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Top-Ranked Chess Player, 14, Starts Classes At UCLA

WESTWOOD ( — A 14-year-old top-ranked national chess player will be one of the youngest freshman the University of California, Los Angeles has ever seen.

Luke Vellotti starts classes at UCLA this week, where his 18-year-old brother, Carl, will also be a freshman.

"I was taking Algebra I and 7th grade classes in 3rd grade, so I was four years ahead," Luke told KCAL9's Serene Branson.

Luke was also accepted to UC Berkeley and Stanford, but he chose to be a Bruin with his brother.

"I think he's ready. He said in school he learned less last year than the year before, so we knew he needed to make that big jump," said Luke's mother, Ava.

Ava and her husband, Daniel, who run a chess school in Boise, Idaho, said while their son swam and played piano when he was younger, they noticed his chess ability early.

"Everyone has a gift. So his gift showed up very early with numbers. When he was very young, he would watch the computer screen load and he became very interested in numbers," said Ava.

Daniel is also a national chess champion.

"I think he passed me a little while back, so he's much stronger than I am," he said.

Luke played a match Tuesday night for the Los Angeles Vibe, where players compete online against the Arizona Scorpions. He'll earn the rare title of International Master at the end of the month.

"I love puzzles and problems of all types and chess is just like a big puzzle to solve," said Luke.

Luke, who wants to become a doctor one day, said he plans to build up UCLA's chess club and coach at Beverly Hills High School.

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