Ben Shoykhet excels in world of chess


Photo courtesy US Chess Federation

Senior Ben Shoykhet competes at the 2019 US Amateur Team North tournament.

For most people, chess is just a game, but for chess prodigy, senior Ben Shoykhet, it is more like a way of life. Ever since he discovered chess, Shoykhet has fallen in love, climbing the ranks to become an accomplished chess player.

Ben Shoykhet was born in Pittsburgh, but shortly moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his chess career began. Shoykhet discovered chess in fourth grade when he heard about his school’s chess club. He taught himself to play by taking a book out of the school library and studying chess tactics “at one in the morning every night for about a week with Lego figures vs. military figures because we didn’t have a chess board at home,” Shoykhet said.

After he taught himself the basics of chess, Shoykhet’s career was off to the races. “Within one month I beat all the kids in the club, within three I beat the coach,” Shoykhet said.
After he displayed his skill to the school’s chess club, Shoykhet decided he was ready for the next level of chess. A grandmaster local to Missouri discovered Shoykhet’s chess skills and took him under his wing to further advance his abilities. “At around six months of playing I beat my first master, which gave me the title of prodigy,” Shoykhet said.

According to Wikipedia, “the term chess prodigy refers to a young child who possesses an aptitude for the game of chess that far exceeds what might be expected at their age.” “From there it was the most amazing experience I could’ve had with chess,” Shoykhet said.

He’s been able to meet top players, including grandmaster Magnus Carlsen (who is currently the first ranked player in the world) and he got to train and analyze with grandmaster Yasser Seirawan. He also joined Webster University’s chess team, which is currently ranked as the second overall collegiate chess team in the United States after Texas Tech.

As a child, he would leave his elementary school and arrive at the Webster campus at noon. He would quickly start his day of training with puzzles, and then move onto practice games, or train endgames and tactics. An unexpected part of Shoykhet’s training schedule was a lot of physical fitness. He remembers playing a game where there was a giant board and after every move he would have to run a lap around a large room. “You have to be physically fit to compete at the top levels [of chess],” Shoykhet said.

Ben was enrolled in Webster University’s chess program until he moved to Maryland and started high school in Maryland his freshman year. In his career, his most notable achievements are being the Missouri state champion, a Maryland sweet sixteen winner, and acquiring the candidate master title. Shoykhet is currently ranked the number one under 18 chess player in the state of Maryland.