Fifteen-year-old Deepak Aaron was making quick work of his opponents at the chess tables.
The Niskayuna High School sophomore moved effortlessly from chess board to chess board, pausing for a few seconds and then moving a piece.
A two-time defending state champion, Aaron took on 25 opponents as part of an event at the high school Tuesday. Tables were set up in the hallway at the school’s “Crossroads.”
After about five minutes of play, one person fell victim to Aaron. Junior Hamza Syed, 16, got his king in check and was in a no-win situation. He was amazed at Aaron’s skills.
“He’s taking two seconds to think,” he said.
Aaron easily juggled several tables at once. “I play a lot,” he said with a smile.
He added that there is not one special secret to chess: “Just take it one game at a time,” he said. “I like the tactics.”
Looking on was his proud father, Ashok Aaron, who began showing him how to play the game at age 5. “I taught him the initial moves, but it was my father who taught him the nuances of the game,” he said.
“It kind of helps his concentration, focus, thinking, critical thinking. Opening, middle game, end game, it’s all about strategy,” he said.
Aaron won the North American Youth Championship and the New York State High School Championship. This summer, he is going to Brazil to participate in the Pan-American junior division chess championship.
Ashok Aaron said his son played against 30 good players at a previous event in Middletown and added that it is good for him to have the opportunity to play with his peers and benefit a good cause. All participants brought canned goods and nonperishable food items to donate to the Schenectady City Mission.
Niskayuna Chess Club adviser Victor Alcantara said Ashok Aaron contacted him and came up with the challenge as a way to promote chess in Niskayuna. The club only has about eight members.
“Hopefully, we’ll raise the level of enthusiasm,” he said.
Chess is a good outlet for students who may not be interested in athletics or other activities, Alcantara added.
Fifteen-year-old freshman Dane Jennings said he was up for the challenge.
“I heard of how good Deepak is and I wanted to see how long I could last against him,” he said.
The answer: about 20 minutes.
Junior Justin Picardi, 16, said it was “crazy” how Aaron could keep track of so many different games: “He’s still beating everyone.”
Sixteen-year-old junior George Ladouceur sought divine intervention: “My strategy is to pray mostly — and play good chess.”
Aaron finished off all of his opponents in about 21⁄2 hours.
Brother John McManus of the De La Salle Christian Brothers served as tournament director. He runs numerous chess activities in the area, including free tournaments for children as part of an organization called The Right Move. Two upcoming youth chess events will be held on March 6 and April 17, both at 10 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. magnet school in Schenectady.
McManus said chess helps people with organization, preparation and visualization — all skills useful in life. Also, it teaches good sportsmanship, as people have to learn to accept defeat gracefully.
“You have to be able to look beyond it and say ‘I learned something,’ ” he said.