by Tien Thanh
(VNS) "Khoi, the champion!" the students chanted as they sat in their classroom waiting to meet their classmate and idol Nguyen Anh Khoi, winner of several national and international chess titles.
|Child champion: Nguyen Anh Khoi celebrates his win with classmates. — VNS Photo Tien Thanh
The 10-year-old Khoi has been a source of pride for his school in recent years as his status as a rising chess star has become more well-known, particularly after he won the U10 Open World Youth Chess Championship held in Maribor, Slovenia, earlier last week (November 19-21).
"We're so proud of you and we're lucky to have you in this class and school," Phan Thanh Thuy, Khoi's teacher, said, "We wish you more success in the future."
Many teachers, including the principal, visited Khoi's class to congratulate him for being the first student at the school to win an international chess title.
"Khoi is loved by everyone. He's so intelligent, not only in chess, but also in academic subjects," Nguyen Van Tri, the school's headmaster, said.
For Khoi, however, chess was no more than just a pastime that his family chose for him to do in his downtime and to distance himself from potentially harmful online games.
"Before playing chess, I often spent my spare time on online games," Khoi said. "My mother thought it could have deleterious effects on my academic studies if I became addicted to such a time-consuming hobby, so she led me to a chess club."
As he stood in front of the class to thank his classmates and teachers, Khoi, wearing glasses and talking in a confident manner, seemed more mature than his age.
Nguyen Thi Thao, Khoi's mother and an accountant at Mobifone, a State-owned mobile giant, said she chose chess for him because of Khoi's mathematical skills.
"I also thought that chess would help him be calmer. I also wanted him to be exposed to the discipline and patience required to play chess," she said.
Khoi started playing chess for the first time at the age of six.
"My father taught me the bare bones of chess but later I learned more by playing chess on the internet," Khoi said.
Khoi's chess ability progressed rapidly with the support of coach Le Ba Thanh, winning successive national and international chess tournaments.
Before winning his recent world gold medal, Khoi already had amassed a collection of 16 international titles, winning 12 gold medals at the Southeast Asian boys' chess tournaments and four gold medals at the Asian boys' tournaments.
After finishing in 10th place at the under-8 world youth chess championship in 2010, Khoi began working with coach Nguyen Thanh Son, who helped take Khoi's chess level to new heights, and as a result, he came first at the under-10 world boys' chess championship this year.
"I'm not too surprised about his achievement this year because after the tournament in 2010, we knew that Khoi's chess level was as good as other top players at the tournament," Thao said.
One of the most important factors that led to Khoi's chess success was the educational environment at the Vo Truong Toan primary school , where favourable conditions were created to help students with school subjects and areas where they had a natural aptitude. "The school creates a very comfortable environment, focusing on learning through play. Teachers also never give any homework," Thao said.
Besides building a learning-friendly environment, the school also offers a wide range of sporting activities.
"Instead of only practising repetitive physical movements, for many years we have hired coaches outside the school to teach classes in chess, swimming, basketball, martial arts, and many other sports," principal Tri said. "Every student in the school can find a sport class that suits their taste and abilities."
With such a loving, supportive environment, Khoi was able to progress from slightly disinterested amateur to a highly motivated and confident world champion. — VNS