Local chess whiz brings home another prize

It’s not really surprising. After all, he began playing chess when he was 5.

So to learn that Gilad Drillich of Harrington Park – a senior at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan – won the New Jersey Grade School Chess Championship for the third consecutive year should come as no shock.

Still, it is quite an accomplishment for the 17-year-old, who won five out of five one-hour games at the tournament, held recently at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.

Gilad explained that the participants, in kindergarten through twelfth grade, were matched with one another according to a chess rating system.

Gilad Drillich says his chess skills will help in engineering studies.

According to Gilad’s mother, Michal, “there is a lot of pressure involved” in the competition, and the amount of concentration needed to compete in five hour-long games is immense. After each game, I texted him that he should be calm.”

“I enjoy playing good people,” Gilad said. “It’s more fun, because they don’t make mistakes.”

The chess whiz – who took up the game in kindergarten – said he learned the game when one of his father’s friends gave him a chess set and taught him how to use it. Once he realized how much he liked to play chess, he began attending chess classes and chess camps.

Noting that he has made different “chess friends” over the years, Gilad said, “We play each other. It’s fun.”

Not all those friends are in his own grade.

“It’s your own world,” he said, adding that you don’t really know who plays the game until you start playing yourself. “A lot of people play chess,” he added.

The young man credits his success to the support of his parents, Michal and Dan – and yes, he said, there has been a lot of driving involved – and his coach, Diana Tulman, co-founder and owner of the International Chess Academy.

“She has always made it her personal mission to get me to go to more tournaments and more classes,” he said. “I have been so lucky to have her as my coach.”

He pointed out that his grandfather also plays chess – online.

“I don’t play him much,” he said.

Gilad thinks that playing chess has enhanced his life, adding to his skills, giving him more patience as well as a more strategic outlook.

“I can sit down for a long time and think about a problem,” he said, something that no doubt will help him as heads off to college next year. He plans to become an engineer.

“To some extent, chess and engineering require the same kinds of skills – solving problems, finding solutions,” he said

His mother agreed that “chess has carried over to so many levels of Gilad’s life.” Her son thinks things through before making decisions and has the ability to concentrate for hours, she said.

“We are all so proud of Gilad,” she added. “Through chess he has found himself. Chess and Diana, his coach, have given him the self-confidence to try new things. We are proud of his accomplishments and are eager to see what great things he will do in the future.”

In the meantime, Gilad, who likes to keep busy, also participates in track and cross-country – “I’m not as good at those as I am in chess,” he said – and has been the class president for the past two years.

“It’s nice having something you’re very good at,” he said. “It’s both a hobby and a passion. I want to continue in college, maybe on a team.”

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