Usually, they play chess.
This month, the Oskipers, who live in East Windsor, N.J., took their passion for the game to a new level by teaming up to win the first-grade section of the National Scholastic K-12 Chess Championship in Florida.
Officials of the United States Chess Federation, the governing body of the game, said it was almost certainly the first time that triplets had won a national scholastic team championship.
Dr. Varsou â€” who, like her husband, Taragay Oskiper, has a doctorate in electrical engineering â€” said the boys’ enthusiasm for the game seemed to have no bounds. â€œIf it was up to them,â€ she said, â€œthey would be playing all the time.â€
At the national championship, which was held Dec. 10 through 12 in Lake Buena Vista, the days were long and the family often had to camp out on the floor outside the playing hall because they had no time to go back to their hotel room, Dr. Varsou said.
â€œThe whole day we were like musicians,â€ she said. â€œWe were on the floor and analyzing the games.â€ When they got back to their room each night, she said, she was exhausted â€” but not the boys.
â€œAfter a whole day,â€ she said, â€œthey still would want to play chess.â€
Dr. Varsou said she taught the boys to play chess a little more than a year ago after their school, SciCore Academy for Science and the Humanities, introduced it to the curriculum. Dr. Varsou said she had learned to play from her father while growing up in Greece.
â€œI wanted them to acquire all these good qualities that chess players have,â€ she said. â€œI wanted them to think ahead and set a goal and figure out to think strategically to get there.â€
Initially, Constantine, who is called Costas, took to the game more than his brothers. â€œThey all learned how to move the pieces,â€ Dr. Varsou said, â€œbut Costas wanted to play day and night.â€
At school, Miguel IÃ±iguez, the chess coach, immediately noticed that the boys seemed to have an intuitive feel for the game and suggested that they play in a local team tournament. So two months after they learned the moves, they entered their first competition.
â€œThat was the first time that they played outside the house,â€ Dr. Varsou said. â€œThe team came second and we were amazed.â€
Since then, they have racked up quite a few other successes, including a sixth-place finish in the kindergarten-through-third-grade section at the National Youth Action championship last month, and the New Jersey first-grade championship the following week.
Among the three boys, Costas is ranked highest, according to the rating system used by the national federation. At home, the boys sometimes play with their mother or their father, but mostly they play among themselves, and Costas usually wins playing both his brothers at once. That upsets Andreas and Nicholas.
â€œEvery time I beat them, they start crying,â€ Costas said, adding, â€œThey don’t like chess like me.â€
Dr. Varsou said Andreas and Nicholas had an easier time playing against other opponents. â€œIf they lose against other people in the tournaments,â€ she said, â€œthey don’t take it as harshly as when they lose against their brother.â€
Nevertheless, playing as a team â€” the individual scores of each team’s top three players are added together â€” has made the brothers more supportive of one another, Dr. Varsou said. Now, when one of them makes a mistake and loses, one of the brothers can make up for it by winning a game.
â€œI’ve seen them more cheering for each other in the nationals than I have seen them do before,â€ Dr. Varsou said.