It’s pretty cool when I am surfing a website that has nothing whatsoever to do with chess, and up pops an article that’s not only about chess but about somebody I know!
I wrote about Luke Harmon-Vellotti here back in 2008, when I managed to defeat him in a game at the Western States Open in Reno. (At that point he was only 9 years old; nevertheless, he managed to outplay me strategically and arguably lost the game just because of one move he didn’t see — like a boxer who outfights his opponent but then walks into a knockout punch.) See my post Prodigy Smackdown.
Well, Luke is proving now that he’s a prodigy in more ways than one. This fall he started college at UCLA at age 14(!) In fact, he’s starting at the same time as his 18-year-old brother, Carl. Someday I’d like to eavesdrop on a conversation between Carl Harmon-Vellotti (USCF rating 1975) and Alan Naroditsky (USCF rating 2092) on what it’s like being the older brother of a prodigy. It must be very strange. On the one hand, it must be nice to not have so many people paying so much attention to you. You can just live an ordinary life. On the other hand, I’m sure that you wish you could get a little bit of attention sometimes.
Anyway, back to Luke. He is currently the top-rated 14-year old in the country by a mile (2492 compared to 2399 for #2 Akshat Chandra). He seems like a very level-headed guy. He’s going to study mathematics (yay!) and computer science (boo!) and he wants to be a doctor. Hmm, can anybody say “Doogie Howser”? For now, he’s the youngest student at UCLA and he looks forward to leading the UCLA chess team to the Final Four of Chess.
Memo to Luke: If you’re taking math classes at UCLA, don’t miss the chance to take a class with Terry Tao. He knows a thing or two about being a prodigy, as the youngest-ever bronze medalist, silver medalist, and gold medalist at the International Mathematics Olympiad. Moreover, from what I’ve heard he is a humble guy who doesn’t let accolades go to his head. He truly takes his teaching seriously, which is not so common among top-level research mathematicians. And he’s brilliant. Who knows, you might just change your plans to be a doctor and turn into a mathematician instead.
However, I do want you to get your GM title first. That way I can add you to the very short list of GM’s whom I defeated when they were still young and not grandmasters yet. The only name currently on that list is Vinay Bhat.