Blog Post #14: Brothers, Sisters, Children, Champions!

Dear Readers,

At the very start of one new school year, long ago, I had a class of 11 girls and 10 boys. When I asked my young students to look around and decide how many children there were in our class, one answer was particularly profound…

A deep-thinking girl named Caroline said, most respectfully, “There are actually 22 children here in our class because we are all brothers and sisters, and we are all children of God.” It was kind of Caroline to think of me, too, and she was right, of course, because none of us are ever forgotten.

Fast-forwarding a few years to another wonderful class of 8 or 9-year-old students, I asked them to figure out 99×99 mentally. When Marcello announced 9801 almost instantly, Chloe blurted out, “Mr. Mo, Marcello got that answer in less than five seconds!” I reckon that Chloe, and many of the other children, may well still remember that memorable moment, and Marcello’s excellent subsequent explanation of how he got 9801. He knew that 100×99 is 9900, and he reasoned that 99×99 should simply be 99 less because, as he said, “I have only 99 lots of 99 instead of 100 lots of 99.” So, Marcello quickly computed 9900-99 mentally by doing 9900-100+1=9800+1=9801.

I’m sure that God must have been delighted–yet not at all surprised!–by His children’s thoughts, words and actions in those true stories. He would not have been surprised because He knows, even better than we know ourselves, the gifts that He has given all of us.

Young Belgian chess star, Daniel Dardha

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Dardha, a remarkable 11-year-old Belgian boy who has now become the youngest FIDE Master ever in Belgian chess history by winning the European Under-12 Championship. Daniel’s victory was all the more impressive because he scored 7 wins, 2 draws and no losses to notch up a mighty winning score of 8 points out of 9. Daniel’s dad, FIDE Master Arben Dardha, scored an amazing 8/9 in the blitz tournament that was also held, but you can probably guess why that tally only secured second place…Yes, that’s right…young Daniel did it again–this time taking 1st place with a perfect 9/9!! Daniel is clearly using his gift for chess extremely well, and I’m sure that he also recognises the benefits of the dedicated training that he receives from both his dad and his grandfather, Bardhyl, who is 80 this year.

I now include a link to a very nice interview with the Dardha family in 2015, followed by a selection of photos.

Daniel Dardha, European Under-12 Chess Champion, on the shoulders of proud dad, Arben Dardha

Winner Daniel together with other talented players and organisers

Daniel playing chess against his grandfather, while Arben (who is both a father and a son there!) watches with interest

If you’re getting the impression that Daniel wouldn’t be afraid even if he were facing a lion across the chess board, you’re absolutely right! With that good, courageous thought in mind, here is a link to a short clip from a famous and inspiring story.


Pictured above is a position which Daniel and I reached in some analysis together on August 15th in Bruges.

Should Black defend his knight with 1…Qc6 ?

What other move could you suggest?


What does the lion say to his friends before they go hunting for food?

“Let us prey!”


Daniel spotted instantly that 1…Qc6? loses to 2 Rxa4! Qxa4 3 Qxe6+. Possible variations after that are: a) 3…Kf8 4 Ng5, simultaneously threatening 5 Nxh7# and 5 Qf7#; b) 3…Kh8 4 Ng5 Rf8 (if 4…Qe8, then 5 Nf7+ Kg8 6 Nxd8+ Qxe6 7 Nxe6, and the white knight will easily stop Black’s a-pawn) 5 Nf7+ Kg8 (or 5…Rxf7 6 Qc8+!) 6 Nh6++ Kh8 7 Qg8+! Rxg8 8 Nf7#, a ‘smothered mate’.

Instead of 1…Qc6?, better is 1…Nb2, intending to re-route the knight to c4.


Another of Belgium’s great players is IM Steven Geirnaert. In just two days from now, Steven will be Daniel’s age (11) multiplied by my favourite number, 3.

International Chess Master Steven Geirnaert, about to slightly increase his age from 2x2x2x2x2 to 3+3+3+3+3+3+3+3+3+3+3 !! Happy birthday, Steven!

I will finish this article with a good quote: “Relax and enjoy the journey in My presence, trusting Me to open up the way before you as you go”–Author Sarah Young in her best-selling book, ‘Jesus Calling’.

Author: Paul A. Motwani

My name is Paul Motwani, but my colleagues, my students and their parents mostly call me "Mr. Mo"! My middle initial, A, stands for Anthony, because I was born on the official feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of miracles and of lost souls. I love teaching Mathematics and Chess, and giving fun-packed talks and shows in schools and clubs. The popular ingredients of Math, Chess, Mystery and Magic are my "Fantastic Four", and I give prizes too! I am an International Chess Grandmaster, and (loooooong ago!) I was the World Under-17 Champion. I am the author of five published chess books and hundreds of newspaper articles. I live with my wonderful wife and son in Belgium. I also love music, movies and puzzles. I blog at My e-mail address is You can find me on Facebook, too.

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