Jake Kleiman ′09
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Sweet! Jake is ranked among the top .01% of chess players in the US but he finds his greatest reward in teaching budding chess players.
How did you first become interested in chess?
My chess career began in the 4th grade after joining my school′s chess club at the urging of a friend′s parents. The first forty games I played, I lost. At first, I was really disappointed, but there was something so intriguing in calculating a winning strategy and counteracting the moves of my opponents that I stuck with it and by the 6th grade, I won the title of Tennessee State Elementary Champion.
What other accomplishments have you earned?
I started with 2nd place in the 1998 Southern Open Tournament, was invited to be a member of the U.S. Junior Olympic Chess Team in 2000, and took second place in the United States Junior Chess Championship Invitational. In fact, I went on to earn the title of International Fide Master. However, my most memorable triumph was definitely my first win against a Grandmaster, especially since I was only 15 years old at the time. Not many fellow chess players can boast of such an achievement.
How do your accomplishments in chess apply to your experiences at Rhodes?
When I was in high school, I was asked to give private lessons to a few professors and to coach Rhodes’ Chess Team. Playing against a Grandmaster is one thing, but being a high school student directing a group of college students is a whole other ball game. But during those two years, I gained valuable insight into the inner-workings of the Rhodes community and the enthusiasm of Rhodes professors. Dr. Eric Gottlieb was the team′s faculty advisor and working with him was definitely the best aspect of coaching Rhodes’ team. From then on, I knew I wanted to attend Rhodes.
Have you continued with your chess endeavors while at Rhodes?
Of course! Since I’ve been at Rhodes, I′ve been invited to play in two U.S. Chess Championships, the World Junior Chess Championship, and in international tournaments in countries such as Denmark, Armenia, Ukraine, Mexico, and Hungary. Just last summer, I traveled to Scandinavia to play in the Baltic Sea Cup and in the Politiken Cup. I will be playing in various professional tournaments this coming summer.
Of those tournaments, which victory has meant the most to you?
To be honest, my most satisfying accomplishment has been providing chess lessons to middle school and elementary students. After being recognized as a National Master by the United States Chess Federation in 2003, International Grandmaster Alex Stripunsky and I decided to launch a chess company called Mid-South Chess, Inc. to offer quality chess training to public and private school clubs in Memphis. We have grown every year and now invite an array of distinguished chess players from all over the world to teach at two weekend camps and one week-long summer camp that are held at various Memphis locations. We even hire Rhodes students as coaches and counselors at our schools and camps.