Sam Stephens reached his goal at this year's National K-6 Bert Lerner Chess Championship in Pittsburgh and came home with a trophy.
About 30 were given away to top chess players, but only Sam returned with the national championship K-5 trophy, which stands as tall as the Quail Run fifth-grader.
"It was really fun," he said. "Most of my games were pretty hard."
Beating out 406 players in his grade bracket at last weekend's tournament, Sam returned home elated. His Quail Run team also placed fifth in the blitz category.
Sam's father, Richard Stephens, said it was difficult to watch his son play the games, which were filled with intensity and concentration.
"It was pretty nerve-racking," he said.
Richard would call his wife, Elena Stephens, at home in Lawrence after every game to keep her updated. Neither was prepared to watch or hear about the final game.
But then, Sam won.
"It was fantastic; he came out with his thumb up and smiling," Richard said.
The title follows a year of countless chess games - Elena had to tell Sam to go to bed and quit playing on many nights - and lessons from Brad Johnson, Quail Run's chess club coach and Douglas County UMB Bank president.
Johnson said Sam's patience, ability and desire to win have made him a successful chess player. He's earned the nickname "death," Johnson said, because he quietly makes his moves, attacks and after last weekend, takes it all, including a trophy.