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Already a rising national star at age 12, Bed-Stuy chess champ James Black Jr. wants to become the youngest American grandmaster in the game's storied history.

Black led the chess team from Intermediate School 318 in Williamsburg to national championships in both the K-8 and K-9 divisions in April - and is only seven points away from the 2,200 needed to be named a master by the United States Chess Federation.

"It would mean a lot because I've worked so hard for it," said James. "I've practiced a lot to become a great player."

James wants to beat the record of Ray Robson, a Florida player who became the youngest American elected grandmaster at age 14 in 2009.

He needs to amass at least 2,600 points by continuing to win tournaments and score favorable results against existing grandmasters to receive that title.

Few players ever reach that level, but Black's IS 318 coach Elizabeth Vicary said James has the ability to do it.

"I'm amazed by James," she said. "He's got enormous potential and is one of the smartest people I've ever met."

James' quest to be the best started at a young age after his dad, James Black Sr., bought a chess set at a K-Mart to teach himself how to play.

"My dad showed me how to move the pieces around and I just liked it," he said.

James joined the chess team when he was in third grade at Public School 308 and quickly developed into a formidable player.

"He learned some things so he could start whipping on his dad," Black Sr. said.

Years of waking up early before school to play against a computer or to read chess books helped James to become an elite player, but his dad said the game also helped his son grow into a well-rounded young man.

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Article by MICHAEL PRESTON, NY Daily News | Read full article here