WHITE ROCK – Don’t let the blond hair and big blue eyes fool you – beneath Luke Pulfer’s good looks and soft-spoken voice lies a sharp chess player who could beat most adults in a heartbeat.

Luke, who will turn seven in October, is a child prodigy in chess. What started out as a way to entertain himself and his older sister, Kate, on the computer when he was four-and-a-half soon took a very different turn.

“My sister Kate taught me how to play on the computer,� said Luke with a smile. “And I really liked it.�

His immediate liking of the game was noticed by his mom, Julie Domovich, when he started beating the computer.

“We really had no idea of his talent until one day his father and I realized that every game he played he was winning. That’s when we got out a chessboard and played against him ourselves – and discovered he could beat us,� said Domovich with a laugh.

It was soon apparent that if Luke wanted to pursue chess beyond game playing in the house, he was going to need a teacher.

That’s when Domovich reached out to the White Rock Library and a man named Henry Sikorski, who runs the White Rock Chess Club.

“He taught Luke the whole course. He was able to teach Luke about the pieces and strategy. Luke went twice per week on Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons,� said Domovich. “Within four-weeks, Henry told us to enter Luke into a tournament. We were reluctant because we thought he would be killed by the other chess players.�

However, much to his parents’ surprise, Luke placed second in the five-and-six-year-old division in the Fraser Valley regionals. It qualified him for the provincials.

In his second tournament ever, Luke placed first in the kindergarten-aged group for the scholastic provincial championship.

It was at that point his parents started to enter him in several tournaments so he could gain valuable experience.

“We’ve had Luke in at least 20 tournaments this past year,� said Domovich. “And he has beaten kids ages 12 and 14 in open tournaments that have the same rating as him.�

This past May, Luke attended the nationals in Montreal, where he placed third overall in his division.

In July, Luke and his mom flew to Windsor, Ont. to qualify him for the World Chess Championships. Luke was the youngest competitor in his division.

Out of 15 kids, Luke placed ninth and saw his hopes to attend the World Chess Tournament dashed.

“He has only been playing for two years and has accomplished so much,� said his mom. “We are really proud of what he has done and will continue with the tournaments, so he can try for the World’s again next year.�

For Domovich and her husband, they have managed to keep Luke’s schedule as balanced as possible.

Luke also has soccer, piano and swimming lessons. But his love of chess still reigns supreme as he practises his strategies every day to improve his game.

“He really has a competitive edge when it comes to chess,� said Domovich. “His twin sister Rachel and older sister Kate really enjoy chess too, but when it comes to really wanting that win, Luke is very driven to it.�

Domovich is mindful to not push Luke should he ever stop loving the game. She believes if he ever decided he was tired of the tournaments and the game, she and her husband would be fine with it.

For Luke, he continues to put his time in with a grandmaster coach, and visits the White Rock Library to play against his peers every week.

When asked what he would tell others who may want to try chess, Luke offers up some words of wisdom.

“Do what you think is best for you and if you don’t like it just don’t do it. For me, I stayed with it and look where I am. I love chess and I’m going to play in the World’s next year.�

It’s a strategy that is proving to be a winning one.

– Do you know an Outstanding Kid in the community? If so, we want to know. Email reporter Kelley Scarsbrook at kelley2000@hotmail.com.