how to make predictions.

Leo, who is home-schooled, explained that the 32 chess

pieces that sit on a 64-square board provide a huge number of possibilities for someone to make a move. "It has infinite possibilities and anyone has a chance to be good at the game," he said. "All you need is time and dedication and you can become good at anything," he added.

In chess tournaments, Leo and his mother explained, participants compete based on their numerical rankings.

Since Leo went into his first tournament with no ranking, he competed in the "400 and under" category. After winning

his four matches, he emerged with an "804" ranking. At his next tournament, which was scheduled for March 16, Leo

was scheduled to compete in the "800 and under" class. Chess grand masters, Young explained, are ranked in the 2,400 range.

Leo easily demonstrated his skills as this reporter – who hasn't played chess in more than 40 years – took up his offer to play a game. Within three moves, Leo informed me that I had just put myself in a position to be check-mated. In other words, I lost. The linguist

in me explained to Leo

the origin of the term

"check mate," which stems

from the old Persian

words "sah [as in "shah"]

mata," which mean "The

king is dead."


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