Saturday, March 29, 2003

Mason chess whizzes keep it in family

By Rob Phillips
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Sivaa Karri, 7, and brother Siri, 11, of Mason, are among the best young chess players in the state.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
MASON - "Checkmate," my opponent calmly announced from the opposite side of the board.

With a slight smirk, she looked at me.

"Was I even a challenge?" I asked.

Her reply was quick, and brutally honest: "Nope."

She's 7 years old.

But Sivaa Karri, of Mason, a first-grader at Western Row Elementary School, has beaten better opponents. At the end of 2002, she took second place in the Ohio chess championships.

And I had challenged the younger of the two Karri chess whizzes.

Sivaa's brother, Siri, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Mason Intermediate School , took first place at the same tournament in his respective age group, improving from his second-place finish in 2001.

Over the past three years, Siri has participated in more than 100 tournaments across the country, and his impressive collection of trophies proves his success.

Siri ranks No. 17 in the nation in the 11-year-old category, according to the U.S. Chess Federation Web site .

"I like it because there are so many moves you can make and that you can think logically through," he said.

Most chess tournaments are not categorized by age, so Siri often faces, and conquers, people much older than himself.

"Being older doesn't necessarily mean they are the stronger player," their father, Srinivas Karri, said. Srinivas was the 1988 University Chess Champion at the University of Hyderabad in India. "(Siri) is now a stronger player than I am."

Siri has chess lessons once a week, where he learns how to recognize and play new strategies.

"He's good, of course," said his coach, Boris Chudnovsky. "He's a good young man and very polite."

Sivaa started playing chess a year ago and has already played in a number of tournaments. The first-grader was proud of her second-place finish, but not satisfied.

"I am going to win next year," she said.

Chudnovsky said that Sivaa and Siri both visit his home on Sundays, where they compete against his other students.

"Siri always comes and Sivaa comes when she wants to," he said. "It is important to not force the children into this at such a young age. If they want to - they'll do it."

Both Siri and Sivaa said they hope to one day be a Grand Master.

Their parents never expected them to become so competitive in the hobby, but believe the benefits are clear.

"(Siri) is very organized," said his mother, Shanti. "He knows what he has to do two or three days ahead of time."

As for the future, Sivaa plans to be a doctor and Siri hopes to be anything that "pays high."

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