Checkmate: Zionsville Community High School junior mastering game of chess


David Tran is relatively new to chess. But after learning the game less than two years ago, he is already winning championships.

His goal is to win even more.

A Zionsville Community High School junior, Tran recently competed at the Scholastic Chess of Indiana Championships, winning first place in the Junior Varsity division.

The championships were Jan. 27 at Pike High School in Indianapolis.

“I have been waiting over a year to compete at the Scholastic Chess of Indiana Championships,” Tran said. “I lost at the competition a year before and I have been anticipating coming back and placing better than last year.”

Tran, 15, said his passion for chess began in the summer of 2022. He has been playing competitively for about a year and a half. His father, Binh Tran, said his son would spend up to six hours a day in the summer watching YouTube videos ab the game.

Tran credits the videos for growing his interest.

“A YouTube video about chess got randomly recommended to me, and I started playing a little bit and it was really fun,” Tran said. “I kept doing it and would play online against random people.”

As he got better at the game, Tran said he grew more interested in everything chess has to offer, especially competing.

“I don’t know if it’s been the popularity of the show ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ or some of these other TV shows,” Binh Tran said. “(The media) raised the popularity of chess in high schools. David is really passionate about it.”

David Tran, right, competing at the MichiganTown Madness tournament in March 2023.

Besides his first-place finish at the Scholastic Chess of Indiana Championships, Tran placed first for the first time at MichiganTown Madness, a chess tournament in Michigantown, Ind, in March 2023.

“My placements depend on how many people show up because that determines different sections that can be split up based on ratings,” Tran said. “If I’m in a lower section, I usually place first or second. In a medium section, I usually place around the middle.”

When playing in tournaments, Tran said he is paired with an opponent based on ratings, which are based on a player’s win-loss record. Tran’s United Chess Federation rating is 1,466.

“(The rating) is just a number to show a player’s strength,” Tran said. “A few rankings are that I am 249 in Indiana out of 1,356 people and I am 4,974 out of 5,9271 juniors. There’s a United States Chess Federation, which is the United States governing body of chess. When you register for that, you can get a rating based on how many games you play and how much you win and lose in USCF tournaments.”

Tran competes regularly at chess tournaments in Greenfield as a member of the BC Chess Club. He became president of the ZCHS chess club this school year.

“I have competed at maybe six tournaments now, but definitely less than 10,” Tran said.

Tran said his favorite part of chess is that each match is different.

“What interests me the most is how different every game is,” Tran said. “You could play thousands of games and they will be different from each other.”

Besides chess, Tran enjoys activities that focus on problem-solving, such as puzzles and Rubik’s Cubes.

“Before he took up chess he was trying to participate in Rubik’s Cubes-solving competitions,” Binh said. “I think his fastest time is 15 seconds, and he’s done it blindfolded. He plays chess blindfolded as well sometimes.”

Tran said he has only played blindfolded with friends.

“I haven’t done it in a while, but I do it when I play against my friends sometimes,” Tran said. “I can usually only win blindfolded if I am playing a lower-rated opponent. It’s mostly just a fun party trick.”

Tran said his goal is to continue improving and raising his USCF rating.

“My biggest goal is getting my ranking to 2,200 so I can get a title,” Tran said. “The title of National Master is awarded to anyone who gets to a rating of 2,200, so if I get there, then I get the title. I think it would be really cool to win one eventually. “

Tran’s next competition will be March 2 through March 3 in Indianapolis, where he hopes to compete with members of the ZCHS Chess Club.

“We don’t usually compete as a club, but there is another Scholastic Chess of Indiana tournament coming up, and I hope I can attend with other members of the club,” Tran said. “I will also play at the Indiana Chess Congress competition in March, which is a state championship. I will be competing in a lower section, but I hope to do well there.”

David Tran, a Zionsville Community High School junior, with his first-place trophy at the Scholastic Chess of Indiana Championships Jan. 27. (Photos courtesy of Binh Tran)


Name: David Tran

Residence: Zionsville

Age: 15:

Hobbies: Academics, video games, puzzles

Favorite tournament to compete in: Scholastic Chess of Indiana Championships

Future college major: Software engineering