Monday, February 04, 2002

Mason grows a chess champion

5th-grader ranks 22nd in U.S. for his age

By Laura Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Srini Karri got his son involved in the game he loves — chess — three years ago.

        Now 10-year-old Siri is about to overtake his father, an advanced player, while moving up in the national chess ratings. Siri is ranked 22nd in the country in the 10-and-under division.

        It's quite an improvement for the young chess whiz, who last year was rated at 497 by the United States Chess Federation, which rates grandmasters at about 2700. This year Siri is at 1490, only 60 points behind his father's 1550 rating.

        “It's a really big jump,” Mr. Karri said. “Probably by the end of next year, he'll be 300 or 400 points above me.”

        Siri, a student at Mason Intermediate School, recently beat out about 60 competitors to take second place in the fifth-grade division at the Ohio K-12 Chess Championships in Canton.

        “We are really proud of him,” Mr. Karri said. “We wish that he had gotten first place, but it was a big improvement since last year.”

        In 2000, Siri entered the championship tournament for the first time and won three out of five rounds without placing in the top 10.

        Siri was happy with his No.2 finish in 2001, if a little disappointed he didn't win first.

        “Second is not as good as first, and I'd rather get that,” he said. “But it's the best I've ever done for a grade competition.”

        Siri learned chess mainly because his father played.

        “I have a passion for the game,” Mr. Karri said. “I got magazines and a lot of chess books, and he used to look at the pictures. So I taught him some moves.”

        Mr. Karri began to enter Siri in competitions for elementary school students, called scholastic tournaments, and later into open tournaments, where he plays against adults of his caliber.

        “Once we started going to scholastic tournaments and he saw kids playing, he got hooked,” Mr. Karri said. “He especially saw the trophies and awards, and that got him excited.”

        Siri explains that chess “just kind of got to me.”

        “I like the organization,” he said. “Each piece has its own move, and you have to use a counter-move against the opponent.”

        Siri definitely has to be organized to juggle his chess schedule with schoolwork.

        Besides the two to three tournaments every month, Siri plays chess every Tuesday night with the Hamilton Chess Club. He also goes to a chess coach in Mason once a week and practices each night.

        “I give him chess puzzle books, and he tries to solve five or six problems every night,” Mr. Karri said.

        Though Siri doesn't particularly enjoy the nightly practices, he loves the game.

        And he likes to share it with others.

        Alison Trumm, Siri's homeroom teacher, said he has taught classmates to play.

        “It's not an easy game,” she said.

        Ms. Trumm said when Siri's second-place finish was announced to the school, he was a little embarrassed. But he brought his trophy in for show-and-tell.

        “He's a very smart little boy,” she said.

        Siri has other interests, from video games to Jackie Chan movies, when at home.

        Neither mother Shanti nor his 5-year-old sister, Sivaa, plays chess.

        And his father doesn't play against him anymore.

        “It's been a long time,” Mr. Karri said. “Maybe I'm scared now.”


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