In Conversation with National Masters James Black and Joshua Colas!
(This interview was initially published in October 2014 on our blog; view it here!)
Both becoming National Masters before the age of 13, James Black and Joshua Colas are nothing short of being chess prodigies. In October 2014, these chess whizzes came to the Cleveland Scholastic Open to participate in the tournament and to inspire everyone to further pursue chess. Prior to the tournament, we asked James (JB) and Joshua (JC) a few questions; here’s what they had to say:
When did you start playing chess and how did you get involved with it?
JB: I started playing chess at the age of eight. My dad bought a chess set and he wanted a partner to play with. We played several times, but I could never win. This resulted in me joining the chess team at my school, P.S. 308, with intentions to get better and beat my dad. I eventually did beat my dad, but I wanted to beat others as well, so I just kept playing!
JC: I started playing chess when I was seven years old. I wasn’t interested at first, but I was always watching my dad when he was playing. During one summer, he took me to an annual tournament in Philadelphia called the World Open – there I got to see a lot of young kids playing chess, and from that day, I asked my dad to teach me the game.
What are you most looking forward to regarding the Cleveland Scholastic Open?
JB: I look forward to meeting everyone and just trying to get others to start playing chess. I want to help others realize they can do anything and become anything, and it doesn't have to be chess.
JC: I am looking forward to meeting the kids, making new friends and sharing my experiences.
With regards to chess, what are some of your proudest accomplishments?
JB: Some of my proudest accomplishments are winning three national chess titles from 6th-8th grade and also becoming a National Master. These are milestones that make me proud of myself because I know that my hard work has paid off.
JC: I am proud of being a National Champion multiple times, as well as a City and State Champion. I am also proud of receiving a full scholarship to Webster University for winning Susan Polgar’s chess tournament two years ago.
What do you hope to achieve with chess in the future?
JB: I hope to have a connection with chess for the rest of my life, whether I'm teaching or playing competitively.
JC: I hope to become a Grandmaster before I turn 20 and to become a role model for other aspiring young chess players.
What do you have to say about how chess has benefited you in life and in your education?
JB: Playing chess is probably the best decision I've ever made. Chess has taken me not only to many states all over the United States such as Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but also to places like Brazil, where I represented the United States in the World Youth Chess Championship. It has also helped me mentally in various aspects of my life, like school.
JC: Chess has allowed me to travel all over the world and to become friends with kids from different backgrounds. The main thing chess has done for me is make me feel that I can conquer anything that I am willing to work hard at and be passionate about. It forces you to learn to slow down when you have more than one choice to pick from. It increases your ability to visualize abstractly, concentrate, and to calculate with better precision.
We’d like to thank James Black and Joshua Colas for answering our questions and for spreading their passion for chess at the Cleveland Scholastic Open. Their presence at the tournament was greatly appreciated and we hope that all their dreams in chess will come to fruition!
And, if you haven’t seen it already, take a look at the press release we wrote on Chess Life Online for the 2014 Cleveland Scholastic Open here!