The Nazareth Area School Board honored a state champion Monday night.
Aristo Liu, a third grader at Shafer Elementary School, won the K-3 section at the state scholastic chess championship in Carlisle, Pa., earlier this month. For that, he received a certificate of achievement from the school board and district.
Aristo won all five games he played at the state championship tournament, to finish clear first out of 68 players. He is ranked among the top 50 8-year-old chess players in the nation by the U.S. Chess Federation.
On Monday he posed, shyly, next to the large trophy he won at the state tournament as his beaming parents took a photo of him with district officials.
The young chess wizard scampered around the head table, a mixture of energy and humility, as board members congratulated him and tried, unsuccessfully, not to laugh along with his obvious joy and exuberance.
What makes Aristo's feat remarkable is that he started to play tournament chess just seven months ago, last August. He sometimes plays at chess clubs and tournaments in Allentown, where his skill and poise have caught the eye of veteran chess experts.
"Aristo has a maturity -- both in the way he plays chess and how he conducts himself at the board -- that is years above his actual age,” said Eric C. Johnson, organizer for Allentown Center City Chess Club, in an e-mail to Patch.
"Aristo's result at the state championship is further evidence that young players who play at mixed clubs like ours in Allentown (i.e. adults and juniors competing together) improve faster and have greater success overall,” Johnson added.
Aristo will compete in the National Elementary Chess Championship in Tennessee, in May. He won a $400 chess scholarship to go along with his state title.