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WHITE PLAINS â€” A 12-year-old city boy has become the country’s youngest black national chess master.
Joshua Colas, a White Plains Middle School seventh-grader, achieved national master status Thursday after beating national master Leonardo Martinez at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City.
Joshua broke a record previously set Sept. 23 by Bronx resident Justus Williams. Joshua was 17 days younger than Justus was when he achieved master status.
The United States’ youngest chess master overall is Samuel Sevian, 9, of California, who set that record Dec. 10.
Joshua’s record-setting win came less than a week after he won the seventh-grade division in the 2010 National K-12 Championships on Dec. 10 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., a United States Chess Federation event. Justus placed second in the championship.
Joshua, a soft-spoken boy whose family’s living room is crowded with the many trophies and medals he’s won, said the significance of Thursday’s victory did not unnerve him.
“I ended up having some tactical tricks that made (Martinez) think, and since he had less time, it made him lose the game,” Joshua said Sunday after attending church. “Throughout the game, I was better, and I had confidence in myself. I wanted to win because I knew if I won that game, I would become a master.”
Joshua said his new status won’t change him much, though it will make other chess players his age eager to face him across the board.
“You probably get more respect if you’re a chess master because most players are under chess master,” said Joshua, noting that only 2 percent of competitive chess players rise to the level of master.
Joshua said his status as the nation’s youngest black chess master might not last long because there is another student, James A. Black Jr., who is even younger and who has a shot at reaching master status. Joshua estimated that James, a New Yorker who placed 22nd in the national championship in Florida, has until March to rise to the level of master. If James does not achieve master status by then, Joshua’s father, Guy, said, his son will hold the title for a while.
Joshua was very busy this year. He typically plays chess more than two hours a day, and he participates in eight to 10 chess tournaments a month. He traveled to Halkidki, Greece, in October as part of the U.S. team in the World Youth Chess Championship.
His goal is to become an international master, but he hasn’t let his ambitions get in the way of a well-rounded education.
“Homework comes first,” he said. “Let’s say I already planned a tournament. If I don’t finish my homework, I can’t go.”
While Joshua has achieved great heights in chess through his talent, he noted that he hasn’t gotten where he is today without his neighbors ‘ help. He especially thanked Ray Ainsworth, White Plains Middle School’s chess coordinator.
[0x14]This year, Ainsworth and White Plains school officials led the drive to raise money from more than 150 donors to fund Joshua’s trip to Greece and to hire a personal chess coach for him.