Cahree Myrick, 12, is the pride of his community after winning a chess championship. Cahree isn’t just a chess champion, which is a great enough feat on its own. He’s the first individual national youth chess champion in the history of Baltimore after earning a perfect score at in Nashville, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“This is a big deal,” says Steve Alpern, commissioner of the Baltimore Kids Chess League. “To win it with a perfect score is pretty incredible. People don’t think Baltimore City is producing these kind of achievements, but we are.”

Cahree is currently a 7th grader at Roland Park Elementary, which grants him access to the Chess League which only admits the city’s public school students. The team’s high level of play, even before Cahree’s championship, inspires a lot of inquiries from parents of students at private or county schools.

“I tell them, ‘Sorry, you can transfer to the public schools’ — and some of them do,”Alpern said.

Given that he only placed 24th last year, Cahree didn’t expect to leave wit a trophy. But he started to win and never stopped as his confidence rose with every game.

“It was my toughest game yet,” Cahree said of his final matchup. “The key to winning is not giving up. Keep thinking and pushing until you get there. And that’s what I did.”

Reading the 12-year-old’s thoughts can be so difficult while he competes that sometimes his own mother won’t be able to tell what he’s thinking. Given the intense mental pressure chess can bring, this is surely a skill that helped him excel. While his opponents often dress formally, the track athlete comfortably competed in Nike shorts and an Under Armour t-shirt.

I guess they couldn’t see him sweat.

“They call him the poker-face player,” said his mother, Yuana Spears. “You don’t know whether he’s winning or losing when he’s playing. Cahree’s facial expression never changes.”

Back home, two weeks removed from his victory, Cahree’s been lauded by the city’s mayor, Cathorine Pugh, the Baltimore Orioles and a barbershop full of people who would watch him play a more unconventional style to sharpen his skills.

“The culture of chess in Baltimore is bigger than people know. It flies under the radar,” said Sundiata Osagie, owner of the Reflection Eternal Barbershop. “Cahree’s victory and his performance in the national tournament proves that guys have been putting in work, 24-7.”

Hopefully raising some homegrown talent could help the chess culture in Baltimore to grow even more.

 

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