South’s chess phenom

Freshman Cole Tatro is ranked 7th in the nation in his age group


Courtesy of Cole Tatro

Freshman Cole Tatro studies his next move during a recent chess match.

Time’s running out. Money and pride hang in the balance, and in the championship game, his brain is working harder than ever. His mind is racing, and with 6 seconds left on the clock, he sees the perfect move. 

He moves his Knight to D7 and speaks the words that give every chess player a sense of euphoria, “Checkmate.” 

“I’ve been playing since 3rd grade, and going to tournaments since 5th. I love competing, and the competitions are great practice,” said freshman Cole Tatro. 

Tatro is a nationally-ranked chess player, with aspirations of one day being among the best in the nation.

“This summer I got 7th at Junior Nationals for the U16 age group. That was definitely my best tournament, I played great,” Tatro said. 

Tatro has been winning local tournaments for years, and trips to the Chess Hall of Fame in St.Louis have inspired him to shoot for the stars.

“I think one day Cole will find himself in the Chess Hall of Fame. It will work great since it’s right here in St. Louis,” said freshman Srujan Garmenalla.

While one day Tatro may compete against the best in the world, he first must compete against the best in the nation.

“At the end of this summer, I’ll be competing in the same national tournament, and in the same age group. I’ll try my best to improve my placement, but we’ll see,” Tatro said.

Despite being modest about his chances, Tatro has a good chance to place in the top 5 nationally at the junior national meet. This prestigious meet will take place this summer between August 25-30 in Chicago. 

Standout chess players from all over the country will assemble in the Hilton hotel to wage mental warfare, and only the smartest and most cunning will survive. 

Player’s elos at this tournament will range from 1500 –  2300 (elo is the universal ranking system for chess, with a beginner being 800 and a professional 2200). 

“I’m a 1,700 elo right now. By the end of high school, I want to get above 2,000. I’ll have to just improve my late game and improve my ability to look ahead,” Tatro said.

While Tatro says there’s still room for improvement in his game, his friends don’t see any way he could get better.

“Cole is insane. He beats me in under 10 moves routinely, and I’m decent. If he gets any better, he’ll start beating me in under 5 minutes,” said Garmenalla. 

Although he has a variety of strategies and openings in his repertoire, Cole says he has one opening that is his go-to, and it allows him to win most of the tournaments he enters. 

“I usually go for the Accelerated Dragon opening. It’s a pretty unconventional strategy, and it usually throws off my opponents,” Tatro said.

Through practice, the accelerated dragon, and national competitions, Tatro looks to keep improving and sharpening his skills.

“The way Cole beats me, I bet he could win that national tournament with a blindfold,” said Garmanella.