Chess champ: State's top player is an 11-year-old Mormon boy
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Kayden Troff might look like an average 11-year-old, but he's not. Kayden, a member of the Welby 2nd Ward, West Jordan Utah Welby Stake, is a prodigy chess player. Before turning 11, he was listed No. 1 in the nation for all 10-year-olds, and is still No. 1 in the nation on his quick chess rating for all kids ages 13 and under.
Kayden, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has won many tournaments. But chess to Kayden isn't just a game he plays — he loves it. "I like puzzles, and chess is like a big puzzle to me," he said. He labors hard to figure out his puzzle by practicing hours on the computer and spending around six hours a day on chess.
Although Kayden has accumulated hundreds of trophies over the years, the real payoff for him is the love of the game. Although the tournaments he has won seem numberless, he knows that he has help from his Heavenly Father.
Before each game, he joins with his family in prayer. They will sing a hymn, his favorite being "The Spirit of God." His mother, Kim Troff, reminds him how hard he has worked and the promise that Heavenly Father will help him. Heavenly Father helps him in "every way," she reminds him.
Kayden started playing chess when he was 3 years old. He would silently watch his two older brothers, Jeremy and Zac, play games with their father, Dan. When he was barely 3, he told his father that he was ready to play. Brother Troff agreed to set up the board to humor him. Kayden, without any instruction or coaching, knew how each piece moved and how to attack.
When Kayden was 5, his dad took the boys to local chess tournaments and the library chess club where they won games against their peers. They would wait for the adult games and win those too. People stopped coming after a while, tired of getting beaten by the three boys, including 5-year-old Kayden.
In July of 2004, when Kayden was 6, the three boys went to stay with Grandmaster Igor Ivanov for a week of chess lessons. Mr. Ivanov was impressed with the three boys, especially the youngest. To test them, Mr. Ivanov set up problems on the chessboard for the boys to solve. All three boys were good, but Kayden often beat everyone. Then the two older boys and their father would create random problems on the board. Kayden was able to beat Mr. Ivanov to some of the answers.
In January of 2005 one of Kayden's sponsors offered the opportunity for another grandmaster, Gregory Kaidanov, to spend a day at the Troff house to teach the boys. He gave advice to the boys and their parents, the most important advice being to always keep it fun.
During that year, Kayden won his first Elementary State Championship for first grade 6-0. Every year since, he has won the Elementary State Championship for his grade.
February of 2006 marked his first win at a United States Chess Federation rated tournament. He was in the second grade at the time, becoming the first second grader to win that tournament.
Kayden now travels to national tournaments to improve his rating. Ratings are determined by the caliber of his competition, which requires that he play highly rated players. In chess, a rating of 2000 is considered Expert and 2200 is National Master. Kayden is over 2100.
Kayden understands that Heavenly Father has blessed him with many talents and he should use those talents to bless others. "Kayden believes that all good gifts come from God. As a family we believe that Kayden came here with his talent to help spread the gospel, which is our ultimate goal. We can use his talent to help people understand what we believe," his mother said.
In one father's blessings, he was blessed that the nation would start to recognize him. At the time, he didn't understand how that could be possible, as Utah is not known as a major chess spot. Although he didn't understand what the Lord had in store for him, Kayden just had faith and continued to cultivate his talent, and practiced and played and the Lord provided the way for the blessing to be fulfilled.
"We watched as little by little, one step at a time, the door opened. Things we never dreamed of have happened for Kayden to take his talents to the world," Sister Troff said.
Kayden is the top active chess player in the state of Utah, including adults, in both his standard and quick chess rating. Recently, he won a gold medal at the North American Youth Championship, procuring a chance to compete in the 2010 Pan American Youth Championships. He is also expected to be chosen as the USA's representative in the 2010 World Youth Championship in Greece. Kayden hopes to one day become a grandmaster.