Chess whiz begins a new chapter on the international stage as a student of legendary Grandmaster Garry Kasparov.

When 14-year-old Kayden Troff finishes a grueling chess tournament—requiring several hours of laser-sharp focus—he does something surprising: He plays more chess.

“I crave it,” says the West Jordan teen, who at 13 became the top-ranked chess player in the United States for his age. He speaks with a quiet intensity about his love for the game, which he’ll often play online until 2 a.m. “I unwind by playing more chess. It’s so complex and changing all the time. You’ll almost never see the same game twice.”

Kayden’s passion for the game was ignited as a toddler sitting on his father’s lap, observing as his two older brothers learned the intricacies of the game. Kayden was 3 years old when he began moving the pieces around correctly and even attacking. In the years that followed, Kayden has achieved undeniable stature on the international chess scene and is considered one of the brightest stars since Bobby Fischer. At 11, he earned the rank of National Master, a lifelong title Fischer didn’t achieve until he was 13. He is one of two National Masters living in Utah and one of about 1,500 in the country. Kayden has earned the rank of World Chess Federation Master, and in 2010, won a silver medal in the under-12 division at the World Youth Chess Championship in Greece. 

Despite his obvious aptitude, Kayden’s family keeps him grounded. “My parents have always encouraged balance,” he says. The whole family pitches in to run a summer chess camp, with Kayden teaching strategy to other youngsters.  

Kayden, along with a dozen other chess prodigies, recently joined Young Stars—Team USA, a program run by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, considered by many chess aficionados to be the best player ever.  

Fresh off earning his third and final International Master Norm in August, Kayden eventually hopes to nab a prestigious grandmaster and world chess champion title. But for now, it’s the love of the game that keeps him motivated. “When I think about chess, it’s just excitement,” he says. “It’s a calm and slow-moving game, but it’s truthfully so exciting when you play that good game and you play that good move. That excites me even more.”

Snapshot

Double header: “The longest game I ever played was followed by another one of my longest games,” remembers Kayden, who played a 7-hour game in Reno in 2010 followed by a game that lasted more than 5 hours.

Regular Joe: “Most of the time if I’m not playing chess, I’m just doing regular things: video games, basketball, watching TV, riding my bike.”

Number of hours per week he plays chess: 30-plus hours

Number of chess games played: 10,000-plus in person and online

Words of Wisdom

"If you don't absolutely enjoy [your hobby] then you won't be able to put in the work. If it becomes all work and no play, you need to find another passion."

UPDATE: Kayden Troff won gold at the 2012 World Youth Chess Championship. Click here for the story.

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