HomeCherry Hill NewsCherry Hill chess master faces young prodigy in Battle of the Ages

Cherry Hill chess master faces young prodigy in Battle of the Ages

Long-time national chess master Leroy Dubeck, 79, played three matches against 9-year-old Abhi Mishra prior to the start of the Leon Shulman Liberty Cup at the Crowne Plaza on June 3.

Abhi Mishra hits the timer just after making a move while Leroy Dubeck prepares to make his next move during a Battle of the Ages exhibition match between the two chess masters at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill on June 3.

Dozens of chess players began to gather inside the terrace room at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Cherry Hill on the morning of June 3 to compete in the Leon Shulman Liberty Cup. From 9 to about 9:30 a.m., players signed in at the registration table, and engaged in casual conversation.

Then, Leroy Dubeck and Abhi Mishra walked into the room.

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Everyone gathered around a lone chessboard in the middle of the room as Dubeck, 79, and Mishra, 9, sat down. The crowd went silent as the two shook hands and began playing.

No one wanted to miss a single second of this match between two national masters from two different generations.

To kick off the Liberty Cup tournament, the South Jersey Chess Club arranged a special “Battle of the Ages” exhibition match between Dubeck of Cherry Hill and Mishra of Englishtown. Dubeck was a highly influential figure in the U.S. chess community for many years and former president of the United States Chess Federation, while Mishra is an up-and-coming star who recently became the youngest player ever to earn national master status.

Unlike his opponent, Dubeck didn’t play chess when he was young. He began playing when he was in high school and quickly moved his way up the ranks, eventually becoming a master. The U.S. Chess Federation grants national master status to any player who reaches a rating of 2,200 or more. According to the federation’s website, less than 1 percent of rated players in the country hold the title of master.

“I got a set from a relative of mine as a gift and I had a chess club,” Dubeck said. “I went to the chess club and I got hooked.

“I played and my rating rose very quickly, like it did with (Mishra),” Dubeck added. “If you have some talent for it, you go through various grades very fast.”

Dov Gorman, executive director of the South Jersey Innovation Center, where the South Jersey Chess Club is hosted, noted Dubeck has played highly ranked young players in the past. During a presentation at the event, Gorman said Dubeck had once played a young Fabiano Caruana and defeated him. Caruana is now the №2 ranked chess player in the world.

Mishra is also striving to become one of the world’s greatest players. He began playing chess competitively at the age of 5 and quickly moved up the ranks, reaching a rating of 2,000 at the age of just 7. In February, Mishra made history when he became the youngest player ever to earn national master status.

“My dad first showed the game to me,” Mishra said. “We just kept practicing and there I went.”

Dubeck said he hadn’t played or seen Mishra play prior to the Battle of the Ages and felt the young master would have the advantage.

“With hand-eye reflexes, the kid will have a huge edge on me, because you slow down physically,” Dubeck said prior to the match. “You can have a winning game and if your flag drops, you lose the game.”

Dubeck and Mishra faced off in three matches during the exhibition. Each player was given five minutes to make their moves in each match. Playing a five-minute game was something Dubeck hadn’t done in at least a decade.

“This is a little faster,” he said. “I play 10-minute chess at the club every week, which is double the time.”

Mishra showed how talented he was during his match with Dubeck, winning two of the three games. Mishra played as white in the first game and black in the final two games. Dubeck’s lone win came in game two, where Mishra ran out of time.

At the conclusion of the match, Gorman gave plaques to both players. Dubeck received a plaque for his many years of service to the chess community and Mishra was honored for earning national master status.


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