Justus Williams Takes Empire State
By Shaun Smith   
December 30, 2009
Justus Williams at Washington Square Park
11-year-old Justus Williams went undefeated this weekend at the Empire State Open (December 26-28) with 4.5/6, and raised his rating to a personal best 2140.  He is now only 60 points away from becoming a master, which at age 11 would make him the youngest ever African American Master; the record is currently held by Kassa Korley who earned the title at age 15.
Here are Justus' wins from the event:


and White won in the time scramble.

Some say you have to get lucky at least once to win first place in a tournament and if that's true, the next game was Justus' lucky one. White could have won with 25.Bxf6! (Rf8 Rd7 gxf6 Qh3) or 28.Qd8 (Kg8 Qxf8 Kxf8 gxh7 Qc2 h8=Q+ Ke7 Qxg7+.)


When asked how he felt during the tournament, Justus remarked “at first I was nervous and I thought this event was going to be hard, but I kept repeating to myself what my mother told me on the way to the tournament---It is not important for me to win the tournament, but to play my best in every game.”  Justus tells me he repeated this advice to himself before and after every round.  

Justus also told me that he always plays well when Steve Immitt is directing.  However, Justus stressed that the presence of his mother, Latisha Williams, was the biggest reason for his success.   More specifically she encourages him when he is down and keeps him humble when he is winning. 

Justus learned chess in his third grade classroom, through the Chess-in-the-Schools program at his school, Public School 70 in the Bronx.  In less than three years of playing chess, he became one of the highest-rated elementary students in the country.  Justus is now in the 6th grade at IS 318 in Brooklyn, another school in the Chess-in-the-Schools Program, where he is motivated not only by his coaches, but also by the success and hard work of his own teammates. 
As Justus’ first chess teacher and coach, I am very proud of all his success. Justus has a very busy tournament schedule in the next couple of months.   Although I am hardly unbiased, I'm sure many will agree with my prediction that the NM title is not far for Justus, and that this recent tournament win will not be his last.