Chess whizz aged 12 who stumped a Russian grandmaster: Home-schooled prodigy takes experienced player to the wire
Pitted against a Russian grandmaster in the tournament, 12-year-old chess prodigy Jonah Willow was an underdog even in the eyes of his most ardent supporters.
So it came as a surprise when, after two hours of play, Alexander Cherniaev, 45, shrugged resignedly and offered the youngster a draw.
‘The grandmaster felt he could do nothing more to force a win or to break his way through,’ said Jonah’s proud father Simon Scott.
We were all completely amazed. We couldn’t really believe it. You expect grandmasters to destroy people.
‘But Jonah did very well. Cherniaev was left thinking for 15 minutes after one of Jonah’s opening moves while he worked out what to do next.’
Jonah beat three other players in the Nottingham Chess Congress to face Cherniaev, who went on to win the title. Jonah was third overall, qualifying for the British Chess Championships this August in Warwick.
It was the fourth time Jonah, from Nottingham, had competed in an open tournament against far older and more experienced players, but the first time he had played a grandmaster.
The title, the game’s highest apart from world champion, is conferred by world governing body FIDE.
Jonah started playing chess when he was five after seeing his sister Hambel, then eight, playing for fun against their father.
Both children are home-schooled by their parents Mr Scott, 45, a designer, and his partner Carolyne Willow, 49, a children’s rights campaigner and writer.
Jonah said of his David versus Goliath encounter on Sunday with Cherniaev: ‘It feels amazing. It was such a shock result.
‘But I wasn’t nervous. I knew if I lost that it didn’t matter because he is a grandmaster and I was just excited to be playing against him. I’d like to be a grandmaster myself one day.’
Jonah was one of 20 players in the open section of the tournament, but was not the youngest – an 11-year-old also qualified.
Mr Scott said: ‘Cherniaev said Jonah played well and chose a good opening. They spent time together analysing the game.’
Jonah spends one to two hours a day studying chess moves from books and analysing past games. He belongs to a chess club, enjoys badminton and plays the piano.
Mr Scott said: ‘I play chess but Jonah regularly beats me. He just loves the game.’