In chess, the rank of Grandmaster is obtained after reaching a certain level, which is expressed in ‘Elo’ points.
An Elo rating changes depending on the outcome of games played between professional chess players.
After each game, the winning player takes points from the losing one, the amount determined by each of the players’ rating at the start of the game: an upset counts for more points than a game in which a higher-ranked player defeats a lower-ranked one.
A lower-ranked player will also gain a few points from the higher-ranked player in the event of a draw, with the aim of the rating system being self-correcting.
To obtain the Grandmaster rank, a player must accumulate 2500 Elo points and have achieved three Grandmaster results, including winning against other Grandmasters.
Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen of Norway is considered the current world chess champion by the Elo rating system, with a score of 2847 in classical, 2881 in rapid and 2886 in blitz chess.
Dardha’s scores, according to the International Chess Federation, are 2521 in classical, 2469 in rapid and 2489 in blitz.
At just 15 years old, he is yet to reach his prime.
He is a two-time Belgian Champion, became world champion of rapid chess at the U14 level and won numerous international tournaments.
He also participated in a 2018 simultaneous chess tournament with Antwerp’s mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA) – himself an avid chess player – among his opponents.
“I love the strategic game,” Dardha said.
“You can’t refute chess. You have to recognise patterns, be able to put yourself in the opponent’s shoes, anticipate and look ahead. And every game is different.”
His father introduced him to the world of chess and trained him up to a certain level until his son’s skill surpassed his own.
“Now he is so strong that he outclasses me,” his father told De Standaard. “But I still coach him and help him prepare.”
“And talent is one thing, but you also have to work hard to achieve and maintain this level – this title is the culmination of eight years of hard work. If you know that a chess match can last up to six hours, you know that it can be very intense. Not to mention the hours you put into training and preparation. What Daniel has shown now is simply world class.”
Dardha attends school in Borgerhout, where he studies science and mathematics.
“We will see what the future brings,” he said. “In two years’ time I will also continue my studies and it is hard to combine chess with school.”
“I am lucky that they now give me the chance to take part in tournaments. But anyhow, grandmaster or not, you can’t make a living out of chess.”