Chess Prodigy Sarwer Considers New Run at Grandmaster Title

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Jeff Sarwer at Kings of Tallinn

Poker player and former Chess prodigy Jeff Sarwer finished third in the Kings of Talinn poker tournament over the weekend but he has a bigger goal in mind these days:

Grandmaster status in the game that first grabbed his attention when he was still playing with toy dinosaurs.

The former prodigy-turned poker pro spoke with PokerListings Finland contributor Tuomo Järvelä during his run to the final table and revisiting his first "Mindsport" love is on his mind.

"I think I'm going to test the waters a little bit with Chess before I go in and say I'm going to become a Grandmaster, but I don't think many people at my age ... just decide to study Chess and become a Grandmaster.

"So if I could do it ... and that's a big if ... I think that would be very nice. In a way it's perhaps a bit of unfinished business in my mind.

"I have no aspirations to become the World Chess Champion or something like that. But if I can become a Chess Grandmaster in my late 30s, when I only had a bit of training as a kid, that would be nice. For myself, as a personal goal."

World Champion by 8 Years Old

Jeff Sarwer
Jeff Sarwer at 2011 WSOP Main Event.

Sarwer's background is an unconventional one. Home-schooled by his father, Sarwer and his sister traveled across North America and the World while his Chess talent developed.

He learned the game at age 4 and by 6 was granted a lifetime membership in the Manhattan Chess Club in New York. At age eight he was a world champion.

"Jeff at nine is stronger than Bobby (Fischer) was at 11," said Allen Kaufman, head of the American Chess Foundation.

"I started Chess by playing with toy dinosaurs when I was a very young boy," Sarwer said over the weekend. "Lining them all up. Then I found Chess pieces.

"A lot of people get into games who are into math. And I got into Chess because it was aesthetically ... it was superficial at first.

"I just loved the way the pieces looked and that made me love the game."

Given a tumultuous family situation which only got more complex, Sarwer was pushed away from Chess as he grew older. Now in his late 30s, Sarwer says he's enticed to revisit his first love and take it to the next level.

"Poker's the Game Where You Make Money"

Like most games players, Sarwer says, he moved into poker later on in life because that's where the money is.

"You could ask so many people who play games ... they all move to poker at some point.

"Whether it's Magic: The Gathering or Starcraft or Chess there's so many cross-overs because poker's the game where you make money."

Sarwer earned €16,470 for his thrid-place finish over the weekend. Check the full interview below:

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