The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, August 03, 2000, summer edition, Page 10, Image 10

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Lincoln 13-year-old prepares
for U.S. chess championships
By Sharon Kolbet
Staff writer
In a game that often
requires decades to master,
Keaton Kiewra. a 13-year-old
Lincoln resident, quickly is
becoming a standout in the
national chess scene.
Kiewra would like to
become a U.S. chess champion,
and though he is only a teenag
er, he has attracted attention
within the chess community.
Kiewra started playing
chess at age 6 and entered his
first tournament when he was
7. In 1998 he won the Nebraska
High School Chess
Championship as a fifth grader.
Later that year, he took home
the title of sixth grade national
champion. Currently he is
ranked fourth in the country
among players his age.
wnen Kiewra was a second
grader, his father, Ken Kiewra,
noticed that Keaton had an
“aptitude for games.” By this
time the young Kiewra already
had mastered checkers, so his
father introduced him to chess.
It soon became apparent that
Kiewra possessed a remarkable
ability to calculate moves and
memorize plays, his father said.
Seeing that Keaton’s abili
ties had eclipsed his own, Ken
Kiewra found a chess coach for
his son in 1997. Keaton began
working under the guidance of
Dr. Tom O’Connor.
O’Connor lives in Lincoln
and is the co-coordinator of the
Writing Lab at the UNL
College of Business
Administration. He has been
coaching Kiewra for the past
three years and has witnessed
Kiewra’s chess ranking rise
dramatically.
“From 1997 to the present,
Keaton gained 900 points in the
chess standings, making him
one of the best scholastic play
ers in the country,” O’Connor
said. “If he were to gain anoth
er 900 points in the next three
years, he would be one of the
best chess players in the world.”
O’Connor likened Kiewra’s
playing style to the strategy
used by the former world cham
pion Bobby Fischer.
Fischer gained notoriety for
his aggressive style, and in
1962 at the age of 15 years, 10
months, he became the
youngest player ever to win the
U.S. chess championship.
“Keaton is 13, and right
now he is rated higher than
_ Sharon Kolbet/DN
KEAT0NKJEWRA,13,piayschesslastSatardayatYlaYia>siedewa
tewaUacala.Kiewra, whs plays chess with a Nasslaairaad waster
via telepheae, will participate is the O.S. Opee hegieaiag Friday.
Keaton is 13,
and right now
he is rated
higher than
Bobby Fisher
was at the same
age"
Dr. Tom O’Connor
Keaton Kiewra’s coach
Bobby Fisher was at the same
age,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor isn’t the only one
to notice Kiewra’s potential.
Recently the 13-year-old was
honored as one of only five stu
dents invited to New York to
attend an elite chess camp with
grand master Edmar Mednis.
Kiewra also participates in
twice-weekly lessons, via tele
phone, with a Russian grand
master. All of this instruction is
intended to help Kiewra pre
pare for the coming U.S. Open
Chess Championship, which
starts Friday in Minneapolis.
Kiewra was relaxed when
speaking about the upcoming
U.S. Open tournament. He said
he thinks tournaments are fun,
and he looks forward to playing
at an elite level, with players
much older than himself.
Kiewra said he doesn’t
expect to win this year’s tourna
ment, but he knows it will be a
good experience. While some
may be surprised at the 13
year-old’s articulate and easy
going nature, O’Connor says
that Kiewra’s poise can fool an
opponent.
“(Kiewra) is a gentleman at
the board,” O’Connor said, not
ing Kiewra’s aggressive play
ing style. “Keaton doesn’t
defend, he counterattacks.”