Sol Ross has only been at Feilding Intermediate for a few weeks but there is no-one at the school who can beat him at chess.
It's nothing new. The year 7 student has been beating people much older than him for years now. But it wasn't always that way.
"I actually really was horrible at chess and I saw some people in my class playing and I thought, ‘Wow, that looks fun'," Sol says.
That was four years ago and since then Sol has built a reputation as a chess whiz. At a recent national tournament between the top 14 schools in New Zealand, Sol played as his team's No 1, winning four of his six games and drawing the other two.
He is a Manawatu rapid-play age group joint champion and regularly competes with high school-aged players. Two years ago he was second-equal in C-grade regionals.
Sol says his rise from "horrible" player to chess whiz was down to a simple formula.
"Practice, hard work and dedication." It parallels life, Sol says. It was about constantly learning different strategies and thinking ahead.
The former Manchester Street School pupil plays at school and with the Manawatu Knights club.
Sol enjoys solving problems and says it is easy to get better by following a few simple rules.
Feilding Intermediate has had booming interest in chess, with more than 100 pupils playing regularly and getting weekly coaching. Sol feels it is the right place to improve his game even further. But he also understands the importance of being an all-rounder and wants to add sports like football or basketball alongside his chess playing exploits.
Sol's teacher, Simon Tipping, says his pupil's chess talent is amazing.
"There's no kid in the school who will beat him," Mr Tipping says. He says playing on board one at the nationals and not losing was no mean feat.
It is understandable that chess has become so popular again among school children, he says.
"All the classrooms have chessboards and chess sets, so he's come to the right school.
"A lot of the kids that enjoy it stick with it because it's not determined by body size. It also helps the kids to think, to open their minds to other possibilities, patience as well. There is a lot of social interaction in chess. In some countries it's part of the national curriculum."
- Manawatu Standard
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