When a fire destroyed Warren Wang’s home in 2011, it took with it the family’s possessions, the structure’s drywall, floors and appliances and Wang’s cherished chess boards, pieces and awards. But there was no extinguishing Wang’s passion for the game or his gratitude for the outpouring of support showered on his family.
Wang, 18, of Jericho, started playing chess when he was 4. The U.S. Chess Federation has ranked him fourth statewide and 32nd in the nation among 18-year-olds. He is also a National Master, an honor bestowed upon less than 0.1 percent of active tournament players, and has twice appeared on the cover of Chess Life magazine for winning the World Amateur Team Chess Championships in 2016 and 2017.
In 2014, he and his younger brother, Wesley, launched a nonprofit, CHESSanity, to teach the game to kindergartners to 12th-graders. So far, they have provided free chess sets and lessons to 20 schools — including in the Hempstead, Roosevelt and Wyandanch districts — through the nonprofit’s Adopt-A-School initiative.
Wang said the nonprofit is the brothers’ way of giving back to the community after his family’s house burned down during renovations, forcing them to live in a hotel for 18 months.
“It’s just something that stayed with me,” Wang said of the community’s generosity, which included donations of food, money and handwritten cards. “Chess has allowed us to help others in our own way.”
To help raise money for the nonprofit’s programs, the Wang brothers have been jointly hosting a Friday Night Chess program for children 6 to 9 years old that consists of 10 weekly sessions each during the fall, winter and spring at Pinnacle Education Group in Jericho. In total, the duo has raised more than $35,000 over the past four years between tuition, donations and fundraisers, Wang said.
At Jericho, he has been president of the Chess Club, which has won four consecutive county titles and placed second in this year’s Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championship. Wang was also one of five recipients this year of the U.S. Chess Federation’s Scholar-Chessplayer Award, which includes a $1,500 scholarship.
“Chess teaches you a lot of things that are important in life, like critical thinking,” Wang said. “I think it’s a really good educational tool.”
But there’s more to his life than chess. Wang was a member of the National Honor Society and Quiz Bowl, co-captain of the varsity tennis team and captain of the varsity badminton team — the latter of which won a county title this year. Wang won individual county titles in 2015 and 2017.
“He has already accomplished more than some will in a lifetime,” said his guidance counselor, Jason Rubinstein.
HIGHER ED: Wang plans to pursue a double concentration of finance and business analytics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
FRESHMAN YEAR: “I’ll always love home, but I’m looking forward to going off on my own, experiencing life independently and seeing where it takes me.”
IF I RULED THE WORLD: “If I could change something right now, I’d probably try and provide increased education opportunities for the less fortunate. In my opinion, education is paramount.”