Tuesday, April 29

Western Invitational Chess Camp in Arizona

(Photo from 2007 Western Invitational Chess Camp. Do you recognize GM Gregory Kaidanov's opponent in the simul? Hint: it is one of my students.)

I am posting this for my friend FM Robby Adamson from Tucson, Arizona. For the fifth straight year, Robby is hosting an elite chess camp that he bills as the strongest in the USA. Players must be rated a minimum of 1500 to be invited and the top group of participants will likely have an average rating around 2200. The instructors include Grandmasters Gregory Kaidanov, Yury Shulman and Alejandro Ramirez plus four other veteran masters. Inside joke: Make sure to invite Yury to Taco Bell.

The dates for this year are July 20-24 (yes, it starts on a Sunday) with the optional Ye Olde Pueblo Open tournament on the following weekend. The camp schedule include two daily lectures, a GM simul, a G/35 tournament (USCF quick rated), blitz and various fun activities each evening. For more information, please visit the Western Invitational Chess Camp website or contact Robby Adamson by email. One of my students went last year and I wouldn't be surprised to see at least three or four go this year. Please let me know.

Ask GM Joel

Grandmaster Joel Benjamin (see photo) answers a question on Chess Life Online about when parents should seek online lessons from a Grandmaster. Specifically, would an 8 year old rated 627 benefit? Here is part of the response.

"An eight-year-old needs most of all to establish a good rapport with an instructor. It is difficult to get to know someone without seeing them face-to-face. Your son may be reluctant to express himself to a stranger on the phone. Furthermore, you may end up with a high-rated teacher that isn’t a good match for your son."

To read the full text of Ask GM Joel, please click on the link to the USCF website. I completely agree with his opinion in this matter.

Monday, April 28

Busy Weekend of Chess Tournaments

(Photos of MichaelL, EvanY and Rebekah in action over the past year. Thanks to the awesome local website ChessDryad for all three photos.)

Twelve of my students and I played in five different chess tournaments in three states last weekend. These events were some of the last opportunities for kids to practice before the big CalChess Scholastics coming up in three weeks. Chess is like a sport: if you don't properly train and warm up, you may suffer from brain cramps or tactical blindness.

Those of you who did not play have only a few additional chances to get ready for the main event: the Cupertino Tournament on May 3 and the Charles Powell G/45 on May 10. I expect that both events will have sufficient strong players for anyone rated under 2000 to find adequate competition. Remember that practice makes perfect!

Imre Konig Memorial G/45 at the Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco
  • NM Gregory Young (2197) took clear 1st ahead of IM Ricardo DeGuzman and three other masters, pushing his USCF rating over 2200 for the second time. He defeated NM Michael Pearson (2241) and drew with WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs (2287).
  • MichaelL (1793) scored an impressive 3.0 points against five opponents rated 2157 average for his first master level performance! He beat NM Keith Vickers (2200) and former master Kenneth Hills (2132), boosting his rating to 1871.
  • A total of five of my students played, all scoring at least 50%.
Bay Area Chess Championship 37 in Santa Clara
  • EvanY (1540) took clear 1st in the U1700 section, finishing with 3.5 against three underrated kids and one veteran adult. His new rating of 1596 is almost up to Class B.
  • Redwood Middle School top board Brian (1674) gained a few rating points with a solid 3.0 score, but had to take a last round bye or else he might have tied for first.
  • A total of four of my students played.
Greater Sacramento Adult/Scholastic Championship in Roseville
  • The fpawn shared top honors with four other players at 4.0 out of 5.
  • Nicholas (1795) gave me a serious run for my money in the "Spanish torture" (closed Ruy Lopez) before succumbing to a desperate counterattack in time pressure.
5th Annual National All-Girl's Championships in Dallas, TX
  • Rebekah (1675) shared 4th place in the Under 16 division, scoring a solid 4.0 out of 6. She defeated Karsten McVay (1949) from New Jersey for her highest rated tournament scalp ever. Goooo girls!
Arizona State Scholastic Championships in Flagstaff, AZ
  • Tyler (1416) took home the 2nd place trophy for K-6 at the premier annual scholastic event in the state of Arizona. He scored 6.0 out of 7, losing only a hard-fought game against the eventual champion Brennen Lee (1959). Congrats on a great result!
I updated the Achievements page on my website to reflect the great results by Gregory, MichaelL, EvanY and Rebekah. Kudos to all who played and tried their best!

Episode 5 of Chess Diva TV Show

Believe it or not, the San Francisco Bay Area has a TV chess show! Thanks to the effort of amateur producers Lauren and Barbara Goodkind, the Community Access channel of Palo Alto has a show called Chess Diva. Lauren and Barbara are twin sisters who both have ratings around 1800, which places them in the Top 100 of the country for women. The 30 minute long TV show offers instructional content for novice and intermediate players as well as interviews with local players. The hosts hope to encourage more girls and women to push wood on the chess board.

The fifth episode of Chess Diva TV Show is now available on Google Video! The program starts out with an example of a king and pawn endgame, then continues with the post-mortem analysis of a tournament game between Lauren and my student Andrew Chen and ends with images from the People's Replacement tournament in Santa Clara, including IM Ricardo DeGuzman and me. Check it out! By the way, Andrew really looks cool in front of the camera!

Saturday, April 26

More Photos from St. Alban's Tournament

Click on this link to Flickr for more photos from the St. Alban's tournament.

Photos from St. Alban's Tournament

These photos come from today's Greater Sacramento Adult/Scholastic Championship, a G/30 tournament hosted by the St. Alban's Country Day School chess club and directed by NTD John McCumiskey (see photo lower right). 92 players of all ages came to Roseville to play chess on a sunny Saturday. Special thanks to the parents of St. Alban's for once again offering a raffle with great prizes plus a full lunch and snack bar (great cookies)!

Since I managed to play like a doofus in the final round, the Open section ended in a five-way tie for first place between Joe Birt, Alvin Pulley, 7th grader Isaac Zhang, Stephen Pulley and Michael Aigner. Give credit to Joe Birt for alertly taking advantage of my careless opening play.

Friday, April 25

Percentiles of USCF ratings for Northern California

This data is restricted to all residents of Northern California who are active since January 2007 and have an established USCF rating based on at least 25 games played.

Histogram of USCF ratings for Northern California

This data is restricted to all residents of Northern California who are active since January 2007 and have an established USCF rating based on at least 25 games played.
  • Number = 1361
  • Maximum = 2539
  • Average plus StdDev = 1800
  • Average = 1267
  • Average minus StdDev = 733
  • Minimum = 100

Wednesday, April 23

Reminder: Naroditsky Pitches Tonight!

Baseball fan and chess player FM Daniel Naroditsky will throw out tonight's ceremonial first pitch to chess amateur and RHP Andrew Brown of the Oakland A's.

World U12 Champion FM Daniel Naroditsky will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at tonight's baseball game between the Oakland A's and the Minnesota Twins. The start time is 7:05pm with the first pitch typically a few minutes prior to that. The game will be televised on CSN-BayAreaPlus and MLB-TV. Tuesday's edition of the San Francisco Chronicle had an interesting article about some A's players, notably pitchers Andrew Brown and Huston Street, who prefer to play chess to relax. Today, they hope challenge the champion to a chess match before the ballgame begins. Go get 'em Danya!

Batman Captures Samford

(Vinay Bhat gave live commentary for the top boards at the 2007 CalChess Scholastics.)

According to a press release on the USCF homepage, Bay Area International Master Vinay Bhat was awarded one of two Samford Fellowships for "chess talent, work ethic, dedication and accomplishments." The nation's largest chess Fellowship, which is renewable for up to two years, provides $32,000 annually to the recipient for "top-level coaching, strong competition and access to study materials." The stated goal is to cultivate young American masters who may compete with the best players of the world. Bhat shared the honors for 2008 with IM Irina Krush of New York, the reigning US Women's Champion. Other recent Samford fellows include local IMs David Pruess and Josh Friedel.

Always a friendly and cheerful person, Vinay Bhat is quite popular among Bay Area chess players. At 10 years old in 1995, he set the record for the youngest USCF master, a mark that has been broken twice since then, most recently by NM Nicholas Nip. These days, he plays for the San Francisco Mechanics in the US Chess League, stunning top rated GM Hikaru Nakamura last October despite a 70-1 time disadvantage. Last July in Balaguer, Spain, Bhat earned the final of three norms required for the Grandmaster title. FIDE approved his application for GM, conditional on achieving an international rating of 2500. He needs less than 20 points before the title becomes official. It is merely a matter of time before we can refer to GM Vinay Bhat! Congratulations!

Tuesday, April 22

Video of Nicholas Nip on Live with Regis and Kelly

Youngest USCF master Nicholas Nip, now 10 years old, flew to the Big Apple over the weekend to appear on Monday morning's talk show Live with Regis & Kelly. In front of the cameras, he played a ten board simul against experienced adult players from the New York area, scoring nine wins and one draw. Afterwards, Nicholas answered a few questions from Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, ranging from what age he learned chess (five years old) to whether the TV hosts are too old to play chess (no) to whether he has any girlfriends (no).

Thanks to Barbara DeMaro of the US Chess Trust for arranging this appearance on national TV. Although Nicholas appeared a little bit shy in front of the cameras, this was his first giant step to fulfilling a career goal of becoming a rock star.

Monday, April 21

Upcoming Tournaments

The CalChess Scholastics are less than four weeks away and, for many of you, it is time to get some last minute practice before the main event. Here are some upcoming tournaments that I can recommend from the CalChess adult calendar.
The big weekend is May 17-18 when serious chess players in Northern California will converge on the San Jose Convention Center. Please check the official website for information, registration, advance entries and the schedule. I reserved a small team room on the second floor of the hotel, just across the skywalk from the playing site. I will analyze games for my students between rounds and expect to have a distinguished master as my special guest and teaching assistant. In addition, I have signed up to TD the blitz (Friday night) and bughouse (Saturday night) side events.

I can also recommend some tournaments after the CalChess Scholastics. The Memorial Day holiday happens to be the very next weekend, so plan accordingly. However, I am flying to Chicago that weekend, seeking out stronger competition than is possible in the Bay Area. Looking further into the summer, I hope to see many of my students make the annual trip to Sacramento on the 4th of July weekend.

National High School Results

(Nationals are fun! Here's a photo of NM Daniel Schwarz, Marvin Shu and David Chock after the last round at the 2007 National High School in Kansas City.)

A total of 1221 eager chess players plus an equal number of parents and coaches descended on Atlanta last weekend for the National High School Championships. For three days, teenagers from around the country competed for top honors in what must be one of the fiercest chess competitions anywhere. As NM Jonathan Hilton found out, upsets abound so frequently that ratings mean almost nothing. In fact, almost all of the top seeds lost at least once to someone lower rated, or at minimum picked up a couple of draws.

Only one player escaped the carnage unscathed. Congratulations to national champion FM Daniel Yeager (2347), an 11th grader from Pennsylvania. He faced two A players, four experts and one master, beating them all for a perfect 7-0 score. Four players tied for second place at 6.0/7: Michael Thaler (2152) of New York, NM Warren Harper (2322) of Texas, Edward Lu (2194) of Virginia and Ilan Meerovich (2130) of Illinois. My friend FM Robby Adamson (BLITZMASTER on ICC), who whined to me about his students' performance on Saturday night, seemed more content on Sunday after the Catalina Foothills High School players rallied to win top team honors for the third time in four years.

Four players from CalChess competed in Georgia. Only Steven Zierk scored the 5.5 points required to earn a nice trophy; he ended up in 20th place. Special kudos to Mukund Chillakanti for starting out strong (beating two experts) and finishing strong (drawing with two more experts). Mukund achieved an impressive 2075 performance and gained 45 rating points to crack 1900 USCF. Watch out for this kid at states next month! Check out the ratings report for all of the statistics from the tournament.
  • Steven Zierk (2154) had 5.5 and 20th place trophy.
  • Mukund Chillakanti (1868) had 4.0, including 3.0 against six experts!
  • Kenneth Law (1664) also had 4.0
  • Kartik Chillakanti (1706) had 3.0
The National Elementary Championships in Pittsburgh on May 9-11 will be the final scholastic nationals for the 2007-08 school year. This event will attract over 2000 chess players. Next year is special--all of three of the nationals will take place simultaneously under one roof. SuperNationals IV is scheduled for April 3-5, 2009 at the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. I'll be there, will you? Mark your calendar now!

Saturday, April 19

Saturday Recap: WCL Qualifier and HS Nationals

(Dachshund races are one of the most popular events at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day.)

I actually spent much of today outdoors, away from my computer and chess. Today was the annual Picnic Day celebration at UC Davis, which gave me an excuse to visit my alma mater. The gorgeous weather made the day a perfect 10. Despite my absence, there was still plenty of chess action around the country. Unfortunately, the results were somewhat disappointing for the home team.

The semifinals of the online qualifier to the 2008 Frank K. Berry US Championship took place on ICC's sister server World Chess Live. The field was impressive: IM Vinay Bhat vs IM Enrico Sevillano and IM David Vigorito vs IM-elect Ray Robson. According to a poll on this blog, Bhat was favored to win by slightly over half of the voters while Sevillano and Robson split most of the remaining votes. I predicted a final match of Bhat against Robson.

To my surprise, both of the favorites lost by 2-0 scores! Bhat lost an important central pawn in the first game with white, but managed to rebound with a strong attack in the second game. However, he became dangerously short of time and, with merely 8 seconds left (plus a 3 second increment), committed a fatal blunder. In the other match, veteran Vigorito schooled 13 year old Robson with a prepared line in the ultra-sharp Botvinnik variation and then held on in the second game. Congratulations to IM Enrico Sevillano of Southern California and IM David Vigorito of Massachusetts for advancing to the final, scheduled for noon PDT on Sunday at World Chess Live.

Update on Sunday afternoon: IM David Vigorito won the online qualifier and advanced to the US Championship in Tulsa next month! He won a wild first game of the final with black and then calmly drew with white to clinch the match. Congratulations and good luck!

I wish I had better news to report from the National High School Championship in Atlanta, but I do not. In fact, while writing this blog entry, I listened to my friend and fellow coach FM Robby Adamson (BLITZMASTER on ICC) rant about the poor performance by his team from Catalina Foothills High School (Tucson, Arizona). The upset bug has bitten many of the top players at the tournament, including top rated FM Marc Tyler Arnold (2419) who drew with Christian Tanaka (2126) from Southern California. Only three players remain with a perfect 5-0 score: FM Daniel Yeager (2347), Edward Lu (2194) and Michael Thaler (2152). Who will win? Watch the action live on MonRoi website.

Here are the scores from Northern California. Mukund Chillakanti remains the lone bright spot with an impressive performance, especially considering the strength of opposition that he faced. All the best in the final two games on Sunday!
  • Steven Zierk (2154) has an undefeated 3.5, but three draws against A players.
  • Mukund Chillakanti (1868) also has 3.5, including 2.5 against four experts!
  • Kenneth Law (1664) has 2.5
  • Kartik Chillakanti (1706) has 2.0
Update on Sunday morning: Steven and Kartik both won in round 6 while Mukund and Ken drew. Mukund faces yet another expert in the final round, having already scored a stunning 3.0 out of 5 against opponents rated over 2000. Woohoo! On the stage, Michael Thaler upset top ranked FM Marc Tyler Arnold and will face FM Daniel Yeager for the title. My friend FM Robby Adamson is also happier now; his team is back in the lead.

Friday, April 18

National High School Championship in Atlanta

(David Chock versus reigning World U16 Champion IM Alex Lenderman on the top board at the 2006 National High School Championship. David pulled off the upset of his life.)

Four players from Northern California have made the journey across the country to Atlanta for the National High School Championship this weekend. Having attended this tournament in previous years, I can safely say that the intense competition exceeds anything that we might find at the state level. Out of approximately 340 players in the top section, there are 13 masters, 14 rated 2100-2199 and another 20 rated 2000-2099.

In recent years, two underrated players from the Bay Area found substantial success: David Chock of Saratoga High School defeated an International Master in 2006 and sat alone in first place before losing on the top board in the final round; the "Wizard of Oz" Michael Zhong of Los Altos High School faced four straight masters in 2007 and impressively beat three of them to tie for first place! Whose turn is it this year?

The results from the first day include many of the upsets that are typical of this tournament. Three of the masters have drawn a game and one even lost--all against dangerous A players. Likewise, the four local players have had mixed performances so far.
  • Mukund Chillakanti (1868, see photo by Shorman at right) has 2.0/2 after defeating two experts!
  • Steven Zierk (2154) drew an A player in round 2 and has 1.5.
  • Kenneth Law (1664) has 1.0
  • Kartik Chillakanti (1706) has 0.5
Kudos to Mukund for a very impressive start to the tournament! I know there are still five more rounds, including three on Saturday. Here's wishing the best of skill (and a little luck) to the local delegation! If you're interested in following the action, some games from the top boards are being broadcast live at the MonRoi website.

Update on Saturday afternoon: Through four rounds, Steven has 3.0, Mukund sits at 2.5 (against four experts), while Kenneth and Kartik both have 2.0.

Nicholas Nip to Appear on National TV on Monday

Chess Life Online reports that San Francisco star Nicholas Nip will appear on the morning program Live with Regis & Kelly on Monday. As reported extensively on this blog, Nicholas became America's youngest chess master ever, breaking a record set ten years ago by GM Hikaru Nakamura. Hikaru appeared with Regis Philbin back in 1998 and now Nicholas gets his turn in front of the lights.

On Monday morning, Nicholas will answer questions and play a 10 board simultaneous exhibition on live TV. As Richard Shorman's photo at the left from the 2007 CalChess Scholastics proves, Nicholas has experience giving simuls. The program will air at 9:00am on KGO channel 7 in the Bay Area and KCRA channel 3 in Sacramento. I doubt that Nicholas will be shy in front of the cameras; he sometimes tells people that he wants to be a rock star when he grows up. Rock on, young man!

Thursday, April 17

Preparing for a Big Tournament

Budding young writer NM Jonathan Hilton from Ohio offers his detailed advice on how to prepare for a major chess tournament in his preview of this weekend's National High School Championship in Atlanta. With the CalChess Scholastics just a month away, I highly recommend this article on Chess Life Online to both scholastic players and their parents. Hilton, who is in 11th grade and rated 2248, addresses the following topics:
  • Check the advance entry list so you know what to expect and whom you may play.
  • Repeatedly play over games from previous tournaments to learn from mistakes.
  • Understand where you are now and set a realistic goal.
  • Avoid overhauling your entire opening repertoire right before the tournament.
  • Instead of preparing openings for specific opponents, improve your understanding in one or two variations.
  • Be prepared for psychological tricks intended to distract you. For example, resist the temptation to move too fast.
  • Exercise regularly. Be fit both physically and mentally.
  • Rest your mind for a day or two. Do not cram chess!
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Have fun!
(The photo above is of Michael Zhong from Los Altos High School, the 2007 National High School co-Champion. Unfortunately, homework prevents him from playing this year. Zhong's personal experience, which he shared in this interview with CalChess, contradicts Hilton's advice, especially the point about cramming a new opening repertoire.)

Wednesday, April 16

Cool New ICC Command: Pstat

Finally, it is here! Check out the new "pstat" command on ICC to find your score against opponents. The ICC database now tracks your record in all rated games, including wild variants, and also sorts them by color. This record dates back to June 22, 2007. Here's an example of DanielDelPaso (NM Daniel Schwarz) against Smallville (GM Hikaru Nakamura).
DanielDelPaso's Score vs. Smallville
DanielDelPaso as White DanielDelPaso as Black
Category Win Loss Draw % | Win Loss Draw %
1-minute 0 0 0 -- | 0 1 0 0%
5-minute 0 1 0 0% | 1 1 0 50%
TOTAL: 0 1 0 0% | 1 2 0 33%

Overall Score 1/4 = 25%
Category Win Loss Draw %
1-minute 0 1 0 0%
5-minute 1 2 0 33%
TOTAL: 1 3 0 25%
You can use pstat to automatically see your record against your current opponent at the start of each new game. Simply type: "set pstat 1" into the main console or find the player statistics button under Options/Set Variables or Settings/Playing 2. This cool feature requires either BlitzIn 2.7 or Dasher 1.2 interface for optimal performance.

Tuesday, April 15

Watch Online Qualifier this Weekend!

As announced previously on this blog, IM Vinay Bhat advanced to the semifinals of the 2008 US State Champion of Champions tournament on ICC's sister service World Chess Live. The winner earns a spot in the field of 24 for the 2008 Frank K. Berry US Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 13-21. Vinay squares off against IM Enrico Sevillano from the Southern California. The other semifinal pits experience versus youth in IM David Vigorito from Massachusetts against 13 year old IM-elect Ray Robson from Florida. The winners will play for the championship.

The USCF and CalChess websites both report that wisdom prevailed and the date for the semifinals has been changed to Saturday, April 19, with the final on Sunday, April 20. It seemed silly to play on Friday as originally planned, when both some participants and spectators are at work. Both the semifinal and final will begin at 12noon Pacific time--be there! The time control for each two game match will be 60 3.

To watch the matches, download the Dasher interface for World Chess Live (unfortunately, BlitzIn will not work). If you are a USCF member, you are eligible for six free months of WCL thanks to a promotion. To register, please visit the World Chess Live website and follow the instructions on the USCF page (you'll need your USCF ID and PIN code). Upon logging on, you may "observe" the World Chess Live handles of the final four, "Cofc-NorthCalif" for Bhat, "Cofc-SoCal" for Sevillano, "Cofc-MA" for Vigorito and "Cofc-Florida" for Robson.

Who do you think will win this internet qualifier? Vote for your favorite player at the right!
There are several strong and exciting choices to make this poll very interesting. This poll closes on Friday at noon so that I can announce the results.

Sunday, April 13

Video from HHCF Event in Menlo Park

(Does chess mix well with rap music? Photo by Alan Kirshner from the HHCF's event last May 2007 in San Francisco.)

The Hip Hop Chess Federation hosted their latest event yesterday at the Riekes Center for Human Enhancement in Menlo Park. Their mission is to use chess as a tool for popular rappers and martial arts experts to entertain kids. As the website proudly proclaims, the "HHCF brings together top entertainers and fighters to inspire today's youth."

Saturday's gathering included chess exhibitions, grappling competitions and a Symposium on Martial Arts as a Path to Nonviolence. The event was covered by the local media, including the TV station NBC11. Check out this video clip for a great report from Menlo Park. You may even find a few active local chess players among the crowd.

Saturday, April 12

Vinay Bhat Advances to Online Qualifier Semifinals!

San Francisco Bay Area native IM Vinay Bhat (see photo at left) has advanced to the semifinal stage of the 2008 US State Champion of Champions tournament. The winner of this online tournament, hosted by ICC's sister service World Chess Live, will qualify for the US Championship next month.

In today's 5 1 blitz action, Vinay impressively won the Western Conference of the double round-robin qualifier with 12.5 out of 14, ahead of opponents including IM Sandor Kustar (South Dakota) and IM Levon Altounian (Arizona). IM Enrico Sevillano (10.5/14) from Southern California took second place and also advanced to the semifinals. The Eastern Conference was won by IM David Vigorito (17.0/18), now living in Massachusetts, while Florida wunderkind IM-elect Ray Robson (13.5/18) took second (see photo at right), narrowly ahead of FM Kazim Gulamali of Georgia.

The road to Tulsa continues on Friday at 12noon Pacific time with a pair of two game matches at the time control of 60 3. The West features Bhat vs Sevillano; the East has Vigorito vs Robson. The winners meet on Saturday, again beginning at 12noon PDT. No doubt this will be a barn-burner, so tune into WCL! Note: All USCF members get six months free membership to World Chess Live as part of a marketing agreement.

Friday, April 11

Loose Ends From the Tulsa Qualifier

The US Championship Qualifier in Tulsa was finally USCF rated. NM Sam Shankland is up to 2332 and he should receive the FIDE Master title after the next FIDE rating list comes out in July. Kudos to Sam on qualifying and taking a giant leap forward! Reigning World U12 Champion FM Danya Naroditsky also gained a significant number of rating points and now sits at 2320. Even your humble reporter saw his rating increase, back up to 2276.

In other news, the organizing committee for the 2008 Frank K. Berry US Championship announced three wild cards for the tournament on May 13-21 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Congrats to IM Josh Friedel (Northern California) along with FM Michael Langer (Texas) and expert Sergey Galant (Oklahoma) for this honor. Good luck to all of our CalChess representatives in Oklahoma: IM Friedel, IM David Pruess and NM Shankland (some of you may also include former Bay Area resident GM Alex Yermolinsky).

Spokesman Tom Braunlich published the nearly complete list of players in his latest story on Chess Life Online. The top seeds are defending champion GM Alexander Shabalov and highest rated GM Alexander Onischuk. Other exciting participants in the field of 24 include: GM Gregory Kaidanov, GM Jaan Ehlvest, GM Varuzhan Akobian, GM Yury Shulman, GM Julio Becerra, GM Eugene Perelshteyn, GM Jesse Kraai and IM Ben Finegold.

New England Masters in August

My British friend and fellow blogger, Chris Bird, is hosting a competitive open tournament this summer for players interested in competing for GM or IM norms. The 2008 New England Masters will take place on August 11-15 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (near Providence). To comply with FIDE regulations for title norms, this tournament will have nine rounds and plenty of GMs, IMs plus foreign players. Only players with a FIDE (international) rating of 2100 and above are eligible to play, but the organizer may allow up to four special invitees below the minimum rating. Check out the official website for complete details.

The following players are already committed to playing in August: GM Kritz (GER), GM Gareev (UZB), GM Erenburg (ISR), GM Perelshteyn (USA), GM Arkell (ENG), IM Stopa (SRB), IM Vigorito (USA) and Sammour-Hasbun (PLE).

I played in the 2006 Las Vegas Masters, which Chris Bird also organized. It was a blast and I met many strong players during that week. Sadly, my chess play left something to be desired. Unfortunately for us living out west, Chris Bird moved from Las Vegas to Boston and now hosts his annual tournament in New England.

P.S. I wonder if Chris plays the Bird's Opening like I do? In his 2006 tournament, I actually faced 1.f4 with the black pieces--and lost to IM Tim Taylor.

Tuesday, April 8

Fpawn Rating List - Best Gain in First Quarter of 2008

(Aamir playing blitz at my holiday party in December 2007, where he took 2nd place.)

As I do every month, I compiled the Fpawn Rating List and Top 5 lists using the new USCF rating supplement. Instead of presenting the raw numbers for May on my blog, I took a slightly different approach. Since we are one-fourth of the way through 2008, I wanted to see who has been most successful at improving their rating in the first quarter of the year. My spreadsheet calculated the rating gain from the February to May supplement; each list was created on the first Friday of the previous month (i.e. January 4 to April 4).

Congratulations to Aamir for breaking out of a slump in style with two impressive results in recent weeks. Rebekah has also been moving up and she will represent CalChess at the Polgar Invitational for Girls in Texas this summer. Finally, I wish to congratulate Brian, not so much for his chess rating (which has improved quite a bit), but for passing the difficult AMC and AIME tests to qualify for the USA Math Olympiad as an 8th grader!
  1. Aamir +145
  2. Rebekah +86
  3. Danya +68
  4. EvanY +66
  5. Chris +65
  6. Yian +50
  7. Steven +49
  8. Brian +48
  9. Tyler +45
  10. Alan +38

April Top 100 Lists

(Saratoga High School and Redwood Middle School teams at 2007 CalChess Scholastics.)

Chess players, coaches and parents alike eagerly await the release of the USCF Top 100 lists every two months. Congratulations to my 22 chess students who are ranked in the top 100 of the country for their age. It is both an honor and a challenge to work with this talented group of kids.
  • GOLD MEDAL (top 5): FM Danya Naroditsky, #1 age 12; Gregory Young, #2 age 12
  • SILVER MEDAL (top 10): Yian Liou, #6 age 10; Steven Zierk, #8 age 14
  • BRONZE MEDAL (top 25): James Kwok, Sam Bekker, Adam Goldberg, Alan Naroditsky, David Chock, NM Daniel Schwarz
The CalChess Top 100 and CalChess Top 20 lists are drawn from the national rankings. My students are well represented there as well. In fact, I am proud to be able to teach nearly half of the age 12-17 Top 20 list, including four of the top six. I also teach four students on the U12 Top 20 list, including three of the top six. Keep up all of the good work to make me look good! ;-)
  • CalChess Top 20 for Age 12-17: #2 Danya, #3 Gregory, #5 Steven, #6 David, #9 Alan, #11 Jeff, #14 Adam, #17 Charles and #18 Sam
  • CalChess Top 20 for Age U12: #2 Yian, #5 James, #6 Alex, #12 Aamir

Monday, April 7

Team 45 45 League on ICC

The Team 45 45 League on ICC is currently accepting signups for a new tournament! You play one game each week for six weeks (plus playoffs) against different opponents at a mutually agreed time. The time control is 45 minutes plus a 45 second increment for every move; a typical game may last 2-3 hours or more. The league, which has been active on ICC for nearly ten years now, has sections at 200 rating point intervals, allowing everyone the opportunity to play people near their own rating.

I have played in T4545L for several years and I also volunteer as a section TD plus on the Steering Committee. A half dozen of my students played last tournament as well: Gregory, Steven, Yian, James, Andrew and Rebekah. Yian's father serves as captain of several teams. Highly recommended and fun! Who will play this time?

Before joining, please carefully read the Quick Guide and Player Handbook. The T4545L has some strict rules which require a minimum level of personal responsibility. It also helps if you are somewhat flexible in your availability to play, either after school on several days of the week or on most weekends. If you're busy at a multi-day tournament, you may wish to ask your captain to sit out that week. Feel free to contact me with further questions.

Sunday, April 6

Results From Junior High Nationals

After a wild loss on Sunday morning, Steven Zierk won his last round game at Junior High School Nationals in Dallas to finish with a strong showing of 5.5 out of 7. He took home the 4th place trophy, becoming my third student to achieve a top four finish in the K-9 division (David Chock in 2005 and Gregory Young in 2007). Way to go Zkid!

The only player to beat Steven, NM Michael Lee from Seattle (see photo from US Chess League website), became national champion with an impressive score of 6.5 out of 7. The round 6 blunderfest between 8th grader Michael and 9th grader Steven was far from perfect, but quite entertaining for spectators on MonRoi. Click here to play through the game in Chess Publisher.

The other group of CalChess players who flew to Dallas were eight students from St. Mark's School in San Rafael, coached by Ray Orwig. Their team, playing in the K-9 U1250 section, rallied in the final round to earn the 10th place team trophy. Good job!

In an impressive display of efficiency, the tournament was already USCF rated by 8pm Dallas time, less than two hours after the last game ended! Kudos to the directing staff.

Saturday, April 5

Big Showdown Tomorrow in Dallas!

(Board 1 showdown on on Sunday morning in Dallas: Michael Lee on the left against Steven Zierk on the right. Photos from the tournament album on the MonRoi website.)

After five rounds of action, nothing has been settled yet at the Junior High School Nationals in Dallas. Although nobody has a perfect score in the elite K-9 division, there are still four players tied for first place at 4.5 points. The top board tomorrow morning will pit 8th grader NM Michael Lee (2277) from Seattle as white against Los Gatos High School 9th grader Steven Zierk (2105). Two more competitors are tied for the lead and will square off on board 2: 5th grader Darwin Yang (2159) and 7th grader Jason Jia (1884), both hailing from the Lone Star State. Those of us in California can watch live on MonRoi beginning at 7:00am. The seventh and final round is scheduled for 12:00 noon PDT.
Steven has done well so far with wins against two 1900s and a draw in round 5 against Raven Sturt (2082) from New York. Thanks to a draw on board 1 between Michael Lee and Darwin Yang, our hero is still tied for first place. Zkid, go get 'em!
The St. Mark's School team has 9.5 points in the K-9 U1250 division, which is good for 12th place after five rounds. Their top player, Puneeth Gadangi (1668), has 3.0 points in the difficult K-8 division. Good luck to longtime coach Ray Orwig and his team!
Update on Sunday morning: Unfortunately, Steven lost in an extremely wild Dutch defense game. Give credit to both competitors for playing exciting chess.

Friday, April 4

Zierk Is 2-0 at Junior High Nationals

Steven Zierk won his first two games today at Junior High School Nationals in Dallas, Texas. Playing in the competitive K-9 division, Steven defeated two opponents from the host state, including talented second grader Dachey Lin (1748), the nation's top ranked 8 year old. There's no doubt that the pairings will become more difficult tomorrow, as there are a dozen players rated over 2000 in the section. The top two seeds are NM Michael Lee (2277) from Washington state and NM Parker Zhao (2225) from New York. Steven, officially rated 2105, is the fifth seeded player. Goooo Zkid!

Unfortunately, very few other kids from CalChess are playing this year; even the overall attendance is down by about 10%. Only Ray Orwig has made his annual pilgrimage to nationals with eight students from St. Mark's School in San Rafael. His top rated player, Puneeth Gadangi (1668) won in both of the first two rounds; the rest of the team is playing in the K-9 U1250 division.

Games from the top boards are available live on MonRoi as long as the convention center's internet stays up. Free registration is required, but that's worth it to watch the games between exciting young players. The pairing on board 2 between the country's top first grader Raymond Sun (1784) and NM Parker Zhao appeared interesting, but the game was anticlimactic when Zhao won a piece on move 10.

Update on Saturday morning: Steven is now 3-0.
Update on Saturday afternoon: Steven wins again and now stands at 4-0.

Thursday, April 3

Oakland A's Draft FM Naroditsky!

The Oakland A's have drafted World U12 Champion FM Daniel Naroditsky to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Wednesday, April 23 against the Minnesota Twins. The game start time is 7:05pm with the first pitch typically a few minutes prior to that. I heard that pro scouts are excited about Danya's fastball that has been clocked in the high 80s with exceptional location in the strike zone.

(As for me, I will remain a SF Giants fan. I am known to wear my Giants cap at many chess tournaments. Nonetheless, I attend a game or two each year to watch the Sacramento River Cats, Triple A affiliate of the A's.)

Wednesday, April 2

Games from US Championship Qualifier

Extra! Extra!

I just received a PGN file with 172 games from the Qualifier in Tulsa, Oklahoma last weekend. This is quite a treat because of the high number of competitive pairings. Thanks once again to organizer Frank Berry (photo at left) and his awesome staff!

Tuesday, April 1

Final Impressions of US Championship Qualifier

I am back home in California after spending five days in Tulsa for the strongest and biggest open chess tournament ever in Oklahoma. The field of the US Championship Qualifier included over 20 GMs and IMs among 60 masters and 104 players total. For a thorough and informative report, check out the column written by Tom Braunlich for Chess Life Online. Here are the final standings at the top, with the seven qualifiers in bold, plus all 10 Northern California players.
  • 1st - 5th at 5.5 GM Jesse Kraai, GM Julio Becerra, GM Alex Yermolinsky, IM Dean Ippolito and GM John Fedorowicz
  • 6th - 14th at 5.0 GM Alex Ivanov, GM Sergey Kudrin, FM Daniel Ludwig, GM Eugene Perelshteyn, NM Sam Shankland (see photo at left), IM David Pruess, IM Joe Bradford, IM Michael Brooks and FM Todd Andrews
  • 4.5 IM Vinay Bhat (16th), NM Michael Aigner (26th), FM Daniel Naroditsky (27th)
  • 4.0 IM Walter Shipman (36th)
  • 3.5 IM Dmitry Zilberstein (51st)
  • 3.0 IM Josh Friedel (61st, withdrew after six rounds)
  • 2.5 Dana Mackenzie (77th), Alan Kobernat (84th)

NM Sam Shankland and FM Danya Naroditsky represented CalChess quite well. The "Shankinator" swindled his chess teacher IM Friedel in round 5 and then drew GM Ivanov and GM Kudrin back-to-back on the final day. Danya followed up a spectacular result in Reno by scoring two draws on Sunday with IM Brooks and IM Lugo. The other qualifier from the Bay Area, IM David Pruess (photo from Chessville at right) had a respectable performance but didn't defeat any notable opponents.

My own tournament went quite well, after a major hiccup in the first round against an 1877 rated high school player from Oklahoma. From the second round onwards, I faced three 2400s and three experts, scoring 3-0 against the experts and scratching out two draws against the senior masters. Here are my results from each round. You may view my games using the links to the online viewer from Chess Publisher or download the PGN file.

  1. Drew with Devin Hughes (1877) as black in the English opening after I fell into an opening trap, lost the exchange, but managed to escape into a drawn endgame.
  2. Defeated WIM Alexey Root (2006) as white in an endgame out of the French defense where I had a small advantage throughout.
  3. Drew with IM Dmitry Zilberstein (2457) as black after equalizing easily in the Rossolimo variation of the Sicilian.
  4. Defeated Glenn Bady (2186) as white in the 2... e6 line of the closed Sicilian by converting an opening advantage into an endgame up two pawns.
  5. Lost to IM Salvijus Bercys (2474) as black in the mainline Leningrad Dutch when I unsoundly opened up the locked center with 12... e5.
  6. Drew with IM-elect Ray Robson (2426) as white in the 7.f4 line of the closed Sicilian after winning a pawn in the opening but exercising poor endgame technique.
  7. Defeated Courtney Jamison (2073) as black in the Alapin Sicilian by exploiting weaknesses in my opponent's pawn structure.

The most memorable day in this tournament for me was the last one. At least I woke up early, unlike Saturday when I overslept and arrived late for the morning round. My opponent on Sunday morning was the superstar junior Ray Robson, who at merely 13 years of age has completed all of the requirements for the International Master title. Several astute readers pointed out that Robson is still officially a FM until FIDE approves his title application, so technically speaking he is not yet IM Robson but rather IM-elect.

Regardless of his title, I expected a fierce battle from the America's top rated player age 16 and under. The closed Sicilian opening went very well for me, perhaps an indication of a weakness in my opponent's feared opening repertoire. By move 12, I felt that I had a tangible advantage and then, on move 17, I won the d5 pawn. I managed to avoid trading into a drawn endgame with the tactical shot 22.d4, which seeks to destroy the pawn shield in front of the black king. Robson defended resourcefully down a pawn with the major pieces on the board, but nonetheless I forced a winning rook endgame by move 50. Unfortunately, I failed to win, in part due to the accurate defense by my young opponent. My mistakes included 33.b4 (a5 was more aggressive), 51.Rc4 (Ke3 was correct) and 55.Re5 (better was f5). I will fully annotate this game for this blog in the near future.

This result left me with only 3.5 out of 6 heading into the final round. I was officially out of the hunt for a qualifying spot, but still hoped to finish the tournament on a high note and gain valuable rating points. As it turned out, my teenage opponent, Courtney Jamison from Texas, was in the running for the Women's qualifying spot, thereby greatly raising the stakes for my game. She essayed the same line of the Alapin Sicilian that Southern California IM Enrico Sevillano plays. I didn't play too well, but except for one brief moment, I was never in any danger either. In the end, Jamison created too many pawn weaknesses and I picked off one, then another and pretty soon thereafter she allowed checkmate.

I finished with 4.5 points for a solid 2359 USCF / 2399 FIDE performance rating. Most importantly, I gained 16 FIDE rating points, reversing some of my losses over the past year. I gained confidence in my play against stronger opponents and, if Ray Robson ever becomes a world class player, then I can say that I had him on the ropes in Oklahoma.

To close my summary, I would like to point out that the biggest story of the weekend was the success of young players, both from Northern California and around the country. In my tournament preview on Thursday, I had predicted that the 90+30 time control would benefit the kids, and I was right on the mark. Two teenagers, FM Daniel Ludwig from Florida and our own NM Sam Shankland, qualified for the US Championship. Two more, Robson and World U12 Champion FM Daniel Naroditsky, finished a half point behind at 4.5. Another talented kid, 11 year old FM Darwin Yang, ended up at 4.0 points. There is no doubt that these young players will compete in many future US Championships.

Many thanks to US Championship organizer Frank Berry for donating his own money to support the top level of chess in America! Frank is both a successful businessperson and a true fan of the royal game. Thanks also to his brother Jim Berry and Oklahoma expert Tom Braunlich for making the players comfortable and ensuring a well run tournament.

CalChess FIDE Rated Juniors

(Rohan Agarwal and Sam Shankland had fun at the Far West Open in Reno in March.)

The following list includes all juniors (grades K-12) living in Northern California who have a published FIDE rating. Source: April 2008 FIDE rating list.
  1. NM Sam Shankland 2296
  2. FM Daniel Naroditsky 2242
  3. Gregory Young 2233
  4. Rohan Agarwal 2196
  5. NM Nicholas Nip 2149
  6. Adarsh Konda 2115
  7. Michael Zhong 2113
  8. David Chock 1999
  9. Adam Goldberg 1983
  10. Louiza Livschitz 1972

CalChess FIDE Top 20

(Two-time CalChess State Champion IM Josh Friedel poses before a round at the 2007 US Championship in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Photo by MonRoi.)

The following list includes the top 20 players presently living in Northern California who played in at least one FIDE rated event in California or Nevada during the past year. Source: April 2008 FIDE rating list.
  1. IM Josh Friedel 2484
  2. IM Vinay Bhat 2481
  3. GM Walter Browne 2444
  4. IM David Pruess 2425
  5. IM John Donaldson 2414
  6. IM Vladimir Mezentsev 2411
  7. IM Dmitry Zilberstein 2411
  8. FM Vladimir Strugatsky 2400
  9. IM Ricardo DeGuzman 2389
  10. IM John Grefe 2377
  11. FM Craig Mar 2372
  12. FM Tigran Ishkanov 2350
  13. FM Shiv Shivaji 2308
  14. NM Sam Shankland 2296
  15. NM Nicolas Yap 2278
  16. WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs 2278
  17. Erik Kislik 2278
  18. NM Andy Lee 2258
  19. NM Michael Aigner 2249
  20. FM Daniel Naroditsky 2242