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.
- CalChess Scholastic State Champions (1986-present)
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).
- 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..
- 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.
- 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.