By Davide Nastasio
I noticed Skyler Kelly in different tournaments and made a note to myself: most of these young chess players turn out to be brilliant fellows to learn a lot from. I became friends on Facebook with both him and his family, and I noticed the wealth of initiative Skyler had. He worked actively in introducing chess to the general public in Savannah.
Skyler organized small tournaments, formed a chess club, and found a way to coach in two Savannah schools.
Skyler and Charles Cortese started the Savannah Classical Academy Chess Club this year, and they coach it together. Principal Benjamin Payne and gifted teacher Mary Negley are valued faculty members. The club consists of 25 students, 3rd through 8th grade, and most of them are new to chess this year. Skyler also coaches with Dave Hamer at The Habersham School, where Skyler teaches an advanced chess class.
I thought of Skyler as a positive role model. People like Skyler, who give a real contribution to society through personal efforts and sacrifice, clearly create a better world for each of us; this is the youth I admire. I interviewed him for our chess magazine, and of course I look forward to seeing him again at the tournaments we organize in Atlanta. Like most champions (Fischer, Bronstein and Tal come to mind), Skyler loves blitz. His favorite chess book turns out to be the same favored by one of the most famous and amiable WGM in the chess world: Miss Natalia Pogonina.
Skyler was home-schooled, and he just published an app for blindfold chess! He is clearly an amazing young guy. He learned how to program from YouTube.
Like every serious player he devotes many hours to the game each week, but let’s enjoy the interview.
Skyler Kelly began to play in 2013. Today he has a standard rating of 1743, and a blitz rating of 1558. He was born in 2001, in Louisiana.
Question: In the 1970s, many people began to play chess because of Bobby Fischer, with his legendary match of the century, which was also a competition between the two main antagonists of the cold war: America and Russia. After that the interest faded, what brought you to chess?
Skyler: My dad taught me how to play, and that is where my love of chess began.
Question: How old were you when you learned to play chess?
Skyler: My dad first showed me how to play when I was 8. I played in my first tournament when I was 12.
Question: Do you ever read chess books? Do you have one favorite?
Skyler: I have several chess books. My favorite one is My 60 Memorable Games, by Bobby Fischer.
Question: What is your best chess memory?
Skyler: The time I got my first perfect score (5-0) in a tournament. (ORSCA Tournament 2/01/2014)
Question: What do you do to get better at chess? How do you train?
Skyler: I use YouTube and Chess.com. I also meet to play OTB with friends once or twice a week.
Question: What are the most important lessons you have learned in chess?
Skyler: Always think ahead.
Question: What is chess for you? A sport? Art? Mind game?
Skyler: For me, chess is a sport.
Question: How much time do you devote to chess?
Skyler: I don’t have a set amount of time I devote to chess. I would say I devote at least 14 hours a week to chess, not including tournaments. On Tuesdays, a large portion of my day is devoted to chess. I coach at The Habersham School, starting at 3pm. Then go from there to Savannah Classical Academy Chess Club to coach from 4pm-5pm. Then I finish the day with Club Checkmate’s Chess Night at the Foundery Coffee Pub from 6pm-10pm.
Question: Do you prefer blitz, OTB or Correspondence chess?
Skyler: I prefer blitz.
Question: How seriously do you take the games you play online?
Skyler: I don’t really take my games online as seriously as I should. I like to use my online play to try out openings that I’m not comfortable with yet.
Question: Do you have any thoughts on how Chess in Georgia could improve?
Skyler: I think we have a great chess community in Georgia. If we had more players volunteering to teach chess in schools, our local chess communities would grow, and test scores would most likely improve.
Question: Do you have any hobbies?
Skyler: Singing. I was a member of Savannah Children’s Choir for 4 years and now I am a member of their Young Men’s Chorus. Also, last spring, I organized a community chess tournament with 100% of the entry fees and all of the snack proceeds going to Savannah Children’s Choir’s Travel Scholarship Fund. We raised over $400 for their scholarship fund and introduced several new players to chess. One of those players, who is also a member of SCC, is now a member of our chess club at Savannah Classical Academy. I plan to hold a tournament again this school year to benefit the SCC’s travel scholarship fund. This year they will be traveling to Ireland for a performance tour. The SCC has given so much to the children of our community, including me, and I am happy to give back to them.
I like to make apps. My latest app is a chess app called Blindfold Chess Trainer. I also have a memory game called Swip Swop and a speed cubing app called Cubing Algorithms. Speed cubing is another hobby of mine.
I enjoy playing guitar and have been playing since I was 5. I have a street performer permit and sometimes I perform downtown in Savannah, playing my guitar and singing. Sometimes I like to play cover songs and post them on youtube. I also like to play basketball and soccer.
And now a couple of games played by Skyler, and his favorite game between top GMs.