Student is a master of chess

Alex Costello earned the title of international master of chess.

Student is a master of chess

With a prestigious win this past August that earned Scripps Ranch High School sophomore Alex Costello an international master (IM) of chess title from FIDE (the International Chess Federation), chess coach Melik Khachiyan said Alex seems well on his way to becoming a grandmaster (GM).

Khachiyan, Alex’s Los Angeles-based coach of five years, said there is only one other GM in the country in Alex’s age group, and believes his student will be next.

“His winning in Canada wasn’t a fluke,” Khachiyan said, referring to Alex’s big victory. “It was a well-deserved achievement. He will be a grandmaster soon. Big talent.”

The title of grandmaster is the highest achievement in chess, said Alex’s father, James Costello, acknowledging that there is only one other teenaged GM in the U.S.

“I think it’s super cool to be one of the top players in my age group,” Alex said.

Alex’s parents, James and Molly Costello, said they have supported their son in his passion for chess since he was six years old.

“He’s been so good and focused on it that we’ve been supporting him for 10 years,” James said. “The goal was to become international master before graduating high school, but it came sooner than we thought.”

When Alex was a stu-dent at Jerabek Elementary School, his nanny taught him to play because “other games, like Candy Land, bored me,” Alex said.

He fell in love with chess and became involved with afterschool chess programs, clubs and eventually the San Diego Chess Club in Balboa Park.

“We didn’t want him to
play because we thought
he’d get crushed,” said James, referring to the fact that
his 10-year old son would
be playing against adults. “That fear didn’t last long. He can beat most people blindfolded.”

It’s true. Alex can play multiple games of chess at one time, while blindfolded. A common practice for advanced chess players, Alex said that blindfolded chess involves opponents verbally divulging their plays while he memorizes them and moves pieces accordingly.

“My memory has always been good,” Alex said.

While Alex is excelling at chess and preparing to become a grandmaster, he is also a regular 16-year-old high school student who plays soccer and is on the high school volleyball team. He loves science and astronomy, and said chess has helped him make new friends.

Alex believes it’s important to stay well rounded, but he also looks forward to the adventures chess will continue to bring. He has already played tournaments in Abu Dhabi, South America and Canada, and the Costello family is considering a trip to Greece for the next tournament.

“It just grew and keeps going and going,” said James of his son’s passion for chess.

“Alex is a very talented kid with a bright future,” said Khachiyan, who has been a GM since 2005 and is a FIDE senior trainer.

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