Mastery in our midst


Travis Bethke

  With eyes narrowed and mind focused, Jr. Josh Posthuma made the first move of the chess game. With my strategy in mind, there was nothing he could do to throw me off from my confident game. I made my first move with boundless optimism, but Posthuma quickly exploited my tactics and was much ahead in every aspect of the game. Four moves later, I heard something I did not want to hear this early into the game, “Checkmate!”

  How could I have been manipulated, bamboozled, and tricked into playing such a bad game of chess? The answer is simple. Posthuma is a world class chess player, and after I played him, I could not deny it. Posthuma’s ability to control the game with intelligence and focus was intimidating from the start. I had just lost in four quick moves, and all I did was sit, absolutely amazed. I did not lose this quickly because I am bad at chess, but simply because Posthuma is a chess master.

  Posthuma’s dominant chess game did not develop overnight. His love of the game began when he discovered a chess board and was curious. “I was the one who got myself introduced to the game. When I was young, around five years old, I found a chessboard in our closet. I didn’t know what it was, and my dad really didn’t know what it was either, but I asked him to play with me,” Posthuma said. From that day on, Posthuma and his dad began to study the game and were intrigued by the strategy and skills that it demanded. “Immediately I thought the game was really interesting. I always looked for opportunities to play, and people to play with.” Posthuma’s chess career has taken off and he has dedicated himself to strive for excellence.    

  Similar to a professional athlete, Posthuma puts a lot of time into chess every day. He routinely reads articles, books, and watches videos to improve his knowledge and ability. “I love to practice all the time, pretty much every day, whether it’s mentally or physically. Anywhere from just an hour, to all my free time. Some days I can be practicing for over five hours,” Posthuma said.

  As Posthuma’s game began to rapidly improve, he was eager to play better competition. Twice a week, Posthuma travels to a chess club in Grand Rapids, where he can play some of the best competition in Michigan. In addition to attending chess clubs, Posthuma practices a lot online where he plays some of the highest ranked players in the world.   

  Through his dedication and hard work, the World Chess Organization has given him the well-deserved title as “A National Chess Master.” Posthuma is the top 16 year-old in the State of Michigan, State Co-Champion, and most impressively, one of the best 16 year-olds ranked in the top 20 across the United States. Posthuma has played in multiple tournaments and has beaten some of the best players nationwide. He has traveled to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Nashville, Dallas, Ohio, Indiana, Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis to showcase his skill and play against the best. Posthuma would consider himself to be a more aggressive player during tournaments because he always looks for ways to counter attack his opponent’s moves.

  To increase his chances of winning, his routine before each tournament is the same. “I like to get to tournaments an hour before they start to settle into where I am and calm my nerves. I warm up by playing a quick game or two to get my mind on track and prepare my strategies.” During a normal chess game, Posthuma can think past his next move and envision what the board will be like multiple moves ahead. “On average, I usually think 5-6 moves ahead, but in critical situations, I can think 10-15 moves ahead.” With every chess game being different, adjustment and creativity are crucial for Posthuma’s success. “Because of the complexity of chess, I always have to come up with new plans in order to stay in the game. This is why a typical chess game at my level can last between 4-6 hours.”

  By studying the game, Posthuma has found that chess has enhanced certain skills that benefit him in everyday life. “Chess has really helped me with my critical thinking skills as well as my ability to analyze situations. For example, taking tests and writing papers have become easier because I am able to think through many options and approach things in different ways so I can get the most positive result,” Posthuma said.

  The game of chess has influenced Posthuma’s life dramatically and has enhanced his ability to anticipate and calculate real world situations. “Because of the mental aspect of chess, I am able to think things through, and look deep into the future to see how my actions now will affect what happens in the future.”  

  Chess has become a large part of Posthuma’s life, and he has benefited a lot from it. The best advice Posthuma can give to a person just starting out is to be patient, look for all options, and don’t make moves too quickly. His favorite fact about chess is that there are more chess configurations (10^120) than atoms in the universe (10^82). Posthuma’s high rankings are nothing to look past because he has definitely proved himself to be a National Chess Master. If you want to know just how good he really is, play him…. I dare you!