My son received a letter yesterday. He is one of 12 Illinois high school students invited to compete in the Illinois state qualifying round of the national Denker High School Tournament of Champions. The Denker tournament is probably the most prestigious chess event in this country for high school youth, and to be invited at all, much less in one's freshman year, is a significant honor. The Illinois state event is scheduled for the last weekend of March in the Chicago area; the winner of that tournament will receive a traveling stipend to represent Illinois in the national tournament to be held simulataneously with the U.S. Open in Dallas, Texas in August.
My son is thrilled by this honor, and of course so is his family. The winner of the national Denker tournament will receive a full 4-year scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas, an institution which is internationally known for its college chess team. Runners-up in the national tournament receive scholarship prizes as well.
But what thrills us most today is not the specter of scholarship awards, however exciting that possibility may be. College is still years away, and there is much learning and growing that will occur between now and then. As he this year competes at the state Denker tournament, my son will be one of the youngest players there, going up against prodigiously gifted opponents who have already participated once or twice or maybe even three times before as they vy for their own opportunity to represent Illinois at the national level.
No, what thrills us most is to see the tangible reward for hard work and effort and focus and concentration, all things that Trevor has been exhibiting for years now, not only in his chess studies but in all aspects of his young life. I am reminded of a few years back, when as a third grader Trevor played community basketball at our local parks & recreation department. He was neither the largest nor the fastest nor the most agile player on his team, and in time basketball took a back seat to the pursuits of chess and music (although he still likes to play for fun). But in basketball as in everything, Trevor always gave his all, and his coach recognized this fact and several times expressed his appeciation for the "heart" Trevor brought to the game.
That heart is still there, and it's going to take this young man far, no matter where his life may lead.