“I got crushed!” says club president Jinwoo Lee, a senior.
Shetty smiles often through his braces, looking like a typical teen in his Michigan sweatshirt and athletic pants. But the other kids find him awesome. Not only is Shetty the reigning Michigan Junior Champion for grades K–12, last year he became the youngest-ever champion in the Michigan Open and in April he placed fifth in the USCF National High School Championships.
Very strong adult players have USCF rankings of around 1900, Shetty’s ranking is 2379. “No one has ever come through here with his talent,” says Long, who has run the club for two decades.
Atulya’s father, Sharat, a software developer at Ford, jokes that he’s the “official baggage handler” when his son competes in youth chess championships in places as far away as Greece and the Republic of Georgia. His mother, Sujata, an associate professor of urban planning at the University of Toledo, usually stays home with his sister Mira, thirteen.
Sharat Shetty grew up in India playing chess with friends and cousins, and had planned to teach his son how to play when he was six or seven—but Atulya beat him to it. At age four, watching his caregivers at Gretchen’s House child-care center play chess with a magnetic set, he asked to join in.