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Checkmate: Randolph HS sophomore Aziz Kodirov wins 1st place in national chess tournament

RANDOLPH TOWNSHIP, NJ (Morris County) – Randolph High School Sophomore Aziz Kodirov started playing chess when he was just five years old. While he was a student at Fernbrook Elementary, his first grade teacher Mrs. Carpluk suggested to his mother that she buy him a set of dominoes to help further improve in mathematics. His mother bought him a set consisting of dominoes, checkers and chess. In the end, he liked chess the most and decided to further pursue playing the game. After learning the basics of chess, he played every day with his father which expanded his interest in the game. He also began taking lessons with International Arbiter Nonna Karakashyan who helped him continue to pursue playing. After years of dedication, Aziz has become quite the accomplished chess player and recently won 1st place in a national competition hosted by the High School eSports League.

“I love chess because it is a game that forces you to think strategically. In addition, there is almost an infinite number of ways the game can develop. It is fun to play competitively against other people, whether it be online or in person,” Aziz said. “This was not a challenging tournament when compared to the others I have played in. However, there were a couple of challenging opponents, of which one beat me in the main season. My coach helped me prepare. We looked at the opponents’ previous games and decided to come up with an opening and game plan that would throw them off guard. In other cases, we would repeat the perfect book moves that are the best to play in the beginning, securing me the better position. Playing a good amount of bullet games, I had experience in playing when the time ran low. I was able to beat some of my opponents with ease when the time went low because while they were thinking and wasting their time, I was able to move quickly and efficiently while they were thinking longer than they could afford in such a short game. In the end, I was able to win by having a better position. It feels good to have won and makes me feel accomplished. It also motivates me to keep going because I know I have potential to win more chess tournaments if I keep practicing.”

Aziz had participated in numerous competitions prior to this one and started playing in tournaments at 6 years old. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has played in more tournaments as many have moved online. Having the flexibility not to travel has given him more opportunities to play. He currently plays in tournaments every week and plays practice games every day. His favorite tournament is directed by John Moldovan and the club is called the Westfield Chess Club. Aziz plays there very often and plans to continue. He looks forward to being able to play at in person tournaments again, and also compete against much stronger opponents as he progresses as a player.

To improve as a chess player, Aziz is coached by Mikhail Golubev who is a grandmaster. A grandmaster is the most prestigious title a chess player can have. “After I had lessons with Mikhail, my chess skills have improved significantly and I noticeably started playing better,” Aziz said. “In addition, I also watch videos on YouTube that are both entertaining and provide useful information. I also try and play games with various time controls to improve different skills. Longer games allow me to think deeper and analyze the position well, looking five, sometimes even more, moves forward to calculate all the possible outcomes. “Bullet” games promote finding the best move in a matter of milliseconds as both players only get one minute to make all their moves. Blitz and rapid are like a mix of both. My favorite mode as of now is Blitz. I also do puzzles which are specific positions where you need to find the winning move. This helps me identify similar moves in a game and get a win.”

Aziz currently plans to pursue a career STEM and has ambitions of becoming a Geneticist in the future. In addition to Chess Club, he is active in the high school Science Olympiad team and enjoys taking science related courses at RHS. He also has a passion for learning other languages including German, Russian, and French; as well as playing soccer and hanging out with his friends. While Aziz has a variety of interests, he hopes that more people will consider playing chess. “Everyone should definitely try chess. Whether you would play the game casually or competitively, you will have a lot of fun,” Aziz said. “Chess improves thinking and logic. If you are starting chess, you may see progress instantaneously which is normal. However, as you go on, it will get harder to improve the better you get. When I just started playing tournaments, it would be hard for me to digest a game after I would lose. I would get sad and say I never want to play chess again. But, now I see a loss as a positive thing as it will help me identify the mistakes I made and help me improve to beat even stronger opponents. Chess really is a lot of fun, and I think that most people after giving it a try really enjoy it.”

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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