Keshav Beegala, 9, holds up his favorite of 22 trophies and six medals on display in his family’s home in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Keshav Beegala, 9, holds up his favorite of 22 trophies and six medals on display in his family’s home in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The checkmate kid is 9-year-old Keshav Beegala of Bothell

Graduate third grade? Check. Learn rock guitar? Check. Become a chess champion? Checkmate.

While other kids his age were conquering “Candy Land,” he was busy capturing kings.

What’s up with that?

Keshav Arjun Beegala learned to play chess before he started kindergarten.

He has since many times said “checkmate” to his father, who taught him, and to people 10 times his age.

Keshav, now 9, has won state titles for three years in a row.

The Shelton View Elementary student recently finished at the top for third graders in this year’s virtual state chess tournament of about 175 contenders in his grade. Last year, he had one of three perfect scores in the second grade division and the year prior, he had the only perfect score for the first graders. He ranked 12th in his age group in the 2019 nationals competition in Nashville, Tennessee, which was not held this year due to COVID-19.

Keshav Beegala (right) plays a practice chess match with his brother Dhruv, 6, in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Keshav Beegala (right) plays a practice chess match with his brother Dhruv, 6, in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

His trophies tower over the mantle of the family’s Bothell home.

“I want to get big upsets,” Keshav said. “I’ve done it in my last two tournaments.”

This kid doesn’t sit around and play chess all day. Maybe an hour a day, unless he’s in a 10-hour tournament.

Keshav aspires to be a chess grandmaster, but first he wants to be a guitar hero.

He’s off to a good start, based on the performance last week in his living room, rocking “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath.

With the same king-crushing concentration in chess, he strummed the chords on his dad’s electric guitar.

After several years of piano lessons, Keshav started learning guitar earlier this year during the stay-home order. He also does songs by Metallica and Iron Maiden.

His 6-year-old brother, Dhruv, has taken up chess.

“I beat my dad 1,000 times, because my dad is very bad at chess,” Dhruv said. “I didn’t get to be a champion because I’m still a kid.”

He is waiting until he is 7 to compete.

The two boys practice together. Keshav plays online and has private coaching. He likes in-person games the best. Before the pandemic, Keshav played at Seattle Chess Club, Chess4Life and Pacific Northwest Chess Center.

“He plays kids his age or 80 with the same intensity. He has no fear of age,” said his dad, Adi Beegala, an Amazon finance manager. “He’s a gentle kid. He fights hard in chess, though.”

The father was pretty much on his own when he started playing as a kid in India.

“I taught myself,” Adi Beegala said. “My sister got a board for me, and I got a book trying to figure out how the pieces move. It was baby steps.”

He wanted to up the game of his firstborn son, who is now out of his league.

“We do coaches around the world,” the dad said. “There are people in Cuba and India and here, based on what he needs to learn.”

Magnus Carlsen, 29, the Norwegian World Chess Champion since 2013, also was taught by his father to play chess at a young age.

“He’s a very fun and smart person. He is very creative,” Keshav said.

Keshav Beegala, 9, and his brother Dhruv, 6,play a practice chess match in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Keshav Beegala, 9, and his brother Dhruv, 6, play a practice chess match in Bothell. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

He prefers the “attacking style” of Viswanathan Anand, a previous world champ who as a youth was nicknamed the “Lightning Kid” in India.

“I like tactics,” Keshav said. “I like to checkmate the opponent and attack the opponent’s king. It’s fun. Even if I lose you can analyze your game and learn from your mistakes.”

He is hard on himself when he makes mistakes.

“The one I clearly remember is I played a game, I was completely winning. I just had one move to checkmate and then I blundered the whole game and lost,” Keshav said. “I felt like I sucked at chess. I cried. I said negative stuff.”

His parents help him bounce back.

“Often when he gets into the negative zone, he quickly comes out of it after a few encouraging words,” his dad said. ”Thinking about the big picture, this is just a dot in the whole journey of chess for him. View it as a small event.”

How does Dad accept losing?

“I’ve been crushed so many times,” he said. “Taking it from the kids is hard. You have to be strong.”

The 22 trophies and six medals on the mantle are a shrine to Keshav’s success.

“I still remember day one when he got the small trophy and he was so full of joy,” said his mom, Hari Priya, a Microsoft program manager.

That was from a chess club meet from Keshav’s kindergarten era.

“Behind every single trophy there are a lot of tears and tantrums and sleepless nights,” she said. “I constantly check with him. I want to make sure he is enjoying it and not doing it out of pressure. I’m happy for where he is today, but I also appreciate the hard work he puts in.”

Keshav’s favorite trophy isn’t one of the shiny 3-footers. It’s a medium-sized trophy from 2018 of a pawn with a glass top.

“It looks like a diamond and when you put it to the light it glows,” he said.

Andrea Brown:; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Chess trivia

Sources: Various

The word “Checkmate” in chess comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat,” which means “the King is dead.”

The first chess game between space and Earth was in June 1970 by the Soyez-9 crew. The game ended in a draw.

A computer designed to play chess called Deep Thought became the first of its kind to beat an international master in 1988 in California.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is an internationally rated chess master. He twice won the Washington State Chess Championship, in 1984 and 1987, under the name Bobby Ferguson.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Everett man dies after being hit by car in Island County

Jacob Weigert was running across State Route 20 toward a bus stop when he was hit Wednesday morning.

Lynnwood police shoot at man during pursuit

The man is wanted on multiple warrants, including one for attempted murder, according to police. No one was hurt.

The “Village of Hope,” a tiny home community including 17 shelters, is set to open on Mission Hill Road in Tulalip in September. (Tulalip Tribes)
Tulalip Tribes to open tiny home village with 17 shelters

It’s called the Village of Hope. Monthly culture nights will feature classes in Lushootseed and “Tulalip cooking.”

Man shot at Everett apartment

The man in his 30s was shot Sunday night. No arrests had been made.

Arlington Public Works employees use The Big Sidewalk Sucker to lift a concrete panel from the sidewalk. The device saves the city some money and time to level ground below the concrete. (Arlington Public Works)
This thing sucks and helps repair sidewalks in Arlington

Public works crews can remove heavy concrete panels from sidewalks, so the ground underneath can be restored.

United Way of Snohomish County CEO Craig Chambers at their headquarters on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New CEO expected to reinvigorate United Way of Snohomish County

The nonprofit lost staff and funding during the pandemic. Craig Chambers wants to turn things around.

New LGI Homes on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Red-hot housing market cools, a bit, in Snohomish County

The amount of housing inventory is rising. Demand is slowing. Higher mortgage rates are a cause.

John McKeon stands in front of a mobile headquarters vehicle while discussing the funding needs of Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the search and rescue headquarters in Snohomish, Washington. McKeon said a priority for the group is to find money for new covered parking for a number of vehicles that do not have a garage to be parked in. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue wants rescuing

They’re asking for nearly $1 million in federal recovery dollars, but funding has been hard to come by.

Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How to answer Snohomish County’s basic crime questions? ‘Transparent data’

An initiative funded in part by Microsoft could reveal racial disparities, while creating an “apples to apples” database.

Most Read