Joshua Colas: His Journey So Far

Josh_Colas(2015) (1) Josh Colas at 2015 North American Open in his game vs. Ruifeng Li. He would earn a GM norm with 6.5/9. Photo by Alan Losoff
In the chess world, we often believe we know a talented young player when we see one. How many times in America have we heard that a young player will be the next Bobby Fischer? Plenty of times. Each time we hear such a pronouncement, we smile inwardly with skepticism, but we quietly take notice. Currently, the American chess scene is in the midst of a renaissance with the finest collection of young talent seen in years. This includes "veterans" such as Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, both products of U.S. scholastic chess. I have been fortunate enough to see and play some of these talented scholastic players and have watched many from afar. On one occasion, I witnessed one of these talents sprouting. At the 2006 World Open, I was strolling through the skittles room, scanning the area for a story. As I walked in, the room was rather sparse, but I saw a man playing blitz chess with a diminutive boy. It appeared to be a father-son battle, so I presumed it would be fun to watch. With their intermittent punching of the chess clock, I stopped mid-step with intrigue as the boy was playing theoretical lines with confidence. I started scrambling to get my camera ready to take a shot as the boy continued to bang out moves. After the game, I asked the man, "Is this your son?" My hunch was right. I learned that the man was Guy Colas playing his 7-year old son Joshua Colas. They had traveled from New York to play in the World Open. It was Josh's first national tournament.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Josh Colas playing blitz at 2006 World Open at age 7. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
  Immediately, I wanted to get a better look at the boy's talent so I asked his father if I could show him one of my games, a tactical win with some nuances. To my surprise, he was seeing patterns and ideas when prompted. Impressive! After our session, I went to his father and told him, "Your son is quite talented. Keep him interested." Many times you see young players come on the scene, but it is hard to tell when interest will wane and another hobby will come calling. Sometimes a little encouragement helps. Fortunately, American scholastic chess has been buoyed by the local Chess-in-Schools programs and the nationwide scholastic events. There has been the Denker Tournament of High School Champions, the U.S. Junior Open, the U.S. Closed and the Cadet Championship. However, the "Supernationals" has been the crowning glory allowing obscure scholastic players to shine on a national stage. The tournament draws more than 5000 players from around the country.  
JoshColasat12 The hungry eyes of Josh Colas, at a US Chess School session in New York, Photo Elizabeth Spiegel
  Ten years ago, Josh started a gradual ascent supported by his family and friends. He started chess in October 2005 playing in local tournaments in New York, but his father put him on the fast track. Guy has always had confidence in his son, but could he have known that he was grooming a master-level player? Guy told The Chess Drum, "I knew he had potential, but when he was solving 4 to 7 move puzzles within seconds, I knew there was something natural.” In time, Josh became an Expert at 10, a National Master at the age of 12, a Senior Master at 14, and a FIDE Master at 16. He has won six national grade championships and a number of open tournaments and is a mainstay at the Marshall Chess Club. One of his first confidence builders was the 2010 Caribbean Chess Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, his first international event. As an 11-year old, he received international publicity, became the sensation of the tournament by beating national hero FM Ryan Harper. He scored +2 in the process and lost only to IM Kevin Denny of Barbados.  
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Josh Colas caused a stir by defeating FM Ryan Harper at the 2010 Caribbean Chess Carnival in Trinidad. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
 
Josh-Justus Josh and Justus Williams on top boards at New York’s ‘Chess in the Park’. Photo by Elizabeth Vicary.
  Over the years, Josh has built up a fine collection of Grandmaster scalps along the way and has finally developed a bit of stability. He had been fluctuating between 2350-2420 since 2012, but has recently tipped the ratings scales at 2487 USCF after his first GM norm at the North American Open December 2015. Lately, Josh has been working on his opening repertoire, a necessity at higher levels. As a senior at White Plains High School, he aspires to secure the last two norms to secure the coveted Grandmaster title. To appreciate the journey, one has to look at the circumstances. Josh comes from a loving family of Haitian ancestry with hard-working parents Guy and Yanick, an older brother Korey, and a younger sister Chellsie. He also has a supportive uncle named Clotaire Colas, an early chess inspiration. They are his biggest fans and have supported him in his quest for chess excellence. After earning his GM norm, Josh stated, “My parents constantly remind me that if I work hard and believe in myself, nothing is impossible.”  
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Colas Family at the 2011 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
  Josh has a growing legion of friends and supporters and has gained the respect of his peers. When one meets Josh, it is easy to see his humility. He maintains this persona despite being a scholastic chess All-American since 2009 and one of the top 100 players in the country. His growing list of accomplishments has been mentioned above, but also includes being honored by the New York Senate (Resolution J.4136) for his national and international chess accomplishments. An aspiring computer scientist, Josh will attend Webster University to pursue his studies while under the tutelage of GM Susan Polgar. Perhaps university chess programs have become the best opportunity for players to focus on chess while in school, but in reality, these are academic scholarships. With a challenging major such as computer science, Josh will have to meet high standards. Without such a supportive environment, his pursuit of chess goals would hardly be possible.  
USCadets2013 2013 U.S. Cadets (L-R): Justus Williams, Ruifeng Li, Michael Brown, Joshua Colas, Christopher Wu, Varun Krishnan, James Black, David Hua.
 
Josh_Colas3 The forgettable 2014 U.S. Junior Closed may have been a turning point. Photo from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.
   
Safal-Bora-Joshua-Colas-1024x683 Safal Bora and Josh Colas training at Webster’s SPICE program in July 2015. Photo by Paul Truong.
  In social media, Guy often complained of the lack of norm opportunities for his son. Last year, the Colas family set up a website (www.joshuacolas.com) and launched a fundraiser for Josh to complete a series of tournaments. The fundraiser was a success and has helped Josh compete in several major tournaments. This summer, he is looking to earn additional GM norms, which may require international travel. After graduation this summer, Josh will prepare to move to St. Louis to attend Webster. Guy Colas has praised Polgar for her genuine interest. While St. Louis is nearly 1000 miles from White Plains, New York, there are few places as hospitable for chess. Of course White Plains will remain Josh's ancestral home. The city already has a bit of a chess pedigree being the childhood home of America's top player, Hikaru Nakamura. Young Josh will be looking to make history of his own.
[pgn]

[Event "North American Open 2015"]
[Site "Las Vegas, USA"]
[Date "2015.12.29"]
[White "FM Josh Colas, (USA)."]
[Black "GM Jinshi Bai, (CHN)."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D91"]
[WhiteElo "2245"]
[BlackElo "2502"]
[Annotator "Josh Colas"]
[PlyCount "135"]
[EventDate "2015.12.06"]

{Before this game, I knew that a draw or win would secure a IM Norm. I felt
relaxed and had the mindset to just try to play the best moves throughout the
whole game.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 {I had checked the database before
the game and was expecting Jinshi to play the Grunfeld.} 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bg5 dxc4
{Here, Jinshi thought for about 15 minutes and took the c4 pawn. The usual
move is Ne4.} 6. e4 c5 7. d5 b5 8. e5 b4 9. exf6 exf6 10. Qe2+ Kf8 11. Be3 bxc3
12. Bxc5+ Kg8 13. bxc3 Bb7 {I've actually never played against the move 13..
Bb7. The line that I usually encounter is 13..Nd7, 14..Be7, Qe8.} 14. Qe7 {
After I played the move Qe7, I figured that Jinshi had to either
exchange queens or play Nd7. If he moves the queen off of the 8th rank, he
would get mated in two after the move Qe8. And if he keeps the queen on the
8th rank and moves to Qc8, I saw that I can capture the c4 pawn .} Qc8 15. Bxc4
{After playing the move Qc8, I could see the frown on his face. Jinshi noticed
that 15...Na6 or 15...Nd7 doesn't work due to the move 16.d6!} Ba6 16. Bxa6
Nxa6 17. Bd4 Qc4 18. Qe2 Qxe2+ 19. Kxe2 f5 20. Kd3 Rc8 21. Rab1 Bxd4 22. Kxd4 {
At this point I felt confident going into a better endgame with a
pawn up against the young GM.} Nc5 23. c4 Kg7 24. Rhe1 Rc7 25. Ne5 Rd8 26. Rb5
Ne6+ 27. Ke3 f4+ {I was confused about the move f4+. I thought he was going to
bring the knight back to c5 and try to repeat.} 28. Ke4 Nc5+ 29. Kd4 Nb7 30.
Reb1 Nd6 31. Rb8 Nf5+ 32. Kd3 Rd6 33. R1b7 Rxb7 34. Rxb7 Ra6 {At this point, I
made it harder on myself. I had about 15 minutes and Jinshi had about 6
minutes. I was excited and a little nervous . I should have taken the pawn on
f7 with check and then continue to push my passers, but instead I pushed the
pawns first which probably wasn't the best idea.} 35. c5 Ra3+ 36. Kc4 Rxa2 {
Here again, I should have taken the f7 pawn but felt the need to push!} 37. d6
Rc2+ {I spoiled my +5 advantage by playing 38.Kd5. Instead the best move in
this position is 38.Kd3. Followed by Rxc5, 39.Nxf7!} 38. Kd5 Rd2+ 39. Kc6 Nd4+
40. Kd7 Ne6 41. c6 Nc5+ {After this move, we made time control, so I spent
about 20 minutes trying to figure out what is the best square to put my king.
I couldn't decide between e7 and e8. I thought that e7 was the better option
since it protects the d6 pawn and looks safer. But it turns out that Ke8 gives
me a +10 advantage and Ke7 only gives me a +2 advantage.. YIKES} 42. Ke7 Nxb7
43. d7 { I found this cute move d7, and thought I was completely
winning until he played the move..} Rb2 44. cxb7 Rxb7 45. Kd6 Rb1 46. Kc7 Rd1
47. Nc6 f3 {After he played 47...f3, I was a little pissed at myself because I
thought I had botched a completely winning position into a draw. I had mixed
feelings in my head even though I knew that a draw would almost certainly
clinched an IM norm.} 48. gxf3 Kf6 49. d8=Q+ Rxd8 50. Kxd8 Kf5 51. Ke7 Kf4 {
Now, I thought for about 7 minutes. I calcuated that if i captured
the pawn on f7 its a complete draw after Kxf3. So I thought to myself and said,
"I got this far, I might as well fight to the end." So, I played the move Nd4.}
52. Nd4 f5 53. Kf6 {Jinshi had about 2 minutes to my 10 mintues at this point.
The crowd was watching and could sense our adrenaline kicking in as we moved
into blitz mode.} a5 54. Kg7 {Here I used my extra time to calculate
if my knight gets to c2 on time and if I could create sufficient play on the
king side to create a pass pawn.} h5 55. Kxg6 h4 56. Kh5 h3 57. Kh4 a4 58. Kxh3
a3 59. Kg2 a2 {At this point it was pretty much over.} 60. Nc2 Kg5 61. f4+ Kxf4
62. h3 Kg5 63. Kg3 Kh5 64. h4 Kh6 65. Kf4 Kg6 66. f3 Kf6 67. h5 Ke6 68. Kg5 {
Jinshi resigns.} 1-0[/pgn]
Daaim Shabazz is the editor and founder of the chessdrum.net. You can also find him on twitter and facebook.

Comments

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

This well written article couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s very encouraging and I hope it will arouse many kids to get involve in the sport. Thank you Jennifer and Daaim! P.S. when you click on the link to his website...error message

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Excellent article!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I know Joshua since birth. He is very humble and kind. I'm proud of Joshua and can't wait for his accomplishments in the future.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Good to read this young man is taking up comp sci.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A huge tribute to Joshua, and the Colas family. I would imagine that the chess program at IS318 made a huge impact as well. Great article. My students will really enjoy seeing his games. Inspiring. "Coach Jay" Stallings, Southern California

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

i don't believe josh is part of IS 318 as he's from white plains.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great piece Daaim. Congratulations again to Josh. I enjoyed his analysis. The future is indeed very bright!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Josh is a student at White Plains H.S. he's not affiliated with any chess program and is not home school.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

In addition to his tremendous chess skill, I have always been impressed by Josh's composure and demeanor during tournament games - even when an opponent tries dirty tricks like clock-slamming and glaring. He is probably the most polite, well-mannered young man you will ever meet at a chess tournament.

In reply to by Matan Prilleltensky (not verified)

Completely agree with Matan. In addition to Josh's chess skill, his politeness, modesty and attitude is impressive.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Excellent article Dr. Shabazz! The games of Josh which I have seen are bristling with creative attacking ideas and hum with the energy of youth. Josh is a good talent and I'm sure he will shine under the tutelage of Susan Polgar!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Great article, I have been trying to follow him as well.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] The showcase event is the High School Championship section and the winner earns the right to represent New York in the Denker Tournament of Champions.  There was no shortage of talent this year as three FMs and five NMs headed a field of 93 players.  The top seed was Joshua Colas, who was recently featured in an in-depth US Chess piece by Daaim Shabazz.   […]

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] Jamaal Abdul Alim just wrote an article for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education on James Black, Joshua Colas, and Justus Williams, all of whom have accepted partial or full scholarships to Webster […]

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] amazing. It feels good,” Colas said of making his second IM norm, which — along with an IM and GM norm he earned at the North American Open this past December — he can now invoke to lay claim to the IM […]

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[…] #8 article in Best of US Chess 2016 is Joshua Colas: His Journey So Far by Daaim […]

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[…] – Joshua Colas: His Journey So Far by Daaim Shabazz (Judging […]

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[…] – Joshua Colas: His Journey So Far by Daaim Shabazz (Judging […]

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[…] – Joshua Colas: His Journey So Far by Daaim Shabazz (Judging […]

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

excellent article, nice to hear about a rising star, hope to have a great fight with him ( I am 2 years older) in a future tournament :) Honest commentary, well done ! All the best!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

[…] Revisit the article here!! […]

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