James Black is not your typical tween. The 12-year-old from Bed-Stuy is one of the best junior high chess players in the country.
This April, James took home trophies for best individual chess player, along with several other first place honors, after competing at the National Junior High Championship.
"It might be surprising to know that I started playing just four years ago," he said modestly. "But right now, my goal is to become a grandmaster by the time I'm 16."
Black said during chess games, some players take between 20 and 40 minutes to make a single move.
"Most adults try to use that strategy against kids to see if they'll get bored or tired," he said. "But that doesn't work with me."
Indeed. James and the rest of Intermediate School 318's top-ranking chess team stick a bishop in the eye of anyone who thinks that these days kids universally have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Of course, it takes more than laser concentration to become one of the highest ranked tween chess champions in the country, as James has. It also requires non-stop training.
Like a driven music prodigy or an Olympic athlete, James combines a natural feel for the game with constant practice. Kasparov, Fischer -- you've got to study every match played by the best if you want to be the best.