Four hours have passed14-year-old Kayden Troff's mouth is dry.
He mentally regroups, though, and focuses his attention on the checkered wooden board and pieces in front of him as he plans his next move.
He has to be flawless.
Two years prior, the West Jordan teen was in Greece at the world youth gold medal round and lost in a tie to a Chinese boy who scored more overall points. This time in Slovenia, Kayden stares across the chess board, determined not to take home silver again. But like a boxing match without a knockout after 11 rounds, he doesn't know the result of his match against a boy from India until he sees his mother.
Kayden said he figured he had at least won silver again, but as he walked back from the playing hall toward his mom, she exclaimed, "You just won gold!"
Kayden just achieved the recognition of best in the world at chess in his age category of 13- to 14-year-old teens.
In the final round, Kayden had eight points and was paired against the leader from India who had nine points. All the boy from India needed was a tie to win, but Kayden needed a victory to beat him overall.
"You can imagine the pressure for the 14-year-old," said his mother, Kim Troff, last week. "The guy leading had gone seven wins in a row."
Kayden was the most nervous right before the game.
"You know how much is on the line and you are nervous," he said. However, on the fifth move of the game, his opponent motioned for him to draw.
"At that point my confidence went up a lot more," he said. Kayden refused the offer, and the game continued.
The World Youth Chess Championship is the Olympics of the chess world, held this year Nov. 7 through the 19 in Maribor, Slovenia.
"It was one of the most incredible moments of my life, I was crying," Kim Troff said. "And of course he was like 'Mom, don't cry.'"
Kayden's feelings on winning were simply put: "It felt good to say, I got silver last timeâ¦and of course getting goldâ¦it is just great."
The self-proclaimed "chess nerd" says there is no doubt chess is a sport, and he loves the complexity and unpredictable nature of the game.
"The overall energy and focus it takes, it is always incredibly hard," Kayden said, adding it takes all his mind's endurance and focus. "It is really hard to sit at a board for four hours and just give it your all."
He has been playing chess for more than a decade now. He started at 3 years old after watching his dad play with his older brothers; just by observation he knew how each piece could move. His dad, Dan Troff, trained his sons how to play chess so he would have someone to play chess with. He never realized it would turn into more. Three years later, Kayden was competing around the state.
"When he first started, we had to put a phone book on the chair so he could see over table," Kim Troff said, of competition against high-school students. "I had to write the name for his opponents because he couldn't spell them, and he won that match."
She also recalls athletic sports weren't for him when his team won the state championship in 1st grade and he couldn't care less.
"I remember when we tried baseball, and he was out in the field playing with the rocks," she said.
His brothers, age 17 and 20, still play chess, but have shifted to other interests. They are always there for their little brother, though. Kim Troff said that earlier this month the family was up at 2 a.m. in Utahwatching the last round on the Internet.
The family is close-knit and she said she relies on family to keep the house running smoothly while she is gone.
"I'm texting my daughter from Slovenia saying, 'You have got to help my son with his math!' " she said.
Kim Troff travels every six weeks to tournaments around the world with Kayden, so a lot of time is spent away from home as she supports her son. She says the two have become best friends.
She said as a parent, she used to get very emotionally invested in his wins and losses, but over time has learned she has to be the one constant for him. She learned over time how to be encouraging and also support him.
"He gets a lot of pressure from the world to perform well, and he needs one place he can be supported no matter what," she said.
Kayden's next goal is grand master, then possibly world champion. He wants to make chess his profession. Why not? After all, he has been trained by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov since June as part of the Kasparov Chess Foundation, which has helped him build his confidence and focus in training.
Kayden trains for eight hours a day and has been home schooled since he was four. He is a typical boy who loves Nintendo and to tease his sisters and has a great sense of humor, his mom says. "He really, truly is not one that enjoys the limelight."
He says the joy he gets from playing is what keeps him self-motivated to train.
"You just have that moment of I just did that," Kayden said. "To have that joyâ¦ just the overall feel is just great."
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