Student Profile: Chess Wizard Zahir Muhammad


Zahir Muhammad concentrates on his chess match.

Moisés Alvarez, Co-Editor-in-Chief

A chess wizard is among us! Sophomore Zahir Muhammad is a nationally ranked player. Last year at the national championship tournament, Zahir placed an impressive top ten finish. Last summer, Zahir won the Cherry Blossom festival with a $250 cash prize reward. He placed top eight at the Maryland Sweet Sixteen championship last March as well. He also won the Varsity Maryland Roland Park championship this past November, as well as numerous other chess accomplishments.

Zahir’s father taught him how to play chess at the early age of three. “My dad wanted me to grow up learning. He always wanted to propel me to a higher level.” His father knew that the game of chess had good benefits in life, so he decided to teach his son Zahir. “Chess is a microcosm of life. It helps with calculating. It helps to decipher the best plan in any situation. It keeps you emotionally calm. It challenges you to find the best plan to move forward.” To Zahir and his father, chess is not just a game.

In late 2012, Zahir joined the “Bravo Zulu” chess team in DC. The team is comprised of three schools in DC. Previously, he was an outlier player. Since there are only school teams, he had to join those teams as an extra player because he went to a different school. Nonetheless, he managed to win the DC City K-8 championship that year. Eventually he left the team at the end of 2017 as he got older, but he still continues to succeed.

Zahir’s prefered chess strategy is to attack from the sides. “I normally start with a D4 attack from the sides, and then I converge into the center. I think it reflects my personality too.” Surprisingly, Zahir believes the most valuable chess piece is actually the pawn. “Most people would say it’s the king or queen, but the pawn is key and the base. They are taken for granted, but they make a big impact on the game.” However, Zahir’s favorite chess piece is the bishop. “It’s the most effective because it can attack from far away and do a great deal of damage.”

The future is bright for Zahir as he plans to achieve his goals. His short term goals are to win the national championship and to reach a 2,000 official chess point rating by the end of the year (he currently stands at a 1,751 rating). Eventually, he wants to win a title and to attain the international master rank (2400 rating or above). In the long term, Zahir hopes to start his own chess team.

The chess wizard still practices the game every day and meets with his chess teacher and his chess tutor once or twice a week to improve his skill even more. He also plays chess daily with Mr. Twigg during interim in room 325. So if you are up for the challenge, go face the professional chess master!