Q&A With Chess Champ Matthew Fishbein

03.19.14 A recent article appeared in the online magazine Current interviewing Matthew Fishbein currently the highest rated player in Maine. We reproduce the article, written by Kate Irish Collins, for your enjoyment.

Matthew Fishbein, 16, is the highest rated chess player in the state. Earlier this month, he led the Cape Elizabeth High School chess team to its third consecutive state title.

By Kate Irish Collins kcollins@keepmecurrent.com

CAPE ELIZABETH - In addition to state champion, Matthew Fishbein, a junior at Cape Elizabeth High School, can now add the moniker of chess master to his many achievements in the game.

Fishbein is the highest rated chess player of any age in Maine, after recently reaching a rating of 2205. He is also one of the youngest people across the country to hold such a distinction.

This past weekend the Cape Elizabeth High School chess team won its third consecutive state title, with Fishbein on board No. 1. Now he is gearing up for the adult state tourney, which will be held in April in Waterville.

Fishbein is the two-time reigning state champion among adults, and when he won his first title at age 14 he was the youngest person in Maine ever to earn that honor.

Fishbein started playing chess young, as a second-grader, and he won his first high-school level individual state championship when he was in sixth grade. Overall, he has won 13 individual and team scholastic state championships.

Fishbein is the only child of Ilene Schuchman and Dan Fishbein. He's lived in Cape Elizabeth his entire life. Recently, he spoke with The Current about chess and his elevation to chess master.

Q: What is a chess master?

A: In chess there are many different levels of players. These levels are determined by a numerical rating system that ranks players according to the ratings of the players they have beaten or lost to over the years. Ratings range from 100, beginner, to players over 2600 - professionals, who typically have achieved the level of grandmaster.

To achieve the level of master, you have to reach a rating of at least 2,200, which less than 2 percent of all active chess players in the U.S. of any age have done. Currently, only about 20 other 16-year-olds in the country are at this level or above.

Q: What does it take to become a master?

A: As in any sport, the most important factors are hard work and practice. It also is important to play against other high-ranked players who challenge you. Many times you learn more from the games you lose than from the games you win. To get this kind of competition I often travel to Massachusetts and sometimes to other states to play in tournaments. It also helps to have some natural skills, such as pattern recognition and good memorization ability.

Finally, it also helps to have good coaching. I've been very fortunate in that I've been able to work with great coaches both here in Maine and currently with an international master who lives in Massachusetts.

Q: How long have you been playing chess and how many hours a day do you practice?

A: I started playing seriously in the second grade, about eight years ago and, on average, I play about an hour a day, including lessons and online practice.

Q: Where do you play, mostly?

A: I practice mostly by playing similarly rated players online. For tournaments, I will typically travel to Massachusetts, New Hampshire or other states, but I also enjoy playing in Maine tournaments when they are available. On Saturday, March 8, the Cape Elizabeth High School chess team won its third consecutive high school state championship at the University of Maine, which attracted 277 players in elementary, middle school and high school sections. Our team consisted of me and Matthew Reale-Hatem on board No. 2, Wesley Parker, board No. 3, Colin Smith, board No. 4 and Carter Brock, board No. 5. We also had a strong reserve team, consisting of Nick Shedd, Danny Brett, Lily Jordan and Roman Medina.

In addition, this winter the Breakwater School in Portland hired me to coach their elementary and middle school chess teams. I really enjoyed teaching and coaching them, and also was with them at the state tournament this past weekend. They did a good job, and finished third in the middle school championship. I hope to do more chess coaching and teaching in the future.

Q: Why are you so passionate about chess?

A: I really enjoy the strategic aspect of it, and coming up with creative new ways to approach common chess situations. It's an area in which I am very successful, so that also helps fuel my passion. I also enjoy spending time with many of the other players, especially the kids my age. They are a great group of friends.

Q: What is Chess Maine and what is your role with the group?

A: I was just elected to be a board member of the Maine Chess Association, which is the governing body of organized chess in Maine and which is an affiliate of the United States Chess Federation. I am currently the only scholastic player on the board, See ChessMaine.net for more about the group.


It's been exciting to see Matthew advance his skills and mastery of the game. He's a great young man and now he's actively contributing to the growing interest in chess here in Maine through his coaching and as a member of the Maine Chess Association's Policy Board.

Best wishes for your continuing success from all of us who've watched you grow (and resigned, shaking our heads in amazement).

A neat interview of an
amazing young fellow!

this is fantastic news...
so proud of him

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