Gavin’s chess journey started in the 3rd grade – It’s all about the kids!

Gavin’s chess journey started in the 3rd grade – It’s all about the kids!

#chesswithcoachlarry –


The chess journey of Gavin Zhang started in the third grade in an after school chess club at Access Academy.  Gavin was team captain for the Access chess team, which dominated the local tournaments and won many team trophies. I taught that class 10 years ago and also started giving private lessons, which have now been going on for over nine years. At Lincoln High School, where Gavin was also team captain, he led the chess team to many wins in the Portland High School Chess League.

Gavin’s journey truly expanded when he began to travel America to play in chess tournaments. He has played in Nashville, Philadelphia, Dallas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Indianapolis, winning both trophies and money. Gavin won $2,000 playing in a chess tournament in Las Vegas. His next goals are to play in tournaments in Europe and to reach the level of Grandmaster.

International Grandmaster James Targent, Oregon’s only Grandmaster, meets with Gavin to help him attain the chess master title which is only a few rating points away. Targent, who has played in Europe for many years, helps Gavin to understand the difference between American chess tournaments and European tournaments.

This fall Gavin will be attending Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, where he plans to play on their chess team and hopes to be selected to play in the PanAmerican Intercollegiate Championship. California has many weekend chess tournaments and Gavin hopes the demands of his college studies allows him time to play in some of them.

Gavin has come full circle in his chess journey, as he is now teaching the after-school chess class at Access Academy where he started. He’s helping the next generation of chess players there to learn the basics of this fascinating game. As he watches his students improve their skills and become better chess players, his own journey becomes more rich and complex. Just as my chess journey did from when I began teaching this fine young man and eventually watched him surpass my chess expertise. That’s the thing about journeys – you meet a lot of people on the path. And sometimes they pass you up. It’s the circle of chess life!


Game of the month.

Checkmating with a pawn gives a player great satisfaction and rarely happens!

  • White: Mlotkowski
  • Black: Deacon
  1. e4, e5
  2. Nf3, d6
  3. d4, f5
  4. dxe, fxe
  5. Ng5, d5
  6. Nc3, Bb4
  7. e6, Bxc3+
  8. bxc, Nh6
  9. Qh5+, Kf8
  10. Ba3+, Kg8
  11. Qf7+, Nxf7
  12. exf7# (Checkmate!)


Why learn chess? Simple: It’s a great mental workout that helps children perform well in the classroom. Chess is a logical game where kids have to plan ahead and adjust to new situations. But most of all, it’s fun!

Larry Ball (Coach Larry) teaches students of all ages at the Steinitz Chess Academy in Beaverton. For more information, email Larry at