WEST JORDAN, Utah — Kayden Troff’s passion for chess began at age 3 and will reach new heights when the 19-year-old competes for his second national championship in July.
But win or lose, the West Jordan native then will give up the game he loves while he serves a Mormon mission to Australia.
Troff also deferred a full-ride scholarship to play chess at St. Louis University to be an LDS missionary come October, a decision he said many of his peers don’t understand.
What they don’t realize, Troff said, is that he will be back. “Chess will always be part of my life.”
The chess grandmaster and former junior champion headed to St. Louis last Friday, where he will compete against nine of the country’s top chess players younger than 21 in hopes of winning his second U.S. Junior Championship.
One of his mentors said his chances look good.
“He is one of the hardest-working kids in the game,” said Tony Rich, executive director of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. “But he makes it look so effortless.”
Troff grew up watching his father and older brothers play chess and eagerly waited his turn. That first game as a 3-year-old was a probably a miserable defeat, he said, but his skills and talent grew rapidly as chess went from a game to a lifestyle.
He began entering competitions at age 6, working with grandmasters privately and through elite national fellowships such as the Young Stars Team USA program at the Chess Club in St. Louis, where the junior championships will be held.
“The great thing about chess is you’ll never really have the same game twice even though it seems like you should,” he said in a recent interview as he hunkered down in his basement chess room at the family’s West Jordan home, studying games of possible opponents.
“You find the best moves but there are so many…