PLATTSBURGH — Jeremy Davies instinctively knew the optimal move when he started chess lessons.

The then 11-year-old couldn’t explain it to his coach, Mike James, but he consistently displayed a raw, natural talent that shocked James.

Jeremy, now 12, recently completed his first tournament in Philadelphia, winning five out of six matches and taking home a third-place trophy in the national event.

“I don’t really know why chess is so much fun to me,” said Jeremy, who is home-schooled. “I think it is just the satisfaction of playing, and that it just kind of works the mind a bit.”

FAMILY LESSONS

A friend in New Jersey sparked his interest after they played a couple of games.

“My friend just started moving pieces,” Jeremy shrugged under the dark hair partly hidden under his hoodie.

“I didn’t know what I was doing.”

He returned to Plattsburgh and started playing with his father, Matt Davies, and grandfather Kevin Rock.

GOOD INSTINCTS

Rock’s friend, James, returned to the area from Reno and played chess with Jeremy in a cabin the family rented on Lake Champlain.

“He (James) asked me to do lessons,” Jeremy said. “I thought it would be a one- or two-time thing.”

They started lessons this past January, and James quickly noticed the young man’s passion for chess and the instincts that told him Jeremy was special.

“He does everything I ask of him and never complains,” James said, “and he repeatedly showed me that he instinctively knew the best move.”

Jeremy loves listening to his coach’s stories and thinks he’s a “good teacher.”

TOURNAMENT TIME

James eventually asked Jeremy’s parents to watch a documentary on chess so they could understand the tournament climate and told his student he was ready to compete.

Practices intensified, as Jeremy repeated chess problems and strategies, such as a Fork, which entails attacking two pieces simultaneously with one piece.

His father, Matt, realized how important chess was for his son when a Russian grandmaster passed by in Philadelphia and the young man stared like he had spotted his favorite rock musician.

“To see him playing with people from all over was amazing,” Mr. Davies said.

‘PRETTY COOL’

As the room fell silent for the first match, Jeremy pushed all from his mind but the board.

Next thing he knew, he’d won his first game.

“That was pretty cool,” he grinned.

He lost his first game of the second day of the tournament.

“Most of the games, at the beginning, I would make a big mistake but then come back from it,” Jeremy said. “But I didn’t come back from this one.”

Still, he won five out of six games, which lasted anywhere from a half-hour to two hours each, and took third place in the tournament.

“It was pretty cool to win a trophy.”

‘QUITE A FUTURE’

James knew Jeremy would go undefeated or win five of six games.

“He has very good tactics, which is setting up traps,” he said. “He excels in the middle game, and that is mostly tactics.

“Jeremy is going to have quite a future in chess. He has natural talent, and that is something you can’t teach.”

“We are very proud of him,” said his mother, Vanessa.

Her son, humble about his talent, smiled, slightly red cheeked, as he pondered his next move.

“I guess I just practice and look for other tournaments.”

E-mail Stephen Bartlett at: sbartlett@pressrepublican.com