CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Earlier this week, California's chess champ had a sleepover.
He battled enemies on his PlayStation 2 and stayed up late into the night.
At 13, Daichi Siegrist is far from your stereotypical chess player.
The lanky eighth-grader at Orinda Intermediate School likes to play tennis, run track and practice archery in his front yard.
He learned how to play chess at age 6, and shortly thereafter began beating everyone, including the man who taught him the game, his father, Alan.
"At first I kept losing, so I kept playing," says Daichi. "In a few months, I got better and I was able to beat my dad."
On March 21, Daichi walked away from the CalChess State Scholastic Championships the winner of the K-8 Junior High category with a perfect score. He had won all six of his games.
He played his first tournament in Fremont at age 7 and lost every game.
After years of lessons and practice games, Daichi is as good as, if not better than, many of his counterparts at the Berkeley Chess School. Daichi admits he works at playing well - it doesn't come naturally.
He aims to enter the expert level by the end of the year. He has a rating of 1,850 based on the number of U.S. Chess Federation-sanctioned games he has won. A rating higher than 2,000 is considered expert, and greater than 2,200 is considered a chess master.
Daichi is among the top 23 chess players in the nation for his age group.
"He is really learning a lifelong strategy for life and sportsmanship. ... How to win and lose," says his mother, Mitsuko. "These are lessons he can use for the rest of his life."
Daichi has learned how to think five moves ahead on the board, and he even has a classic opening move when he plays white: king's queen's pawn to E-4.
"It really sets the tone of the game and makes a less complicated game," Daichi says of his signature move.
In November, Daichi began weekly lessons with Berkeley Chess School teacher and chess master, Andy Lee, 23, who has been playing since he was 8. Together they review games, opening moves and Daichi's strengths and weaknesses.
"He's a lot more mature than chess players his age who go out too quickly. He really takes his time," Lee says.
The more Daichi plays, the better he will become, Lee says.
"Every time you lose a game, your opponent is teaching you techniques on how to win."
A few years ago, on a visit to Japan, Daichi surprised himself and his 90-year-old great-grandfather when he beat the lifelong chess player in a game of Shogi, Japanese-style chess.
Since then, great-grandfather has avoided playing with Daichi.
"It's an interesting game. You have to use your brain a lot, especially with strategy," says Daichi.
He says he would like to play chess more often, but like other 13-year-olds, his homework often gets in the way.