Capital Region

Winning mindset: Shen 8th grader is a statewide chess champ

Chess champion Adarsh Neti with his chess board in his Rexford home
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Chess champion Adarsh Neti with his chess board in his Rexford home

REXFORD – Adarsh Neti, an 8th grader in the Shenendehowa Central School District, found himself in a losing position. Doubt immediately crept in, and Neti began to bargain with himself, thinking maybe he’d be satisfied taking second or third in his division at the 2022 Annual New York State Scholastic Championships chess tournament.

Quickly, he shifted his perspective.

“When I’m in a weak position, the first thing I do is say, ‘OK, I’m not losing. Let’s just find what my weaknesses are, what my counter-attacks are,’” Neti, 13, said. “That’s one of the ways I get myself out of feeling like ‘oh, no, I’m lost, I’m never going to come back from this.’ It’s my way of combating that loser’s spirit.”

And Neti did indeed combat that losing feeling. He took first place in the Annual New York State Scholastic Championships, K-8 Under 1,600 (rating) division, beating more than 50 other players. The tournament was held in March in Saratoga Springs.

Three months later, Neti continues to accumulate chess accomplishments – on Saturday, June 18, Neti finished second place in the Open section (rating of 1,400 and above) in the Right Move Chess Foundation’s monthly tournament, which welcomes players from the New York City and Greater Capital District areas.

Neti began playing chess in first grade. That’s when his sister, Medha, who is 4 years older, was introduced to chess at school and asked their father, Prabhakar Neti, to teach the kids more about the game.

For no more than a year, Prabhakar, a professor of Practice, Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic institute, was able to regularly beat his son.

Then things changed.

“I started getting better and better,” Adarsh Neti said. “He’s a really good coach, but after I matched his level, I felt like I couldn’t really improve anymore.”

Neti began playing online and studying chess theory. In his first Right Move tournament at age 7 or 8, he scored three of four possible points, meaning he won three games and lost one. He now has an International Chess Federation rating of 1,600. For context, the best player in the world has a rating of 2,864.

“My dad wasn’t learning chess and getting better at chess while he was teaching me. He was sort of just playing with me for fun and teaching me at the same time,” Neti said. “When I started playing with other people it was like I didn’t know why I’d lost. So I was analyzing positions more, and I started learning more tactics, and it really helped me get better at the game.”

Still, even if Neti’s dad couldn’t help him with chess gameplay, he was able to help with the mental component.

Prabhakar said his philosophy is to give kids a lot of space. That meant sending Neti to tournaments by himself, even when he was in elementary school. During one tournament in 2019, Neti was leading much of the way through, but ultimately finished in 68th place. Afterward, he told his father he wilted under pressure.

“Where I started contributing to his game was making him emotionally stronger, and in situations under pressure, how do you handle it?” Prabhakar said. “Be able to see the silver line in the darkest cloud, and still take a shot at it. I would ask very few questions. I would ask why this happened, and based on that I used to have my own understanding of his fluctuations and his ability to manage those fluctuations.”

Now, Neti says he feels more resilient, whether it’s during a game of chess or elsewhere in life.

“If I get a bad test grade, I won’t let that knock me down completely. I just tell myself to study harder and then try to focus on the points I missed,” Neti said.

Overall, Neti said he’s a strong student who thinks he wants to be an engineer like his father someday. But he also likes playing tennis and watching sports with his friends.

Neti says he’ll keep playing chess – he looks forward to joining the high school’s chess club in the fall – in part because of the analytical skills and creativity the game fosters. But also because he enjoys it.

“I’m planning to take it as far as I can go,” Neti said. “Even if I start doing kind of bad and I pass my peak, I will still keep playing because it’s fun.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, News, Saratoga County

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