By Greg Gelpi
Some look at a chessboard and have no clue where to start. Kazim Gulamali is already thinking 10 to 15 moves ahead.
With two national chess titles, the 15-year-old Forest Park High School sophomore will vie for another national championship in Chicago next week.
"That isn't chopped liver," Forest Park Principal Morris Davis said. "He's like the LeBron James of chess."
Processing and calculating his moves, he not only thinks ahead, but is able to check his own moves just to make sure.
"When I analyze things, I usually look at things four or five times," he said.
On his way to winning the 2003 National K-9 Championship, he defeated the top-rated scholastic player in Florida as well as a number of other regional champions.
Gulamali's father Muntaz Yusuf, a long-time chess player himself, began teaching his son the game at the age of 7 and about two years ago the student became the teacher.
"This was the best thing for me," his father said. "I can get upset when I get beat, but it was great getting beat by him."
In his eight years playing the game, he has quickly climbed the ranks and has commanded national attention and respect.
He has absorbed his father's teachings so well that his father is unable to continue teaching him.
"I can't handle him anymore," Yusuf said. "He comes up with some way new ideas."
While most chess players of his caliber practice for 15 to 20 hours a week, Gulamali might watch a video for an hour or two, Yusuf said.
"I guess it's sort of natural talent," Gulamali said.
Demonstrating his mastery of the game, he forced his father to resign in a matter of minutes of playing speed chess.
In a flurry of moves, Gulamali often began moving his piece as his father's hand came off his own piece. In the end, though, his father gladly admitted defeat with a proud smile.
And the same skills that enable him to succeed in chess will enable him to succeed in life, his principal said.
Vision and aggressiveness are skills necessary for winning in life, Morris said.
"He represents what is good about Clayton County," Morris said. "All that work ethic embodies what will make you a success."
Chess fans have commented on Gulamali's aggressiveness, Yusuf said.
"He just looks at it and never backs out," his father said.
Once he commits, Gulamali focuses his attention on winning, taking risks if necessary to do so and choosing to go down fighting rather than settling for a draw.
Gulamali regularly plays on Monday nights at Barnes & Noble in Morrow, and Forest Park High is trying to establish its own chess club.
In the meantime, he and his father are setting up a challenge to display his talent.
He wants to arrange to play 20 chess games at once against the best high school players in the county, he said. He has attempted the feat before and won all 20 games.
In recognition of his achievements, Forest Park High named him the school's Scholar Athlete of the Month for December.
The father-son duo are hoping to share their passion and talents for chess by giving lessons. Yusuf can be reached at MuntazYusuf@hotmail.com and (678) 698-4473.