Wednesday, November 4

Hunting for Medals in Greece

One of four tournament rooms in Porto Carras.  Many girls play chess!

As the World Youth Championships enters the home stretch, the battle for the trophies reached a climax.  After nine rounds, 3 players are currently in medal position and up to 11 others have a chance with a strong finish.  In most sections, a final score of 8.5 or 9.0 will be required to reach the podium.  The best hopes for Team USA lie in the U12 category, both Open and Girls.  Indeed, NMs Andrew Hong and Carissa Yip have played among the leaders throughout the championships.  Can they finish the deal?  Other medal hopes lie with WIM Agata Bykovtsev in Girls U16 and NM Justin Wang in Open U10.  Good luck to all!

The penultimate round has already begun.  The final round starts bright and early on Thursday:  10AM in Greece or midnight in California.  Check out the live games online!  Hundreds of photos are available for viewing at Chessdom and Flickr.

Unfortunately, I am traveling for the next week with little internet access.  I leave early tomorrow, before the last round begins.  Readers will need to find the final results elsewhere.  

Team USA Medal Contenders
(Updated after Round 9)
(Round 10 results in blue)

  • Open U18
    • none
  • Open U16
    • FM Cameron Wheeler 6.0 in 17th place -- drew
  • Open U14
    • FM Nicolas Checa 6.0 in 16th place -- WON 
    • FM Rayan Taghizadeh 6.0 in 18th place -- drew
  • Open U12
    • Andrew Hong 7.5 in 3rd place -- lost
    • Hans Niemann 7.0 in 5th place -- lost
    • CM David Peng 7.0 in 10th place -- WON
    • Aydin Turgut 6.5 in 11th place -- lost
    • FM Awonder Liang 6.5 in 12th place -- WON
  • Open U10
    • Justin Wang 7.0 in 4th place -- drew
    • CM Arthur Guo 6.5 in 13th place -- drew
    • Anthony He 6.5 in 14th place -- drew
    • Rohun Trakru 6.5 in 15th place -- drew
  • Open U8
    • CM Aghilan Nachiappan 6.5 in 8th place -- lost
    • Adi Murgescu 6.5 in 9th place -- WON
    • Vishnu Vanapalli 6.5 in 10th place -- WON
    • Lucas Foerster-Yialamas 6.5 in 11th place -- lost 
    • James Oh 6.0 in 17th place -- lost
  • Girls U18
    • none
  • Girls U16
    • WIM Agata Bykovtsev 7.0 in 3rd place -- WON       
    • WIM Ashritha Eswaran 6.0 in 11th place -- drew 
  • Girls U14
    • none
  • Girls U12
    • Carissa Yip 7.5 in 2nd place -- WON
    • WFM Martha Samadashvili 7.0 in 6th place -- drew
  • Girls U10
    • Rochelle Wu 6.5 in 8th place -- lost
    • WCM Nastassja Matus 6.5 in 9th place -- drew 
    • Rianne Ke 6.5 in 11th place -- WON
    • WCM Aksithi Eswaran 6.0 in 19th place -- WON 
  • Girls U8
    • Maya Behura 6.0 in 19th place -- WON

N.B. Includes only players in Top 20 of standings after Round 9.  Players ranked by the official tiebreaks.  Bay Area representatives in orange.

Tuesday, November 3

Local Kids Play for Medals

USA teammates Aydin Turgut (white) and Andrew Hong shake
hands before playing in round 9. Photo by Kerrie Utsumi.

Two rounds remain at the World Youth Championships in Halkidiki, and half of the Bay Area participants have already clinched at least a 50% final score (5.5).  Three remain in contention to earn a medal: NMs Andrew Hong and Hans Niemann in U12 plus Aghilan Nachiappan in U8.  Andrew has the strongest chances since he is currently tied for first in U12 with two others.

The championships conclude with round 10 on Wednesday (5am PST) and round 11 on Thursday (Midnight PST).  Watch the top boards in each section (except U8) LIVE!  Go U-S-A!

Bay Area Juniors at World Youth
(Updated after Round 9

  • Open U16
    • FM Cameron Wheeler 6.0
  • Open U14
    • FM Rayan Taghizadeh 6.0
  • Open U12
    • NM Andrew Hong 7.5 in 3rd place
    • NM Hans Niemann 7.0 in 5th place
    • David Pan 5.0
  • Open U10
    • William Sartorio 5.5
    • Balaji Daggupati 5.5
    • Christopher Yoo 5.5
    • CM Chinguun Bayaraa 5.0
    • Rishith Susarla 4.0
    • Prarthan Ghosh 3.5
  • Open U8
    • CM Aghilan Nachiappan 6.5 in 8th place
    • Adrian Kondakov 4.5
    • Sriram Krishnakumar 4.5
  • Girls U16
    • WIM Eswaran Ashritha 6.0
  • Girls U14
    • Simona Nayberg 4.0
    • WFM Joanna Liu 5.5
    • Serafina Show 3.5
  • Girls U12
    • WCM Chenyi Zhao 4.5
    • Hiya Ghosh 3.0
  • Girls U10
    • WCM Aksithi Eswaran 6.0
    • Annapoorni Meiyappan 5.5
  • Girls U8
    • Wong, Allyson 5.0
    • Yan Rui Yang 5.0

Monday, November 2

World Youth Tracker Rd 8

Temple of Poseidon, ancient Greek god of the sea. Photo by Ted Castro.

Team USA Statistics
(Updated after Round 8)

  • 129 players (76 boys + 53 girls)
  • Round 6 :: 73.5 = 57%
  • Round 7 :: 63.0 = 49%
  • Round 8 :: 68.0 = 53%
  • Rounds 1-5 :: 368.0 = 57% 
  • Rounds 6-8 :: 204.5 = 53%
  • Score 7.0 = 1
  • Score 6.5 = 4
  • Score 6.0 = 5
  • Score 5.5 = 14
  • Score 5.0 = 25
  • Score 4.5 = 26
  • Average = 4.4 / 8

After a week of intense chess in Halkidiki, several American medal hopefuls hit the proverbial wall in rounds 7 and 8.  Is it homesickness or exhaustion?  Irrespective, three more rounds remain, just enough time to get back on track and finish strong.  One player who stayed on track is Justin Wang of Texas, co-leader of Open U10 with 7.0 out of 8.  Tomorrow, he faces the other co-leader, a kid from Poland.  Aside from Justin, the best medal chances for Team USA lie in U12, both Open and Girls.  Indeed, six of the top 10 scores come from this age group, including three of the four 6.5s.  Bay Area readers will recognize two of the 6.5s: NM Andrew Hong (U12) and Aghilan Nachiappan (U8).  The other two are Massachusetts master Carissa Yip (Girls U12) and Aydin Turgut (U12) of Illinois.   

Top Individual Results
(Updated after Round 8

  • Open U18
    • Aaron Grabinsky (2194) 4.5
    • FM Christopher Wu (2324) 4.5
  • Open U16
    • FM Cameron Wheeler (2356) 5.5
  • Open U14
    • CM Jacob Furfine (2174) 5.5
    • FM Nicolas Checa (2437) 5.0
    • FM Rayan Taghizadeh (2240) 5.0
    • FM David Brodsky (2251) 5.0
    • Brandon Nydick (2160) 5.0
  • Open U12
    • Aydin Turgut (1884) 6.5 in 3rd place
    • Andrew Hong (2136) 6.5 in 5th place
    • Hans Niemann (2046) 6.0 in 6th place
    • CM David Peng (2231) 6.0 
    • FM Awonder Liang (2365) 5.5
    • Kevin Yang (1904) 5.0
    • Justin Paul (1926) 5.0
    • Akira Nakada (1831) 5.0
  • Open U10
    • Justin Wang (2046) 7.0 in 1st place
    • Anthony He (1820) 6.0
    • CM Arthur Guo (2073) 5.5
    • Rohun Trakru (1517) 5.5
    • Jason Wang (2040) 5.5
    • CM Maximilliam Lu (1844) 5.5 
    • Benjamin Medina (1826) 5.0
    • CM Chinguun Bayaraa (1893) 5.0
    • Jason Yu (1565) 5.0
    • Nathaniel Shuman (1680) 5.0
    • Daniel Hung (1538) 5.0
  • Open U8
    • CM Aghilan Nachiappan (unrated) 6.5 in 5th place
    • Adi Murgescu (unrated) 5.5
    • Vishnu Vanapalli (unrated) 5.5
    • Lucas Foerster-Yialamas (1687) 5.5  
    • James Oh (unrated) 5.0
  • Girls U18
    • WCM Apurva Virkud (2027) 5.0
  • Girls U16
    • WIM Agata Bykovtsev (2117) 6.0 in 4th place       
    • WIM Ashritha Eswaran (2207) 5.0 
  • Girls U14
    • WIM Annie Wang (2087) 5.0
    • WCM Sasha Konavolenko (1670) 5.0
    • Jie Tianhui (1792) 5.0
    • WFM Joanna Liu (1857) 5.0 
    • WCM Priya Trakru (1780) 5.0
  • Girls U12
    • Carissa Yip (2007) 6.5 in 2nd place
    • WFM Martha Samadashvili (1711) 6.0 
    • WCM Naomi Bashkansky (1609) 5.0
  • Girls U10
    • Rochelle Wu (unrated) 5.5
    • WCM Nastassja Matus (1761) 5.5
    • Rianne Ke (1392) 5.5
    • WCM Aksithi Eswaran (1473) 5.5 
    • WCM Anh Nguyen (1462) 5.0
    • Annapoorni Meiyappan (1246) 5.0
  • Girls U8
    • Maya Behura (unrated) 5.0
    • Allyson Wong (unrated) 5.0

N.B. All ratings above are FIDE.  Includes players with a score of plus-2 or higher.  Players ranked by tiebreaks at official standings.  Bay Area in orange.  Check back for periodic updates.  

Saturday, October 31

CalChess Contenders at World Youth

FIDE Masters Cameron (L) and Rayan (R)
smile for Cam's mother Kerrie Utsumi.

The World Youth Championships in Greece have passed the midway point.  Ten out of 22 Bay Area participants have maintained a Plus-2 score through Round 6, with another seven sitting at Plus-1!  The masters Andrew, Cameron, Rayan and Ashritha are leading the local delegation by example.  Five more rounds remain.  Go U-S-A!

Bay Area Juniors at World Youth
(Updated after Round 6

  • Open U16
    • FM Cameron Wheeler (2356) 4.5 in 7th place
  • Open U14
    • FM Rayan Taghizadeh (2240) 4.5 in 11th place
  • Open U12
    • NM Andrew Hong (2136) 5.0 in 4th place
    • NM Hans Niemann## (2046) 5.0 in 6th place
    • David Pan (1848) 3.0
  • Open U10
    • CM Chinguun Bayaraa (1893) 4.5
    • Christopher Yoo (1807) 2.5
    • Balaji Daggupati (1767) 3.5
    • William Sartorio (1725) 3.5
    • Rishith Susarla (1505) 4.0
    • Prarthan Ghosh (unrated) 2.0
  • Open U8
    • Adrian Kondakov (1565) 4.5
    • Sriram Krishnakumar (1280) 3.5
    • CM Aghilan Nachiappan (unrated) 4.5
  • Girls U16
    • WIM Eswaran Ashritha (2207) 4.0
  • Girls U14
    • Simona Nayberg (1905) 3.5
    • WFM Joanna Liu## (1857) 3.0
    • Serafina Show (1593) 1.0
  • Girls U12
    • Hiya Ghosh (1785) 1.0
    • WCM Chenyi Zhao (1544) 3.5
  • Girls U10
    • WCM Aksithi Eswaran (1473) 3.5
    • Annapoorni Meiyappan (1246) 4.0
  • Girls U8
    • Wong, Allyson (unrated) 3.0
    • Yan Rui Yang (unrated) 3.5

N.B. All ratings above are FIDE.  I am tracking a pair of players (Hans Niemann and Joanna Liu) who have ties to the Bay Area chess community, but now live out of state.

Friday, October 30

World Youth Tracker Rd 5

Unfortunately, USA teammates sometimes must face each other.
Here William Sartorio of CalChess plays Jason Wang of Ohio.

Team USA Statistics
(Updated after Round 5)

  • 129 players (76 boys + 53 girls)
  • Round 4 :: 70.0 = 54%
  • Round 5 :: 72.0 = 56%
  • Rounds 1-5 :: 368.0 = 57%
  • Perfect 5.0 = 2
  • Score 4.5 = 4
  • Score 4.0 = 10
  • Score 3.5 = 25
  • Average = 2.9 / 5
Aristo Liu of Ohio proudly
wears red, white and blue.

Congratulations to masters Justin Wang (Open U10) of Texas and Carissa Yip (Girls U12) of Massachusetts for winning the first five rounds!  FM Cameron Wheeler (Open U16) and NM Andrew Hong (Open U12) lead the Bay Area contingent with 4.5 each.  Rest day on Friday.  The tournament resumes on Saturday. 

Top Individual Results
(Updated after Round 5) 

  • Open U18
    • Aaron Grabinsky (2194) 3.5
  • Open U16
    • FM Cameron Wheeler (2356) 4.5 in 2nd place
    • Haik Der Maneulian (2163) 4.0
  • Open U14
    • FM Nicolas Checa (2437) 4.5 in 2nd place
    • FM Rayan Taghizadeh (2240) 3.5
    • FM David Brodsky (2251) 3.5
  • Open U12
    • Andrew Hong (2136) 4.5 in 5th place
    • Hans Niemann (2046) 4.0
    • Aydin Turgut (1884) 4.0
    • Justin Paul (1926) 3.5
    • Kevin Yang (1904) 3.5
    • FM Awonder Liang (2365) 3.5
    • Wesley Wang (2004) 3.5
  • Open U10
    • Justin Wang (2046) 5.0 in 2nd place
    • Benjamin Medina (1826) 4.0
    • William Sartorio (1725) 3.5
    • CM Arthur Guo (2073) 3.5
    • Anthony He (1820) 3.5
    • Balaji Daggupati (1767) 3.5
    • CM Chinguun Bayaraa (1893) 3.5 
    • Jason Yu (1565) 3.5
    • Rohun Trakru (1517) 3.5
    • Gabriel Eidelman (1705) 3.5
  • Open U8
    • Vishnu Vanapalli (unrated) 4.5 in 5th place
    • Adrian Kondakov (1565) 4.0
    • CM Aghilan Nachiappan (unrated) 4.0
    •  James Oh (unrated) 4.0
    • Adi Murgescu (unrated) 3.5
    • Arthur Xu (1782) 3.5
  • Girls U18
      USA ladies modelling the team colors.
    • WCM Apurva Virkud (2027) 3.5
  • Girls U16
    • WIM Agata Bykovtsev (2117) 4.0 in 3rd place       
    • WIM Ashritha Eswaran (2207) 3.0 
  • Girls U14
    • WIM Annie Wang (2087) 4.0 in 4th place
    • Jie Tianhui (1792) 3.5
  • Girls U12
    • Carissa Yip (2007) 5.0 in 1st place
    • Chenyi Zhao (1544) 3.5
  • Girls U10
    • WCM Anh Nguyen (1462) 4.0
    • Rochelle Wu (unrated) 3.5
    • Julia Miyasaka (1512) 3.5
    • Rianne Ke (1392) 3.5
    • WCM Nastassja Matus (1761) 3.5
  • Girls U8
    • Yan Rui Yang (unrated) 3.5

N.B. All ratings above are FIDE.  Includes players with a score of plus-2 or higher (with one exception).  Bay Area in orange.  Check back for periodic updates.  Photos from the official Chessdom photo gallery.

Tuesday, October 27

World Youth Tracker Rd 3

One of four big playing halls for World Youth.  Credit: Chessdom

Team USA Statistics
(Updated after Round 3)

  • 129 players (76 boys + 53 girls)
  • Round 1 :: 81.0 = 63%
  • Round 2 :: 78.5 = 61%
  • Round 3 :: 66.5 = 52%
  • Perfect 3.0 = 13
  • Score 2.5 = 12
  • Score 2.0 = 43 
  • Average = 1.8 / 3

Top Individual Results
(Updated after Round 3) 

The venue in Porto Carras lies on
the Aegean Sea. Credit: Chessdom
  • Open U18
    • FM Christopher Wu (2324) 2.5
  • Open U16
    • FM Cameron Wheeler (2356) 3.0
  • Open U14
    • FM Nicolas Checa (2437) 3.0
    • FM Rayan Taghizadeh (2240) 3.0
    • FM Marcus Miyasaka (2170) 2.5
  • Open U12
    • Hans Niemann (2046) 3.0
    • Andrew Hong (2136) 2.5
    • FM Awonder Liang (2365) 2.5
  • Open U10
    • CM Arthur Guo (2073) 3.0
    • Justin Wang (2046) 3.0
    • William Sartorio (1725) 3.0
    • Jason Yu (1565) 2.5
    • Balaji Daggupati (1767) 2.5
    • Logan Wu (1832) 2.5
  • Open U8
    • CM Aghilan Nachiappan (unrated) 3.0
    • Adrian Kondakov (1565) 3.0
    • Adi Murgescu (unrated) 2.5
    • Arthur Zihan Xu (1782) 2.5
    • Vishnu Surya Vanapalli (unrated) 2.5
  • Girls U18
    • Alice Dong (1808) 1.5
    • WCM Apurva Virkud (2027) 1.5
  • Girls U16
    • WIM Eswaran Ashritha (2207) 3.0
    • WIM Agata Bykovtsev (2117) 3.0
  • Girls U14
    • WIM Annie Wang (2087) 3.0
  • Great place for a chess vacation!
  • Girls U12
    • Carissa Yip (2007) 3.0
  • Girls U10
    • Rianne Ke (1392) 2.5
  • Girls U8
    • Yan Rui Yang (unrated) 2.5

N.B. All ratings above are FIDE.  Includes only players with a score of plus-2 or higher.  Check back for periodic updates.

Monday, October 26

CalChess Well Represented in Greece

Ashritha at Pan Am Junior 2015
Rayan at World Youth 2014

Young chess players from the Bay Area comprise one-sixth of Team USA at the World Youth Festival in Greece.  Four masters lead the local representatives: FM Cameron Wheeler (silver medal for U12 at 2012 World), FM Rayan Taghizadeh (bronze medal for U12 at 2014 World), WIM Ashritha Eswaran (winner of both 2015 US Junior Girls and 2015 Pan Am Junior Girls) and NM Andrew Hong (champion at 2015 US Elementary K-6 as a 4th grader).  Overall, 13 boys and 9 girls, together with their dedicated parents, made the trip from San Francisco to Halkidiki.  They will participate in every age group except U18.

Nine out of 22 Bay Area kids have achieved a perfect score through Round 2!!

Bay Area Juniors at World Youth
(Updated after Round 2

  • Open U16
    • FM Cameron Wheeler (2356) 2.0
  • Open U14
    • FM Rayan Taghizadeh (2240) 2.0
  • Open U12
    • NM Andrew Hong (2136) 2.0
    • NM Hans Niemann## (2046) 2.0
    • David Pan (1848) 1.0
  • Open U10
    • CM Chinguun Bayaraa (1893) 2.0
    • Christopher Yoo (1807) 1.0
    • Balaji Daggupati (1767) 1.5
    • William Sartorio (1725) 2.0
    • Rishith Susarla (1505) 0.5
    • Prarthan Ghosh (unrated) 0.0
  • Open U8
    Young Adrian at Berkeley Chess
    • Adrian Kondakov (1565) 2.0
    • Sriram Krishnakumar (1280) 1.5
    • CM Aghilan Nachiappan (unrated) 2.0
  • Girls U16
    • WIM Eswaran Ashritha (2207) 2.0
  • Girls U14
    • Simona Nayberg (1905) 1.0
    • WFM Joanna Liu## (1857) 1.0
    • Serafina Show (1593) 1.0
  • Girls U12
    • Hiya Ghosh (1785) 0.0
    • WCM Chenyi Zhao (1544) 1.0
  • Girls U10
    • WCM Aksithi Eswaran (1473) 1.0
    • Annapoorni Meiyappan (1246) 1.0
  • Girls U8
    • Wong, Allyson (unrated) 1.0
    • Yan Rui Yang (unrated) 2.0

N.B. All ratings above are FIDE.  I am tracking a pair of players (Hans Niemann and Joanna Liu) who have ties to the Bay Area chess community, but now live out of state.  If I omitted any other local kids playing in Greece, please contact me ASAP.

Friday, October 23

World Youth Begins in Halkidiki, Greece

The annual World Youth Chess Championships kick off this weekend in Porto Karras, a coastal resort in the Halkidiki region of northern Greece.  Most Americans flew on Thursday, arriving on Friday in Thessaloniki via a stopover in western Europe.  Team USA consists of a record 129 participants, supported by a dedicated army of parents and coaches.  Overall, approximately 1600 players from more than 90 countries have registered, considerably more than South Africa in September 2014 and a modest increase over the same venue in October 2010, but less than United Arab Emirates in December 2013.

Girls and boys compete separately in six age divisions.  The largest sections are in the U10, U12 and U14 age groups, each numbering over 180 boys or 110 girls.  In a change from past years, there will be no double round.  Thus, the schedule calls for 11 rounds over 12 days, including a rest day.  Rounds begin at 3pm Greek time, 6am Pacific daylight time (5am after November 1).  Traditionally, the boards in each section will be broadcast live.

Cameron, Sam and Kayden were all smiles in 2012.
Despite stiff competition from Russia and India, the American delegation has achieved modest success in recent years.  For five straight years, Team USA has earned a gold medal!  The best team result of 4 medals came in 2012, when future GMs Troff and Sevian captured gold in U14 and U12, respectively.  In each of the past two years, the squad won a pair of medals, including one gold.

Best USA Results
  • Jennifer Yu, GOLD for Girls U12 in 2014
  • Awonder Liang, GOLD for U10 in 2013
  • Kayden Troff, GOLD for U14 in 2012
  • Sam Sevian, GOLD for U12 in 2012
  • Cameron Wheeler, Silver for U12 in 2012 (tied for first)
  • Awonder Liang, GOLD for U8 in 2011
  • Steven Zierk, GOLD for U18 in 2010
  • Sam Shankland, Bronze for U18 in 2008 (tied for first)
  • Daniel Naroditsky, GOLD for U12 in 2007

Steven celebrated his 2010 gold
medal on the beach in Halkidiki.
How will Team USA fare in Halkidiki?  Players must recognize that the tournament is like a marathon, and one bad game does not mean disaster.  Indeed, 8.5 may be sufficient to win a medal!  Check out the following list of the top rated Americans in each section.  N.B.: Ratings mean little for the youngest divisions; indeed many participants do not even have an international rating yet.

Whom to Watch on Team USA
  • #42 FM Chris Wu in U18
  • #28 FM Cameron Wheeler in U16
  • #2 FM Nicolas Checa and #25 FM Rayan Taghizadeh in U14
  • #2 FM Awonder Liang, #8 David Peng and #17 Andrew Hong in U12
  • #7 Arthur Guo, #9 Justin Wang and #10 Jason Wang in U10
  • No rating favorites in U8 (too many FIDE unrateds)
  • #32 Apurva Virkud in Girls U18
  • #7 WIM Ashritha Eswaran and #17 WIM Agata Bykovtsev in Girls U16
  • #11WIM Annie Wang in Girls U14
  • #3 Carissa Yip in Girls U12
  • No rating favorites in Girls U10 (too many FIDE unrateds)
  • No rating favorites in Girls U8 (too many FIDE unrateds)

For the latest news, check out the official Twitter feed @fidewycc2015.  Dozens of photos daily at Chessdom Photo Gallery

Thursday, September 10

Follow the World Cup in Baku

The 2015 Chess World Cup begins on September 11 in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and the birthplace of the 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov.  A total of 128 participants have been paired much like college basketball's March Madness, with the top seeds facing the lowest rated in the first round.  Each round consists of two classical games (40/90, G/30, inc/30) followed by a third day of rapid and blitz tiebreaks (if necessary).

At the end of 7 rounds over 26 grueling days, the champion earns $96,000 and, perhaps more significantly, the top two qualify for the 2016 Candidates Tournament to determine the official challenger to Magnus Carlsen, the reigning World Champion.  Can former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik win two World Cups in a row, or will one of the young superstars finish on top?

View from hotel in Baku. Credit: Caruana

Top 16 Seeds (with Live ratings)
  • #1 Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2813
  • #2 Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2816
  • #3 Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2796
  • #4 Anish Giri (NED) 2798
  • #5 Wesley So (USA) 2760
  • #6 Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) 2777
  • #7 Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 2774
  • #8 Ding Liren (CHN) 2782
  • #9 Levon Aronian (ARM) 2784 eliminated in round 2
  • #10 Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) 2748
  • #11 Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2762
  • #12 Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS) 2758
  • #13 Boris Gelfand (ISR) 2741 eliminated in round 1
  • #14 Pentala Harikrishna (IND) 2737 eliminated in round 2
  • #15 Michael Adams (ENG) 2742
  • #16 Peter Svidler (RUS) 2727

On one hand, three of the Top 5 seeds represent the USA.  On the other hand, there are six Russians among the Top 16 participants.  N.B.: The seeds reflect the August rating list, not the more current September list.

Nine Americans 
  • #2 Hikaru Nakamura 2816 advanced to round 3
  • #3 Fabiano Caruana 2796 advanced to round 3
  • #5 Wesley So 2760 advanced to round 3
  • #41 Ray Robson 2680 eliminated in round 1
  • #47 Gata Kamsky 2680 eliminated in round 1
  • #54 Alexander Onischuk 2662 eliminated in round 2 by #11 Karjakin (RUS)
  • #63 Sam Shankland 2656 eliminated in round 2 by #2 Nakamura (USA)
  • #79 Varuzhan Akobian 2635 eliminated in round 1
  • #112 Sam Sevian 2556 eliminated in round 1 by #17 Radjabov (AZE)

The format of the World Cup favors many upsets, starting as early as the first round!  Even one miscalculation could mean a premature flight home.  Four years ago, local star Sam Shankland scored the upset of his life by eliminating the Hungarian super-GM Peter Leko!  The following young players are poised to defeat higher seeded opponents in Baku.

Fpawn Upset Watch List
  • #22 Yu Yangyi (CHN) 2721 (age 21) advanced to round 3
  • #24 Wei Yi (CHN) 2734 (age 16) advanced to round 3
  • #45 Vladislav Artemiev (RUS) 2675 (age 17) eliminated in round 2
  • #46 Hou Yifan (CHN) 2671 (age 21) eliminated in round 2
  • #64 Ivan Bukavshin (RUS) 2657 (age 20) eliminated in round 1
  • #78 S.P. Sethuraman (IND) 2640 (age 22) advanced to round 3
  • #80 David Anton Guijarro (ESP) 2628 (age 20) eliminated in round 1
  • #90 Alexander Ipatov (TUR) 2625 (age 22) eliminated in round 2
  • #97 Lu Shanglei (CHN) 2599 (age 20) advanced to round 3

Wednesday, September 2

CalChess State Champs on Labor Day

The view of airplanes landing at SFO is sometimes breathtaking.

The annual CalChess State Championships, open to chess warriors of all ages, will be held this coming weekend at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame, south of SFO Airport.  Veterans will recall this event as the Labor Day Festival, which for many years took place on Van Ness Avenue in the City itself. In those days, Labor Day was the biggest adult tournament in the Bay Area.  While the Golden State Open in January now boasts a larger prize fund and turnout, winning on Labor Day weekend brings more prestige--state champions will be crowned in every section!

Last year saw a pair of Grandmasters, Ioan Cristian Chirila and Oliver Barbosa, share first place, with Chirila awarded the trophy.  The defending champion will be back in 2015!  The top challengers include local GM and author Jesse Kraai, visiting GM Giorgi Margvelashvili, at least three International Masters, and one high-rated math professor.  Of course, one or two surprise entries show up on-site each year.

Update: 223 players have already registered.  

  • Event: CalChess State Championships
  • Date: September 5-7 (3-day) or September 6-7 (2-day
  • Location: San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency in Burlingame (map here)
  • Format: 6 round swiss in 6 sections (Open, Expert, A, B, C and D/E/Unrated).
  • 3-day schedule: Reg: Sat 8-9:30. Rounds: Sat 10, 3:30; Sun 11, 5; Mon 10, 3:30.
  • 2-day schedule: Reg: Sun 8-9, Rounds: Sun 9:30, 12, 2:30, 5; Mon 10, 3:30.
  • Time control: 40/120 G/30 d/5; except rounds 1-3 of 2-day schedule at G/61 d/5.
  • Entry fee: $154 includes late fee; $25 extra to play up.
  • Prize fund: $20,000 based on 249 players, including $2,500 for 1st place in Open and between $1000 to $1500 for 1st place in each lower section.
  • Tournament flyer
  • Information page
  • Advance entry list
  • 2014 Results (266 players!!)

Traffic alert!  There will be no BART service from the East Bay to San Francisco for the entire weekend. Expect heavier than usual traffic on the bridges. More info at

Thursday, August 20

"Pawn Sacrifice" Coming to Theaters Soon

This exciting new chess movie will hit theaters across the country on September 18.  The film follows the life of Bobby Fischer, specifically his rise as the top American chess player during the Cold War.  Alas, the protagonist is both a genius and a madman.  How does the internal personality conflict become Fischer's greatest obstacle to success?

To read more about the "Pawn Sacrifice" movie and its production, check out the official website.

Monday, July 13

Sam Sevian Plays in Armenia

Sevian begins his game against Petrosyan. (Photo: Armen Sevian)

What has former Bay Area resident GM Sam Sevian been up to lately?  Readers of my blog may have noticed that he declined to participate in the US Junior Closed.  Apparently, America's youngest Grandmaster ever has bigger fish to fry these days.

Instead of Saint Louis, Sam chose to play in a category XV (average of 2618) invitational at Lake Sevan in Armenia.  The 10 players include 5 of the top 20 juniors in the world: Vladislav Artemiev (2660, RUS), Jan Krzysztof Duda (2632, POL), David Anton Guijarro (2632, ESP), Hovhannes Gabuzyan (2611, ARM) and Sam Sevian (2578, USA).  The older half of the field hopes experience will overcome youthful enthusiasm.  Incidentally, one name jumps out: Tigran Petrosyan may be strong at 2630, but he is not the 9th World Champion by the same name!

Lake Sevan International

Wednesday, July 8

Follow the US Junior Invitational

The players are ready to start! (Credit: CCSCSL)

The annual US Junior Invitational pits many of the country's top players under age 20 against each other in a 10-RR tournament.  The 2015 edition features four International Masters and four FIDE Masters.  Excluding the Junior Open qualifier, this elite field boasts an average rating of 2519 USCF!  The highest seed and clear favorite is GM-elect Jeffery Xiong, who recently earned his third and final GM norm at the Chicago Open!  Second seed IM Akshat Chandra has one GM norm to his credit.

Luke (left) battles Yian. (Credit: CCSCSL)
California chess fans can cheer for two local representatives.  Third seed IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti attends UCLA (at age 16!!) and IM Yian Liou will be a freshman at UC Berkeley next month.  Luke and Yian battled for many hours in Round 2, finally acquiescing to a draw after 120 moves.

Live coverage begins daily at 11:00am Pacific time.  Check out the running commentary by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman Excellent stuff!

US Junior Standings (Final)
  • 7.0 IM Akshat Chandra (2588, NJ, 15) - CHAMPION
  • 6.5 IM Jeffery Xiong (2616, TX, 14) - 2nd place
  • 6.0 FM Arthur Shen (2475, NJ, 18) - 3rd place
  • 5.0 FM Ruifeng Li (2503, TX, 14)
  • 4.5 FM Michael Bodek (2535, NY, 18)
  • 4.5 IM Yian Liou (2501, CA-N, 18)
  • 3.5 IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti (2542, ID, 16)
  • 3.5 FM Awonder Liang (2459, WI, 12))
  • 3.0 NM Mika Brattain (2452, MA, 16) 
  • 1.5 NM Curran Han (2211, TX, 17)

Once again, thanks to the world-class Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for hosting this prestigious event and guaranteeing the top-notch conditions that the talent deserves.  The prize fund alone is worth $20,000, including $6,000 for first place. 

Tuesday, July 7

Chinese Prodigy Achieves Immortality

Last week, the 16-year old superstar Wei Yi played one of the most beautiful attacking games in modern times at a tournament in Danzhou.  Facing the strong Cuban Grandmaster Lazaro Bruzon, the reigning Chinese national champion sacrificed his rook and later a bishop to snare the enemy in a mating web.  The helpless black monarch finishes its journey on h3, having been chased all the way across the board.  This brilliancy has been called the Game of the Decade by some and an Immortal Game by others.  Even ex-champion Garry Kasparov described it as "impressive."

Either watch the exciting 18 minute video by British GM Simon Williams or simply play through the moves at your own pace.

Monday, July 6

Tony Lama Turns 80!

The chess club banner flies.
Tony Lama (credit: ChessDryad)

The Mechanics' Institute wishes to congratulate longtime security guard Tony Lama on the occasion of his 80th birthday!  Anyone who attended weekend tournaments in the City was certain to meet Tony at the front entrance.  He knew the names of many regulars.  When I entered, he would kindly ask whom I was playing.  Upon departure, he inquired of my result.  Never a master himself (2088 peak rating), his love for chess remained strong over five decades.

Tony Lama 80th Birthday Blitz 
Sunday, July 12
Location: 57 Post Street, San Francisco (use Montgomery BART)
FORMAT: Six double-round Swiss (12 games total)

TIME CONTROL: G/4 + inc/2
(bring your digital clock)

ENTRY FEE: $10 (free for GM / IM / WGM / WIM)
This tournament is UNRATED. Membership in USCF is not required.

PRIZES: $650 total
1st place: $300
2nd place: $200
3rd place: $100
Top U2000: $50

Also, every player takes home a book prize!

REGISTRATION: On-site only from Noon to 12:45.  There will be no registration in advance.  The tournament will be held between 1 and 5 PM.

Tuesday, June 30

Check Out My Teaching Website

Off and on for the past 2+ years, I worked on my new Fpawn Chess website.  This site will not replace my chess blog, but instead functions as my teaching homepage.  I also post regularly on two social media platforms: Facebook and Twitter.  The reader can guess my username.

Check out the following categories on the left side:
Photo in July 2013
issue of Chess Life.

  • Chess Bio and Photo Album - All about me!
  • Chess Rules & Advice - Rules of thumb to know..
  • Chess Quotes - 55 of my favorite quotes.
  • Student Goals - 10 goals for a chess student.
  • Chess Links - Dozens of interesting chess websites.
  • Honor Roll - Achievements of my top students.
  • NorCal Top 100 - Top juniors and adults in NorCal.
  • Chess Lessons - Check them out!

Yes, I am open to accept some new students over the summer.  Please read my lessons page for more information.  The majority of my experience has been coaching students in 7th grade and older, rated at least 1500.  That said, I may consider younger or lower rated students, especially with referral from someone I know.  Contact me at (remove the six letters in caps from the address).

Monday, June 29

Ashritha Eswaran Wins US Junior Girls

Ashritha the Champion!

Bay Area 14-year old Ashritha Eswaran won the US Junior Girls invitational with a score of 6.5 out of 9, finishing a full point ahead of her nearest competitor.  Sponsors Frank and Jim Berry brought ten of the country's best young ladies to Tulsa, Oklahoma.  There were seven USCF masters and eight held an international title, including a pair of Women's International Masters.  All participants were ranked in the Top 30 of the country for women, regardless of age!

On the other hand, the round-robin was tightly packed, with less than 150 rating points separating top from bottom.  There were no favorites.  Anyone could beat anyone else.  Indeed, each girl lost at least twice, and Ashritha was the only one not to drop three games!  Perhaps it still came as a surprise that the lowest rated finished on top of the hill.  (USCF rating report)

Congratulations to Ashritha, her parents, her dedicated coach GM Dejan Bojkov and the entire staff at NorCal House of Chess!  In addition to the national title, she earned an invitation to the 2016 US Women's Championship.  Readers may recall that she played in the 2014 Women's Champ, impressing spectators with her mature and aggressive play.

More information and photos in this article at Kasparov Chess Foundation website.

Most people would relax after such an achievement.  Alas, Ashritha flew to Colombia the very next day, where she entered the Pan American Youth Festival.  She already won the first three rounds while playing up in the competitive Girls-U18 divisionGood luck!!

In related news, the US Junior Closed (for boys) kicks off next Tuesday in Saint Louis.  The Bay Area will once again be represented by IM Yian Liou, who graduated two weeks ago from Monte Vista High School in Danville. 

Chess Camp in Davis, July 13-16

My friend John Langreck organizes a summer chess camp in Davis each year.  This year's session is scheduled for July 13 to 16 (4 days), from 1-5pm daily.  The location is on Cowell Boulevard in South Davis, adjacent to I-80.

John is a USCF Life Master with experience teaching chess to beginners, experts and those in between.  He will solve tactics puzzles, cover basic strategy, and discuss game analysis - among other important topics.  Activities include Play the Master, blitz and bughouse!

If you are interested, then print out this flyer and contact John Langreck to reserve your spot.  Don't forget to let him know that Fpawn sent you. :-)

Sacramento Championship This Weekend

The annual Sacramento Chess Championship takes place this weekend at the Holiday Inn Express off Business-80 in Northeast Sacramento.  The tournament is the biggest and strongest event in the Sacramento region each year, attracting a good number of players from the Bay Area.  Can we break 100 participants this year?  Players rated above 2000 should take note that the Open section will be FIDE rated for the first time.  

Last year saw Bay Area experts Byron Doyle and WFM Uyanga Byambaa split the top prize ahead of five masters.  Check out Uyanga's report and annotations.  IM Ricardo DeGuzman won this event frequently over the years, most recently the 2013 editionWho will show up this year?  Check the advance entry list.

The weather forecast calls for low to mid 90s on Friday through Sunday, considerably more comfortable than the 100s projected for the week.  Dress comfortably!

Wednesday, June 24

MSJE Says Yes2Chess!

The Champions! (Credit: Hui Wang)

Already crowned State and National K-6 champions, the Mission San Jose Elementary chess team capped a magical year by winning the Yes2Chess World finals!  This multiple stage competition began with online matches and culminated in an expenses paid trip to London.  Congratulations to Coach Joe Lonsdale, team coordinator Hui Wang and, most importantly, the young champs themselves!

Kevin was only kid to beat Grandmaster
David Howell in simul. (Credit: Yes2Chess)
 Team MSJE
  • David Pan, 6th grader rated 2000
  • Rishith Susarla, 4th grader rated 1891
  • Kevin Pan, 3rd grader 1802
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan, 4th grader rated 1702
  • Leo Jiang, 4th grader rated 1393

The USA finals saw the California kids pitted against three top tier squads from New York City.  The players must have felt a little bit like Bobby Fischer facing all of the Russians.  Needing a team victory in the last match, MSJE prevailed 4:1.  They advanced with 5 match points out of 6, narrowly ahead of second and third place.

Group photo of all 8 countries in front of Parliament. (Credit: Yes2Chess)

Eight countries competed in the World finals.  This morning, the Americans dispatched schools from Sweden, Spain and Norway in Pool A to advance to the championship match.  Then they dominated Pool B winner Portugal 4.5-0.5 to claim first place!  More details to come.   

Way to go!! 

NM Gabriel Bick

Gabe played GM Kudrin in Reno. (Credit: Joseph Bick)

Kudos to Gabriel Bick for earning the National Master title!  He cracked 2200 by scoring 3-0 at a Bay Area Chess tournament Cupertino.  He had held GM Walter Browne to a draw over Memorial Day, his first against a GM.  By my count, 22 local juniors can now call themselves masters (although a few have since dropped under 2200).  Gabe also became my 10th private student to achieve this lifetime distinction.  Woohoo!

Thursday, June 11

Endorsements for USCF Election

Randy Bauer
Boyd Reed (credit: Shabazz)

I received my ballot for the US Chess Federation national election today.  Following the trend of recent years, the number of official candidates is rather disappointing.  The ballot shows only two names for two seats on the Executive Board.  Alas, this year's election is being contested thanks to the presence of a write-in candidate.

I urge registered voters to reelect Randy Bauer of Iowa and write-in Boyd M. Reed of Pennsylvania  For the write-in candidate, voters must include his USCF ID 12479484.

Both Bauer and Reed have an extensive history of service to the chess community, at the local and national level.  Rated over 2300, Bauer has written hundreds of instructional chess articles and book reviews.  He served on the Executive Board off and on since 2004, contributing his extensive expertise as an accountant.  Active chess players may recognize Boyd as a director at many major tournaments, including the Millionaire Open, Chicago Open and scholastic nationals.  Also active as a player, parent and online chess forum advocate, he recently reached 2200 for the first time.

The third candidate is Anjelina Belakovskaia, a WGM who emigrated from the USSR before its collapse in 1991 and now operates her Chess Academy in Arizona.  A former currency trader who teaches finance classes, she has lived the role of chess professional as both a player and coach.  While seeking to represent other professional players, Belakovskaia has unfortunately garnered little to no support among top Grandmasters.  Moreover, her lack of background in national chess governance contrasts sharply with the other two candidates.

Please mark Randy Bauer and write-in Boyd M. Reed 12479484 on your USCF ballot.

Friday, May 22

CalChess Champions Over the Years

Since the turn of the century, the CalChess State Scholastic Chess Championship (occasionally misnamed the Super States) has emerged as the single largest annual USCF rated tournament west of the Rocky Mountains, consistently drawing at least 800 eager young chess enthusiasts.  Indeed, the record turnout of 1319 in 2006 compares favorably to the National Championships each spring.  The first weekend of May saw the 40th edition of this Bay Area event.  Two emeritus organizers deserve the lion's share of credit for building up the event during the 1990s and early 2000s: Ray Orwig and Alan Kirshner.

Unfortunately, those 40 years of history are in danger of being forgotten.  Until recently, the champs were honored in the yearly program booklet and online.  Dr. Kirshner diligently compiled lists of individual and school team champions from 1986 to 2011, but the official record at the CalChess website ceases after 2012  Seeing a need, I extended the honor roll of scholastic champions through 2015.

Curiosity drove me to analyze the ranks of individual champions more closely.  For example, Vinay Bhat won the High School division in four out of five consecutive years (1998-2002), but he sat out of the middle year (2000).  Another three masters captured a hat trick of K-12 titles: Andy McManus (1987-1990), Dmitry Zilberstein (1994-1997) and Cameron Wheeler (2013-2015).  Out of this esteemed foursome, only Cameron managed to win (or share first place) in three consecutive years!

Readers may have already mistakenly concluded that winning a scholastic title is easy pickings for a phenom destined to become Grandmaster (like Vinay) or International Master (like Dmitry).  Not true!  Sam Shankland, the strongest player to grow up in the Bay Area during the past three decades, was never crowned champ at the biggest kids tournament.  To his credit, Sam won the adult State Championship at just 16 years old!

To me, the real question was whether anyone achieved a career Grand Prix?  The four pillars of the Grand Prix are the Varsity or Open divisions in Primary, Elementary, Middle School and High School.  Both the K-5 and K-6 sections count for Elementary School.  All players tied for first place are considered co-champions (e.g. five K-5 winners in both 2008 and 2010). 

5-Time Champions
  • Vinay Bhat K-3, K-12, K-12, K-12, K-12
  • Neel Apte K-3, K-5, K-6, K-8, K-8 (needs K-12)
  • Cameron Wheeler K-5, K-6, K-12, K-12, K-12 (missing K-8)

Since 1986, nobody collected more than five CalChess titles.  However, both Neel (11th grade) and Cameron (10th grade) could break that record next spring..

4-Time Champions
  • Micah Fisher-Kirshner K-3, K-6, K-6, K-12 (missing K-8)
  • Adam Lischinsky K-3, K-3, K-8, K-12 (missing K-6)
  • Daniel Naroditsky K-3, K-6, K-12, K-12 (missing K-8)
  • James Kwok K-3, K-6, K-8, K-8 (missing K-12)

Sadly, all of the quadruple champions have run out of eligibility.

3-Time Champions
  • Andy McManus K-12, K-12, K-12
  • Alan Stein K-8, K-12, K-12
  • Dmitry Zilberstein K-12, K-12, K-12
  • Keith Yost K-6, K-8, K-8
  • Daniel Schwarz K-3, K-8, K-12 (missing K-6)
  • Steven Zierk K-3, K-8, K-12 (missing K-6)
  • Yian Liou K-3, K-6, K-12 (missing K-8)  
  • Kyle Shin K-5, K-6, K-8
  • Tanuj Vasudeva K-3, K-5, K-6

Kyle (11th grade) and Tanuj (9th grade) could still add a High School championship to their bulging trophy cases, although neither has played competitively for some time.

Therefore, the answer to my question is a disappointing no!  Interestingly, nine different juniors managed to score 75% of the Grand Slam (see green color).  And with a small dose of luck, Neel Apte could even complete the career Slam by winning the K-12 division next spring.