Familiar around the Chess Club has been the face of Julian Proleiko, who first walked through our doors at the age of 12. He began like any St. Louis chess novice -- attending Sunday’s Kids Beginner classes, taught by Grandmasters -- and within six months, Julian had made a complete transformation from beginner to a competitive chess athlete.
Julian leaped the chess beginner’s hurdle by winning the monthly Kids Beginner tournament on his third attempt -- and he put the prize of a one-year USCF membership to good use. He tenaciously improved his game with a constant participation of rated games, a regular participant of the Club’s ladder as well as numerous weekend tournaments.
Losing a game of chess never seemed to affect Julian. Even in his initial rated games, he boldly dueled Grandmaster Ben Finegold as much as he could. He believes those early games against Finegold were incredibly valuable, stating that the GM instilled important lessons that allowed rapid progress.
The numbers don’t lie: Within his first year of persistent play, his rating sky-rocketed from 600 to 1600. And today, at 15 years old, Julian has surpassed a 2000 rating -- earning him Expert status.
Along the way, some of Julian’s most-notable achievements include winning the 2013 Missouri State Championship in the K-8th grade section, earning him an invitation to represent the state in the prestigious Barber Tournament of Champions. There, he won 4 out of 6 games and took sixth place, despite entering as the 35th seed. His rating jumped 80 points from the lone performance.
Recently, Julian has stayed sharp in the Open section of most of the Chess Club’s major tournaments, including the Millionaire Chess Satellite and the Thanksgiving Open. In December, he also became the 2014 Monthly Knights Champion -- and the homegrown talent was a team member of the Saint Louis Arch Bishops, who celebrated as this year’s 2014 U.S. Chess League National Champions.
Julian’s favorite chess players throughout history include Rashid Nezhmetdinov, Paul Morphy, Anatoly Karpov and Magnus Carlsen, and most influential on him were Finegold and GM Yasser Seirawan from their many visits as the CCSCSL Resident. He credits them all for helping him reach one of his proudest milestones -- earning Expert status -- passing an often difficult plateau for those trying to break out from class players. Julian’s short-term goal is to break 2200, earning him National Master title, and one day he would like to earn the International Master title. Despite being only 15, he fully understands the depth of hard work required in accomplishing both titles, and so he refrains from setting a specific time-frame in achieving these ambitions. With hard work, he understands those titles will simply come.
This month, Julian will head to Russia as part of a family trip and to participate in the 2015 Moscow Open chess festival -- though he won’t return to St. Louis. When he returns to the states, his family will move to Portland, OR, and the CCSCSL will lose one of its most regular members.
His journey from a Sunday beginner to the chess boss he is today has been heartening for members and Club staff alike, and we cannot express enough gratitude for the passion and dedication Julian recycled into the CCSCSL. We hope he flourishes in life the same way his chess rating did while we got to know him -- come back and challenge us again soon.