“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” (Jim Collins)
Kayden learned to play chess at the age of 3. His father wanted someone that he could play chess against so he taught Kayden's older brothers, Jeremy and Zachary, to play chess at an early age. Kayden silently sat on his dad’s lap and watched as his dad and brothers played. When he had just barely turned 3 years old he announced to dad that he was ready to play. Dad thought that he would be a good sport and humor “the baby”. So, he set up the board and had Kayden give it a try. The whole family was amazed that Kayden knew how all of the pieces moved and he knew how to attack with them without ever being taught. From that moment on Kayden was a regular player in the Troff household.

Dad started to take the boys to some local tournaments and the local chess club at the library. The boys actually wrecked the chess club. Not only would they win all of the scholastic age players K-12, but they would make a special point to stay for the adult competition held later in the evening and pretty soon no one wanted to come any more because both kids and adults were tired of getting beat all of the time by the boys including the little kindergartener who was 5.

At about this point, Dad thought that this might be a little larger than just a fun game in which they were progressing. Dad located a Grandmaster in the state of Utah named Igor Ivanov. Igor lived in St. George and offered a full week of instruction for only $300.00. Dad felt that this was crucial, somehow, for their future. So they booked a week with GM Igor Ivanov for Dad, Jeremy (11 years old), Zachary (8 years old) and Kayden who had just turned six (July 2004). In retrospect, this trip did not make any logical sense. None of them had a chess rating and they were going to get some training from one of the best players in the world. But Dad felt very strongly that they better spend the money and go on this crazy trip.

This is the account of what happened by Kayden's Dad. "It turned out to be a great week! Igor had a thick Russian accent and he was hard for the boys to understand but with some translation and coaxing from dad the boys showed that they had some real skills. Igor was very impressed with Kayden at age six. Igor would set up chess problems on the chess board and he would then ask us to solve them as quickly as possible. We were pretty good at this, but Kayden kept beating us all. Igor then asked Dad and the boys to set up a random problem and he would take Kayden on head-to-head. I'm sure he did this for show, but when both players turned around to look at the board and start the exercise - Kayden beat Igor to some of the answers. Igor did not quite know what to make of this, but he was very complimentary. We ended the week helping Igor and Elizabeth move to a new home and we had made some great friends in the process. Igor was able to come up to Salt Lake during tournaments about once a month and he would give lessons to the boys for several hours. This happened on a few occasions until his death of cancer in December 2005. There really weren't any other grandmaster chess teachers in Utah and I didn't know how things would progress going forward.

In January of 2005 a very kind friend who was sponsoring Kayden gave us the opportunity to have Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov spend the day in our home teaching the boys. This was a great opportunity for both the boys and us as parents as he gave us some great advice for raising a chess champion. The best piece of advice being that we should always keep it fun.

Kayden had won the State Championship for the 1st grade with a perfect 6-0 score during this year having started to play in scholastic tournaments only a few months before. Kayden has won the State Elementary Championship for his grade every year subsequently in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. A picture of Kayden was featured in the newspaper when he won the State Championship for the 1st grade and various news articles have been published on Kayden and his brothers as they have also been State Champions.

In February of 2006, Kayden won his first United States Chess Federation tournament. This was a major event because he was only in 2nd grade and he won all of the top players in the other grades K-6 to take first place. This tournament had never been won by a 2nd grader before, and Kayden's USCF rating advanced to 1222. He also won the Scholastic Utah Grand Prix that ran through the 2006-2007 school year. This event was a combination of five different tournaments held throughout Utah in which the scores of each tournament were added together for a total Grand Prix score. Kayden won the K-6 Elementary section with a perfect score of 25 wins and 0 losses.

Around this same time, Kayden and his brothers started teaching the Elk Ridge Middle School chess team once a week. They did this for over 2 years. At first, the middle school students balked at having “a little kid” teaching them, but after Kayden played them simultaneously on seven different boards and won them all, they stopped complaining.

Kayden and his brothers soon became the scourge of the adult USCF tournaments as they quickly advanced their chess ratings. In June of 2007, Kayden took 2nd place to his older brother Jeremy in the June Plus Score USCF adult tournament. This was an Open tournament with many players in the 1700-2100 range. Because this tournament propelled Kayden above a rating of 1700 at age 8 this earned him a place on the 2008 All American Chess Team. We received notification of this honor in October of this year. Forty three players from age 8-18 were chosen out of 45,000 scholastic participants. This was the first year that Kayden would be eligible to be on the All American Chess Team (the level of accomplishment to be on this team is similar to the qualifications to be on any other sports All American Team and we were thrilled). Kayden was featured on KSL on the evening news and the front page of the Tribune for this honor.

In Kayden's very next tournament he played in the Utah Class Tournament in the "B" section for players with ratings under 1800. He took first place against all of the other adults in this section.

That summer Kayden and his brothers along with another chess family, the Treimans, that we are good friends with started what has become the most premiere chess camp in the state of Utah. They hold their camp 2 weeks during the summer and once over winter break (due to popular demand). The students attending their camp are the top scholastic chess players in the state of Utah along with many other who are just learning. They have divided up the camp to deal with many different skill levels and try to combine learning great chess skills along with lots of fun!

During all of this time Kayden has regularly been in the top 10 players in the nation for his age on the United States Chess Federation. The top 100 lists are published bi-monthly. Additionally, he has been in the top 100 players under age 13 and under age 16 for speed chess during this time.

Kayden continued playing in the adult tournaments and he won multiple games during the next year against the "A" class players.

In the Utah Open 2008, everyone was surprised that Kayden had advanced to the final round and he was the top board. In this tournament he won his game against the former 2007 Utah Open State Champion (knocking him out of the competition for the top prize) and he also drew another former Utah Open State Champion. He lost his final game much to the relief of many of the adults. Someone was heard to say, "He’ll have other chances in his lifetime to win the Utah Open. It just wouldn't be right for a 10-year old to win this event." We certainly did not agree with these sentiments, but it gave Kayden a chance to work even harder to improve his game.

Kayden then went to the National K-12 tournament in Orlando in December. He took 6th place in the nation for all K-6 players in the Quick Chess tournament (and he missed first place by 1 second- which is another story all by itself). He then competed against the 5th grade in the slow tournament (you are only allowed to play in your grade for this part of the tournament). After some fierce competition Kayden took 2nd place in the nation for the 5th grade.

In January, Kayden competed in the 2009 Utah Speed Chess Championship. Each game was 5 minutes with a 2 second delay per move. Kayden won both of his games against a Master rated player who was a prior champion of this event. Kayden played 14 games total against all of the top players and he only lost one game. He was awarded the 2009 Utah State Speed Champion title and was the youngest player ever to win a major Utah Championship event. He was featured again on KSL radio and the internet and Fox News did an evening news spot on Kayden after this event.

Shorty after that, Kayden's USCF Quick rating rose to 2051 which is considered an Expert Level player at age 10. He won two games against International Master Alex Lenderman who was the 2008 Grand Prix champion for all of America. Alex Lenderman had a Quick rating of 2490 and a regular rating of 2587 when Kayden won his game against him. Alex Lenderman only had four losses in this regular weekly tournament since September and Kayden has two of the four wins.

Kayden was awarded a Certificate of Accomplishment at a special presentation during a city council meeting presented by the Mayor and City Council of West Jordan in February 2009. This was given to him for his accomplishments in winning the 2009 Speed Chess Championship.

Kayden was in the top 20 in the nation for the 2008 Junior Grand Prix (tied for 11th). Points are awards in qualified events for winning a player 100 points above your rating. Kayden had 155 points and he was only limited by the fact that he could not travel to many of these events to score more points. For him to be in the top 20 with his limited scope of tournaments in Utah is amazing.

In March, Kayden received an invitation to attend the United States Chess School to be held in New York City, NY in July of this year. The US Chess School is a high level week of chess training in which a small number of the top juniors in the country are brought together to study with a top Grandmaster. The chess school was taught by US Champion, GM Alex Onischuk. This school is set up to help train future US Grandmasters and Chess Olympiads. The school was held at the famous Marshall Chess Club which was featured in the movie Searching for Bobby Fisher.

Also in March, Kayden played in the second Utah Championship of the year: The Utah G/60. He went undefeated in this tournament taking a draw in the last round to guarantee him the championship.

Shortly after the G/60 Championship, Kayden began playing in the Utah Expert Series. These series of tournaments were set up for the top Experts and players in Utah for the opportunity to play in some high level tournaments locally. Kayden has won 3 out of the 4 tournaments that he has played in. This has been a great opportunity for Kayden to be able to play some high level players without having the expense of travel. After the 3rd Expert Series, Kayden finally reached his goal of Expert going over 2000 on his rating and becoming the youngest Expert ever in the state of Utah.

In June, the USCF Top 100 lists came out. These are the top players in the nation listed in different age categories. Kayden was listed as number one for all kids age ten in the nation. He was also listed as number one for all kids under 13 for his quick rating and number 5 for all kids under 16. We were very excited about this!

Through the remainder of 2009, Kayden was very active in chess tournaments both in Utah and outside of Utah. He is the 2009 Utah Chess 960 Champion, the 2009 Utah Bughouse Champion with his partner, Damian Nash, the 2009 Utah Quick Champion, and part of the team that won the 2009 Utah Team Championship.

One of the greatest experiences so far for Kayden was the opportunity to represent America in the North American Championship in Mazatlan, Mexico in the U12 section. He went 6.5/7 drawing his American teammate in the final round and winning himself the gold medal making him the North American U12 Champion and qualifying himself for the Pan American Games in Brazil.

In November 2009, Kayden reached a great milestone. He officially became a National Master by obtaining the rating of 2200. It is said that approximately 1.5% of all adult chess players ever reach the rank of Master so for Kayden do reach this mark at 11 is quite an accomplishment and he joins a very small group of kids who have accomplished this feat.

In December, Kayden once again was invited to attend the United States Chess School in Atlanta, Georgia with GM Gregory Kaidanov, IM Greg Shahade, and FM Aviv Friedman. Kayden loved attending both US Chess Schools as he was given the chance to be with other top young players from around the country.

Kayden was also once again named as a member of the 2010 All-American Team as a 10 year old.

In January 2010, Kayden once again won the Utah State Speed Championship against some very strong competition. At this tournament, he was awarded by the Utah Chess Association the 1st ever Utah Player of the Year Award. He was very surprised and excited about this honor.

In February 2010, Kayden was listed as number 1 in the nation for all 11 year olds. He has continued to be number 1 on this list for the April 2010 list and should be for one last time when the June list comes out before switching to the 12 year old list. He has now been number 1 in the nation for Quick U13 for an entire year and is number 2 for Quick U16.

Also in February, he won the Junior High State Championship and Jr. High Blitz Championship. As a 6th grader, he had his option to play both in the Elementary 6th grade championship and the Jr. High Championship. Kayden opted not to play in the 6th grade Championship instead letting his friends battle it out for the title and Kayden played only in the Jr. High winning with a perfect score in both the championship and the blitz.

Kayden started writing a weekly blog on Chess.com about his journey to GM. He quickly became one of the top bloggers on their site and loves the interaction and relationship he has developed with the other chess.com members.

In May 2010, he was named as the official representative for the United States in the U12 at the World Youth Championships to be held in Porto Carras, Greece.

In August 2010, he made his first appearance on the Top 12 year old list and came in at number 1.

In October 2010, he participated in his first World Youth Championship. It was an incredible experience to be there with so many from all over the world. There were 87 different countries participating in the tournament with a record 1400 players total. In Kayden's section there were 150 participants. Kayden came home with the siver metal taking 2nd place in his section. It was an experience we will never forget!!

We consider this to be only the beginning of Kayden’s story. One day, I was trying to make a point that we sacrifice for what we want the most or what we love the most and I said to Kayden, “Like your chess, do you sacrifice for your chess?” He thought about this for a moment and then said, “No, I don’t sacrifice for chess.” To me, that says it all! He spends 6 to 7 hours on his chess every day, but he does not consider it a sacrifice. He loves it!!! “Becoming a Grandmaster” are not just words to him, but a true desire. We have done everything in our power to help this dream come true and we will continue to do so, but now we need help to accomplish this dream. Kayden is now traveling all over the country to different National tournaments where he has the possibility of playing very high rated players to get his own rating up. The expenses are large and the sacrifice is great. It will take the hands of many to fulfill his dreams, but we have seen so many miracles and so many individuals who have helped him along the way that we know it will be possible.
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