Teenage chess buff goes global in pursuit of worthy opponents

Teenage chess prodigy Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End, who has developed a talent for the game.

Teenage chess prodigy Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End, who has developed a talent for the game. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

A 16-year-old who ditched his video games for the thrill of a chess board says it was the best decision he's ever made.

It was only two years ago that Luca Emmerson first got in to the sport — but he's already thrashing his online rivals and his poor dad, who's currently on a 60-0 losing streak against the teenage juggernaut.

Having wiped the floor with every worthy foe at Thorpe St Andrew High, Luca's had to go global to feed his chess addiction.

The youngster, from Thorpe End, regularly competes in online tournaments of up to 2,000 people, of all ages, recently coming 26th out of 1,926 competitors in one event and second out of 720 in another.

Teenage chess prodigy Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End, who has developed a talent for the game.

Teenage chess prodigy Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

But it was only a "technical" second place, he said.

He explained: "I actually had the same amount of points as the person in first place for that tournament, but the rules of chess means whoever got them first takes the top spot."

Chess has made something of a comeback thanks to the popularity of the Netflix miniseries, The Queen's Gambit, which sees a young chess prodigy fight to become the world's number one.

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While Luca doesn't quite see himself being able to match her talent, or make a living out of the game, he does hope to be able to teach it on the side one day.

Teenage chess prodigy Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End, who has developed a talent for the game.

Teenage chess prodigy Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

He said: "The best thing about chess is that you can instantly see how much you're improving. Hardly anyone can beat me now.

"And it's not boring, so it doesn't feel like work. But it's not aimless either, like watching TV, so you actually feel productive while playing it.

"But I know if I ever got in a room with a professional grandmaster I'd be obliterated immediately. That's why I'm currently working on a different party trick: blindfold chess.

"This involves my opponent reading out their move to me, and me replying where I'd like my own pieces to go.

Talented chess player Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End.

Talented chess player Luca Emmerson from Thorpe End, who has started playing blindfold chess to challenge himself. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

"I can't quite beat my dad at blindfold chess yet, but I'm working on it.

"If you want to get good at the game, the most important thing to remember is this: always force your opponent to make the first mistake, because a game can be lost in a single move."

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