By Chelsey Sanchez
In chess, a king, the most important piece in the game, is nothing without the other pawns on the board. Senior Vartan Batmazyan knows this better than anyone.
As the current president of the Chess Club, Batmazyan, claims that he, like the king, would be nowhere if not for the people who supported him along the way. Beyond his hearty laugh and chess skills, both qualities that his friends and acquaintances attribute to him, lies a deep, genuine appreciation for his parents, who have cultivated his talents from a young age. Batmazyan is more than a funny guy or a genius at chess: he is a musician, a swimmer, an ice skater, and, most importantly, a family man.
His parents, who moved to the U.S. from Armenia within the last two decades of the 1900s, encouraged Batmazyan and his little sister to pursue many different activities by the time he reached the age of four. At this young age, Batmazyan’s passions for chess, swimming, the dhol, and figure-skating emerged.
Although renowned as a chess-playing prodigy by those who know him (and even rumored to have the ability to play — and beat — three people at the same time), Batmazyan often undermines these statements.
“People here are like, ‘Oh my god, you’re the best chess player ever,’” he said, “But, I’m not that good. I’m actually pretty terrible.”
Whether terrible by his standards or the best by others’ standards, Batmazyan nonetheless exposes an impressive, indomitable side to his personality — one that not very many can pull off. At home, he even has a box full of trophies for, most notably, his chess achievements, and, less well-known, his figure-skating achievements.
“I’ve competed in every rink in Southern California, as far as I can think of,” Batmazyan said. “Nobody sees me as an ice-skater, but I shred on the rink.” Unfortunately, his streak in competitive figure-skating ended when he broke his arm while climbing the stairs on his way to his chess class. Fortunately, his overall competitive spirit didn’t end there.
In addition to his previous activities, Batmazyan joined a local community pool’s water polo team when he was ten-years-old.
“We went up against a team that was a level under us once,” he recalled, “I had the ball in my hand, and I was aiming for the goal, but there was this kid in front of me, and my brain was like, ‘Hit the kid.’ So, I just slammed the ball in this kid’s face, and his nose flattened.” Batmazyan explained how rough and physical the sport is, but still felt sorry for the incident. He added, “The look on the ref’s face was like, ‘Why’d you do that?’”
Batmazyan’s interests evidently range broadly, from physical and sometimes aggressive sports to mellowed down and musical tendencies. When he was four years old, his father started him on the dhol, or a type of drum, something that he continues to play today. In a makeshift father-and-son band, Batmazyan and his father often take up their instruments (him on his drum, and his father on the accordion – Yes, seriously, an accordion) to play traditional Armenian music for people who come to their house.
Batmazyan’s talents are overwhelmingly apparent to those who know or have heard of him. Perhaps the only thing more apparent is how his family helped push him along at the start of it all. Vartan Batmazyan is the product of a family who constantly fosters creativity, strengthens passion, and encourages possibilities.