Kayden Troff congratulated by Garry Kasparov on his big win.

Local chess whiz Kayden Troff, 14, just became the best in the world for his age group (14 and under).

Troff, who was one of six child prodigies featured in the Pure Genius article in our November/December 2012 issue, won gold in the World Youth Chess Championship on Nov. 18. He out performed more than 1,500 other chess players from 90 different countries in an 11-round tournament. The competition took him to Austria and Slovenia over three weeks, and it all ended with Troff receiving a trophy, various other prizes and a hug and from former World Champion Garry Kasparov.

Troff, who also belongs to Kasparaov's Young Stars—Team USA, got home last night at about 9 p.m. And after a trip half way around the world for the gold and back, he's prepping for his next competition. Troff will be in Las Vegas just before New Year's Eve for the National Open, where he will be competing against impressive chess players of all ages.

We caught up with the champ and his mother, Kim, to talk about the big win:

How does it feel to be the champion of the world for your age?

Kayden: It feels really good. One of the reasons is because in Greece, back in 2010, I took silver and just barely missed out on the gold. 

Kim: When he was in Greece playing, we ended up in the same position we were in at this tournament. He needed to win the last round or settle for silver. I found myself saying 'If he wins this game, he's got gold. Please just let him do it.' And the moment it was obvious he had won was an unbelievable feeling—something you dream about.

So what's next on your chess agenda?

Kayden: They are doing another Garry Kasparov chess camp in New York that runs Dec. 13–15, and after that there's the National Open in Las Vegas, which starts after Christmas. That will be a really tough one, because it's a big-money tournament with high-rated GMs (grandmasters).


The World Youth Chess Championships were held in Maribor, Slovenia.

What was it like traveling Europe for the world championship?

Kayden: It was really nice. You really notice the differences in cultures. And in towns we stayed in, there's not many people or skyscrapers like you'd see in New York. In Maribor, Slovenia, there's about 9,000 people. And in Austria, the town we stayed in had about 1,000 people. Both countries had beautiful sites, and in Maribor, our hotel was on top of a mountain.

Kim: These tournaments give him a chance to visit these other places in the world so different from his life back home, and he gets to see how other people live and talk and interact. In Austria, a lot of people there spoke some English, and in Slovenia, we didn't find as many, but we still found very nice people and a very different culture and way of life. We went up and down on a cable car to get to the tournament, and every time we were in the car, we were with someone from a different country. 

Are you happy to be back home?

Kayden: Yeah, it's definitely been a long time. This is the longest I've ever been away from home. I'm sure some people are like 'Three weeks, give me a break,' but for me it's a long time.

Did Kasparov give you any advice going into this tournament?

Kayden: At the last camp I went to, he gave me some general advice from what he's seen, and one of the things he told me I had to stop doing was stop teaching and focus on myself. I really love teaching and helping other kids around me improve their chess, but when you teach it starts to affect your own game. I just told those kids and they understood. He also found someone to help coach me for the tournament.


Garry Kasparov speaking at the awards ceremony.

What was it like having Kasparov there for your win?

Kayden: It was really exciting to have him there. He's just like 'Congratulations' and gave me a big hug.

And for mom, what was it like watching Kayden win?

Kim: They played in a different place from where we were staying, so the game boards were being telecast over the Internet so we could watch that last round. And he didn't know if he had won the gold, but midway through the game a coach came up to me and said if he wins, he's got the gold. When I knew the game was over, I ran to find him as he was coming up from the tournament hall, and said 'You got the gold!' and he said 'How do you know?' He just grabbed me and hugged me.

Any other big moments?

Kim: After an unexpected loss in round three, we knew he had to do well the rest of the tournament. And in round nine, he had to have a win. So, he was playing this game, and he was doing really well and then made a move that allowed his opponent to do something that made it look like he was winning. Kayden was low on time, and he found a move to turn it around that the coaches say was just impossible to see. Everyone was just dumbfounded. After that game, they were analyzing it and one coach called another over and said 'What's the best move in this position?' and that coach, who was a grandmaster, said 'I don't know what you can do here.' After he was shown the move, he turned to Kayden and said 'You found that on the board?' 

Kayden, anything you can say to all the chess fans you won over?

Kayden: I wouldn't say this is what started my fan base, but I'd like to mention my support group. I have some great friends and family who have been so supportive. It's been great—the help they've given me and the support they've shown has been a driving force for me.

Click here to see the tournament results. 

Kayden Troff is one of six outstanding child prodigies—all 14 years and under—featured in Salt Lake magazine's November/December 2012 issue. Pick it up today!