Boca Raton student excels in chess

Many would say Jeffrey Haskel of Boca Raton is beyond his years.

Most would agree with the phrase when it comes to chess.

Even his father, who organizes and directs chess tournaments, says he’s out of his league.

“He’s too good for me now,” said his father Jon Haskel. “We stopped playing chess together a long time ago.”

And his son has awards to prove it.

Haskel, 15, recently placed first in the 2007 Florida Invitational Superstars Tournament in the high school section for chess. As winner of this tournament, he qualified to represent Florida in the Denker Tournament of State High School Champions in July.

“He’s only in ninth-grade and it’s usually won by a kid in 11th or 12th grade,” his father said. “It’s a very big honor. A lot of kids strive to go to this tournament and never get to go to it.”

The Denker Tournament of High School Champions hosts high school State Champions across the country. The Denker is held at the same location, as the U.S. Open. There’s a single game each day, which means Jeffrey could have a chance at also playing chess at the U.S. Open.

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The Denker competition is held in memory of Grandmaster Arnold Denker who helped found it and who helped support it financially for 20 years. Scholarships totaling $2,200 are awarded to the top ten finishers.

And Jeffrey’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed locally. He was recently recognized by the School District of Palm Beach County.

The Boca student will receive a certificate for his accomplishment.

District reports stated, “Jeffrey Haskel, a rising sophomore at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, is the Florida representative to the Denker Chess Tournament. The Denker Tournament of High School Champions fields High School State Champions from across the United States. It is considered one of the most prestigious events a U.S. scholastic chess player can participate in. A six round Swiss-style tournament, it is held the end of July in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.”

Jeffrey has been mastering his chess skills for 10 years and has received many accolades along the way. He was a national champion in fourth-grade.

“When he was five and a half, he started playing,” he said. “I thought that was about the age that he might enjoy another activity and he tried it and was really good at it.”

Jeffrey is currently rated among the top 10 in the country for his age. Sometimes he practices his hobby Fridays at Florida Atlantic University at the Boca Raton Chess Club, where his father is the organizer.

Nicol Jenkins can be reached at njenkins@bocanews.com or 561-549-0844