Prabhakar passes on love of chess to next generation

Nikhil Prabhakar works with Mason Middle School student Jack Loucks as he competes against a classmate in a chess match.

Ali Sami | The Chronicle

Nikil Prabhakar is using his chess skills to pass on his passion to younger Mason Comets.

Prabhakar, a senior at Mason High School, plays for the Mason Chess Team and teaches chess to Mason middle schoolers through the after-school enrichment program (ASEP). Prabhakar, who started playing chess at the age of five, says that he wants to pay back Chess for making his entire childhood.

“I was once in their shoes and seeing them succeed when I teach younger kids is a cool feeling for me.”

Prabhakar started doing ASEP as a sophomore and has been doing it since. The chess course that is offered is meant for all levels of chess players, from beginners to experts. Jack Loucks, one of the kids that Prabhakar teaches, said that it’s a positive experience whether you are trying to learn the sport of chess, or are an expert.

“It’s good for starters, and it’s good for really good players,” Loucks said. “It’s good for any level you are.”

Prabhakar tries to match specific students with other students to adapt to their own skill levels and hopes that with students with the same skillset learn from each other.

“There are some kids who are more advanced than others,” Prabhakar said. “There are some kids who don’t even know how to play chess and have to start teaching them what each move is and what each piece is.” 

Although Prabhakar is the teacher, he says that he learns from young kids how they play and sees a new perspective on skill sets and tactics.

“A lot of these kids sometimes have different tactics and skills that even I don’t know,” Prabhakar said. So it’s always unique to see their aspect of the game because they could make any single move that I might not have thought of. So we both learn in the process.”

Many of the kids Prabhakar teaches are interested in joining the high school chess team, so he tries to carve kids best as possible for the challenges they may face at a higher level. Prabhakar, who said has been participating in chess tournaments for over ten years, looks for tournaments that some of the more competitive chess players in his class could enter.

“Our high school team is pretty competitive so you need to have some sort of starter base when you’re in middle school or younger,” Prabhakar said. “So what I do is I offer them tournaments in the local area that they can go to after practice.”

Prabhakar said that it means a lot to him that many kids are dedicated to playing and learning chess with him after school.

“Many of them are in middle school, and they come here on their Friday afternoon, spend time here at the school to play chess,” Prabhakar said. “They could be doing other things, so it really means a lot to me.”

After three years of teaching chess, Prabhakar is heading off to college and will no longer teach the younger Comets. 

 “You have to enjoy yourself and I want to be the person that can make them enjoy the game on their own and make it fun for them,” Prabhakar said. “I’m there to kickstart and ignite the spark they have for chess, and I hope I did that.”

Photo by Ali Sami