Chess Player: Rayan Taghizadeh

Written by Katie Zhang

Since he was introduced to the game at age four, sophomore Rayan Taghizadeh has found a sense of joy with playing chess with his father. Taghizadeh’s curiosity in what his father was doing one night triggered an interest in an activity which would later turn into a regular hobby. “When I was four years old, I fell on a chessboard when my dad was playing with himself at home,” Taghizadeh said. “I decided to start because I was very interested in learning about chess, and I was having fun playing with my dad every day.”

Putting aside academic studies and other activities, Taghizadeh spends most weekends going to tournaments to improve his chess skills. “I try to improve by playing in many tournaments, as well as keeping a consistent practice schedule, which includes playing against others around the world and solving chess tactics,” Taghizadeh said. “Nowadays, I practice one hour a day, and go to tournaments about every other week. Depending on the type of tournament, I might travel around the Bay Area or across the nation.”

With all the time and effort Taghizadeh puts into his chess activities, his chess skills are put into action during real life as well. “Many of the skills I have acquired while playing chess, such as thinking ahead and making critical decisions without much time, can be applied to almost any situation in everyday life,” Taghizadeh said. “I am not sure what I will want to pursue in the future, but I am confident that I will be prepared no matter what I choose.”

Not only does Taghizadeh get to improve his skills in his chess tournaments, or even just have fun, he also gets to travel to other countries–allowing him to explore the world. “I have traveled to countries such as Slovenia, Greece, and South Africa to participate in the World Youth Chess Championships, an international tournament held annually which pairs the best players from each country against each other,” Taghizadeh said. “Another tournament is the Pan American Championships, which was held in Mexico when I participated in it.”

Everyone has their own memorable experience when it comes to something they dedicate most of their time to. “My most memorable competition was the World Youth Championship in South Africa (2014),” Taghizadeh said. “I placed bronze in the U-12 category, tying for gold and thus becoming co-world champion. After I won the last round, I was overrun with emotion because I knew that my performance in that tournament was my best ever.”

With the advancement of modern technology, the chess world has become more complex and less forgiving of errors. “With the advance of technology, the chess world has also become increasingly precise and less forgiving of mistakes,” Taghizadeh said. “Stronger chess engines are being created every day, with the most notable one being AlphaZero, which crushed the precious computer chess champion 64-36. The evolution of computers has made preparation and practice a lot easier for players, although one must know how to study in order to maximize the benefits that a computer can offer.”

One important factor in Taghizadeh’s chess play is to evaluate outcomes of different plays before doing so. “Before playing a move, I make sure that it is tactically and positionally sound. I also evaluate the threats of my opponent before making a decision of where I want to go,” Taghizadeh said. “I like to play tactically and very aggressively when I am on the attack. If the game is more even, I often resort to positional maneuvers, while taking little risk, to gain the upper edge.”

With all of Taghizadeh’s chess successes, he decided to bring his enjoyment of chess into the Gunn community, which is something he is very proud of as well. “Although I have been successful in many national and international tournaments, I am very proud of running the Chess Club in Gunn and Terman,” Taghizadeh said. “I love seeing people play against each other and learn the great game of chess, while having fun at the same time.”