Saturday, May 31

Links to All Blog Posts Written After CalChess Scholastics

Over the past two weeks, I have written about a dozen posts on my blog with results from the CalChess Scholastic State Championships on May 17-18 in San Jose, CA. The individual and team trophies have all been awarded and the tournament even has been rated, so now it is time for us to look back and see what went down that weekend.Alternatively, the reader may view all these articles together by clicking on this label.

Upsets Reign at High School (9-12) States

(The four c
o-champions of the High School division, from left to right, Boglarka Erdos, FM Daniel Naroditsky, Steven Zierk and Jeff Young.)

The premier section of the annual CalChess Scholastics was the 9-12 Varsity, better known as the High School Championship. Most of Northern California's juniors rated above 2000, regardless of their age, tested themselves in the second strongest scholastic swiss in the nation, behind only the National High School Championship. In recent years, the High School division included as many as four masters, but this time three of the four top players were unable to participate due to a variety of different reasons. The top rated local junior, NM Sam Shankland, spent the weekend playing on a bigger stage in Oklahoma: the US Championship. Despite these absences, defending champion FM Daniel Naroditsky headlined a competitive field of one master and seven experts.

The story of the tournament was the parade of upsets that began as early as round 1. Here is a list of wins on Saturday by lower rated players against opponents rated 1800+.
  • Avinash Kumar (1576) defeated FM Daniel Naroditsky (2322) in round 1
  • Kevin Bao (1230) defeated Arnav Shah (1837) in round 1
  • Marvin Shu (1804) defeated Michael Zhong (2072) in round 2
  • Greg Bodwin (1752) defeated Jeff Young (1980) in round 2
  • Rebekah Liu (1699) defeated Charles Sun (1888) in round 2
  • Minjian Wang (1611) defeated Daniel Quan (1893) in round 2
  • Brandon Lee (1464) defeated Daniel Quan (1893) in round 3
There were, of course, a number of upset draws as well. Normalcy returned for Sunday's three rounds, but by then the lower rated players had left their mark on the championship.

Six players escaped the upset parade with a perfect 3-0 score on Saturday night: Steven Zierk, Boglarka Erdos, Adarsh Konda, Rohan Agarwal, Evan Sandberg and Sreekar Jasthi. Evan and Sreekar were voted off the island in the morning round on Sunday while Rohan and Adarsh suffered their expected fate later in the day against the upset yet determined World U12 Champion. That left two players tied at 4.5 out of 5 to compete for the top honors in the final round: Boglarka against Steven. Their hard fought draw opened the door to Daniel Naroditsky and Jeff Young, who both had lost badly in the first two rounds, to join them in a 4-way tie for 1st place. I am especially proud to point out that, excluding one foreign player, the three High School co-champions are all my students!
  • Boglarka Erdos (2071 FIDE) came to California on a vacation paid for as a prize for winning a girl's championship in her native Hungary. She took the 1st place trophy by yielding only two draws to 2100+ rated opponents.
  • Steven Zierk (2145) won the Junior High last year and moved up to the big boys. This was his third state title, having also won K-3 back in 2001. Steven will represent CalChess at the Denker Tournament of High School Champions in Dallas this August.
  • FM Daniel Naroditsky (2307) successfully defended the title that he won last year, yet his performance was a bit shaky with the major upset in round 1. This was his fourth state title, having also won K-3 in 2004 and K-6 in 2005.
  • Jeff Young (1978) became just the second player rated under 2000 to win or tie for 1st place in the High School division since 1990. He will ascend to the top board for the powerful team at Saratoga High School next year.
Final Standings of 9-12 Varsity
  1. 5.0 Boglarka Erdos (2142) -- 1 year ICC extension
  2. 5.0 Steven Zierk (2155) -- qualified for Denker Tournament
  3. 5.0 Daniel Naroditsky (2322) -- 1 year ICC extension
  4. 5.0 Jeff Young (1980)
  5. 4.5 Rohan Agarwal (2118)
  6. 4.5 Adarsh Konda (2123)
  7. 4.5 Alan Naroditsky (2029)
  8. 4.0 Sreekar Jasthi (1901)
  9. 4.0 Greg Bodwin (1752)
  10. 4.0 Evan Sandberg (1955)
Without quite as much adventure or fanfare, the Saratoga High School team captured its fourth straight High School Championship. It has been a real pleasure for me to work with the nucleus of this team over the past 4+ years (see photo from 2004 at bottom right), achieving success at both the state and national level (3rd place at National High School in 2006). Congratulations to the following team members: Jeff Young (5.0), Marvin Shu (4.0), Charles Sun (4.0), Aaron Garg (4.0), David Chock (4.0), Alex Lun (3.0), Avinash Kumar (3.0) and Amol Aggarwal (1.0). I offer a final round of applause to All Star top board David (see photo at bottom center) and his teammate Marvin, who will graduate in a couple of weeks after playing chess together since elementary school.

Friday, May 30

Many Thanks to the CalChess Scholastics Staff

(Candid photographs of the tournament bigwigs by Richard Shorman. From left to right: Salman Azhar, Tom Langland and John McCumiskey.)

It has been said before but I'll say it once again: the CalChess Scholastic Championships on May 17-18 would not have been possible without the tireless and underappreciated efforts of a small group of staff. I wish to single out three individuals in particular.
  • Organizer Salman Azhar worked literally day and night in the weeks prior to the tournament to take entries, answer questions and make sure that everything was ready to go. While much of his work took place behind the scenes, I did receive comments from parents about this "superman" who responded to emails at 3am.
  • CalChess President Tom Langland was one of the first people to show up in the morning and the last to leave in the evening for three straight days (Friday through Sunday). Despite working overtime, Tom always was cheerful, especially to the kids.
  • National TD John McCumiskey diligently ensured that the tournament ran smoothly, both on schedule and in compliance with USCF and CalChess rules. John oversaw the directing staff and relied on his vast experience to extinguish a myriad of small fires.
These three individuals received plenty of help from the other staff members and dozens of official volunteers, but the ultimate responsibility fell back to them. Did everything proceed perfectly? No. Still, the event surpassed most expectations and most people went home content, even if some wish they had done better at the chess board. I hope the readers of this blog will join me in a round of cyber applause for a job well done!

Mukund and Isaac Share Top Junior High (7-8) Honors

(Junior High co-champions Isaac Zhang on left and Mukund Chillakanti.)

I watched the 7-8 Varsity section of the CalChess Scholastics closely for two reasons: quite a few of my students were playing and I saw no single clear favorite to win. In fact, I thought any one of the top six seeds, all rated above 1800, had a reasonable chance to climb to the top. Of course, I wished that one of my students would become champion, but without a doubt, the two most deserving players took the top honors.

Congratulations to Mukund Chillakanti and Isaac Zhang for winning five games and drawing only with each other. Mukund gained over 100 rating points in the past two months, highlighted by a 2075 performance at the National High School Championship with an impressive pair of wins against experts. On the other hand, Isaac has been a terror at the Sacramento Chess Club, winning nearly every adult honor possible, including Player of the Year. Honorable mention goes to Isaac's friend, Ted Xiao, who earned the 3rd place trophy by defeating two of the three highest seeds while losing only to Mukund.

Final Standings of 7-8 Varsity
  1. 5.5 Mukund Chillakanti (1917) -- $50 gift certificate
  2. 5.5 Isaac Zhang (1923) -- 1 year ICC extension
  3. 5.0 Ted Xiao (1740) -- 1 year ICC extension
  4. 5.0 Puneeth Gadangi (1656)
  5. 5.0 Andrew Chen (1722)
  6. 4.5 Sam Bekker (1911)
  7. 4.5 Andrew Yeh (1847)
  8. 4.5 Rahul Desirazu (1664)
  9. 4.5 Vincent Tian (1674)
  10. 4.5 Brian Wai (1690)
Kudos also to the Redwood Middle School team (photo on bottom right) for taking 1st place honors for the second year in a row! My students Brian Wai (4.5), Kevin Garbe (4.0), Evan Ye (4.0) and Sankash Shankar (3.0) proved once again that you don't need a superstar on board 1 to succeed. Thanks also to David Chock, Jeff Young and Charles Sun of nearby Saratoga High School for coaching and mentoring the team this year.

Finally, organizer Salman Azhar accurately commented at the awards ceremony that many of these players are friends off the chess board. They really love to goof off, as demonstrated in this blog post and the middle of the three photos below.

Thursday, May 29

June Top 100 Lists Are Out

(Ten year old monsters. Photos from left to right: Nicholas, Yian, Paul and Kyle.)

The June Top 100 lists are available on the USCF website since this morning. The usual suspects named Tanuj, Nicholas, Yian, Danya, Gregory, Steven and Sam still hold their accustomed spots at or near the top of the lists.
I will try to update the CalChess lists in the coming days.

Much has been written about the CalChess dominance on the age 7&under and age 8 lists. For today, I want to point out the six local kids ranked in the top 20 of the age 10 list. Kudos to them and all nationally ranked CalChess chess kids!
  • #1 NM Nicholas Nip (2207)
  • #5 Yian Liou (1956)
  • #10 Paul Richter (1835)
  • #12 Kyle Shin (1824)
  • #16 Jerome Sun (1772)
  • #18 James Kwok (1747)

Tuesday, May 27

Video from Chicago Open

This video from the last round of the Chicago Open was edited by Betsy Dynako and appears on both the official website and Chess Life Online. There's even a scene of the fpawn in action! Check it out!

Chicago Open Post Mortem

Now that I am back home in California, I can blog about the roller coaster of emotions that I had experienced during the last round of the Chicago Open. Both my opponent, NM James Lewis, and I were tied for 2nd place before the game began and had a lot to play for. In fact, it became apparent after 3 hours that the leader, NM Gylfi Thorhallsson, was in deep trouble and that the winner of our game would share the $5000 top prize.

At that point, our pivotal contest transformed from a quiet positional struggle into a tactical melee filled with missed opportunities. On move 39, I accidentally left my b3 pawn en prise and, as Fritz points out, I overlooked the combination beginning with gxf5 that I would play later. Now having already snatched one pawn, Lewis will regret not finding the decisive 40... Qc5 (there's no useful way to defend the c3 pawn) on the final move before time control, with about half a minute left. Having dodged one bullet, I became concerned by move 50 that I had walked into a losing endgame, despite temporarily being two pawns ahead. I found the resource 51.c4 but overlooked the obvious continuation 52.c5 (threatening to push all the way), instead allowing a drawn rook endgame after 52.Nb5 Bxb5.

Considering my poor start, I must be content to have finished with an undefeated 5.5 out of 7 after reentering. The share of 3rd place was my second biggest payday at a chess tournament, coincidentally behind another Chicago event: the 2006 US Open. Sadly, my opponent and I can both lament the multiple blunders that cost each of us over $2000, which was the difference between a share of 1st place and the 4-way split of 3rd place. On the bright side, I met and socialized with many people whom I don't see frequently at west coast events or whom I only know from ICC.

In other news, GM Varuzhan Akobian of Los Angeles, GM Tigran Petrosian of Armenia (not the 9th World Champion) and GM Hikaru Nakamura of New York shared the top honors at 5.5/7 in the Open section, with "Var" winning the Armageddon playoff. Yes, Grandmasters in the 21st Century actually have their own personal websites! For a first-hand impression of playing in the Open section, I highly recommend the articles by Ohio teenager Jonathan Hilton on Chess Life Online (first story and second story).

Of course, my fans in California will be eager to know how GM Josh Friedel ended up. Please note my proper use of title: Grandmaster Josh Friedel!!! (Photo at right by Betsy Dynako.) Congratulations dude on scoring a third norm at the US Championship last week and the minimum 2500 FIDE rating just a few days later! After a long history of American Grandmasters being born overseas (notably Russia and former Soviet republics), Josh became the second native son in a year to earn the top honor in chess. Will Josh concentrate on teaching or does he have ambitions to achieve 2600 FIDE?

My final kudos goes to teenager Rohan Agarwal for a master level performance of 4.0/7 in the U2300 section. Rohan's result is even more impressive considering that he faced five masters (including one IM) and two preteen experts. His rating continues to climb, now up to 2136.

Monday, May 26

Change Your Fortunes by Reentering!

I don't pay the extra fee to reenter often, but if there ever is a time to do it, this tournament was that opportunity. After languishing with 0.5 out of the first 3 rounds at the Chicago Open, I could either play on for pride or reenter into the accelerated 2-day schedule. For once in my life, I made the right choice.

Actually, my first G/45 contest in the 2-day schedule didn't go so well. I was being outplayed by an expert, a phenomenon that I became accustomed to earlier this weekend. Fortunately, I had a time advantage of 15 minutes to 1 second (with 5 second delay) and eventually, despite my bad position, I was able to win on time. At the end of the four rounds of G/45, I had a solid score of 3.5/4, including this tactical miniature as black in the Sveshnikov against FM Renard Anderson. Battling fatigue after nearly six hours of play in the evening, I managed to win an even endgame against NM Chris Nienart. Unfortunately, I would have gotten to bed two hours sooner if I had seen 34.Bh6+ Kf6 35.Bc4 (threatening Rf2 mate) g5 36.Bxa6 Rxa6 37.Nb4 (I missed this knight fork).

Somehow, after the terrible start, I now sit in second place with 4.5 out of 5, good for a performance rating of 2588. As the tournament organizer, Bill Goichberg, astutely pointed out, I raised the level of my play by about 1000 points. My opponent this morning is Gylfi Thorhallsson of Iceland, an older gentleman who has a perfect 5-0 score, including wins against IM Richard Costigan and top rated WFM Tatev Abrahamyan. Wish me luck!

In other news, IM Josh Friedel has 3.5 out of 5 after drawing with GM Varuzhan Akobian and remains in the hunt to meet the 2500 FIDE rating requirement for the Grandmaster title. He stands half a point out of first place. You can watch the top boards live on MonRoi. On the other hand, teenager Rohan Agarwal cooled off a bit on Sunday, losing both games.

Update on Monday afternoon: Thorhallsson 1/2-1/2 Aigner. Thorhallsson now has 5.5 while I am part of a group of 4 or 5 players tied for second at 5.0.

Sunday, May 25

Update from Chicago Open

This is just a short update from the Chicago Open (check standings here). Unfortunately, everything that can go wrong has indeed gone wrong. I dropped out of the 4-day schedule after 0.5/3 against experts (1851 performance rating) and will instead try my luck today in the insane 2-day schedule (first four rounds at G/45). Sadly, I don't know what is wrong with me. I won't make excuses; either I'm playing like %$@* or my opponents are all GMs in disguise! Please check my ICC finger notes for updates from the 2-day schedule.

I have only seen two CalChess members here in Wheeling, Illinois. IM Josh Friedel inched closer to the GM title by taking down top rated GM Hikaru Nakamura. However, he subsequently lost to GM Atanas Kolev and remains about 7 rating points away from his dream. You may watch games from the Open section live on MonRoi. The other local competitor is teenager Rohan Agarwal (see photo above) who has an impressive 2.5/3 in the U2300 section against master level opposition.

Many thanks to tournament director and fellow blogger Chris Bird for making me feel better by describing his embarrassing mixup involving GM Tigran Petrosian during round 1.

Saturday, May 24

Yian Liou Takes Clear First in Elementary 4-6

(As Salman Azhar commented at the awards ceremony, many of the top players in Northern California are friends with their rivals. Top 4-6 players Yian Liou on left and James Kwok are both in a good mood as they shake hands before their round 5 matchup.)

Although major upsets shook up many other sections at the CalChess Scholastics, that was not the case in the 4-6 Varsity when the top four seeds all finished in the top five spots. Rated nearly 200 points above anyone else and ranked #6 in the country for age 10, Yian Liou took his seat at the top board on Saturday morning and stayed there throughout the weekend, taking clear 1st place. He did surrender a half point in round 5 against friend and second seed James Kwok. This draw allowed Aamir Azhar to take the lead going into the final round, but not unexpectedly, Aamir lost to much higher rated Yian in the battle for 1st place. Nonetheless, Aamir managed to squeak ahead of James on tiebreak points. The final person to tie for 2nd place with a score of 5.0 was James' school teammate Jerry Wu, who improved his rating by 100 points with a strong result.

I am proud to say that it is a real pleasure working with all three kids: Yian, James and Aamir. In particular, I have watched Yian grow up from a shy 8 year old rated about 1200 to an outgoing and confident 10 year old rated over 1900. If he didn't live in the shadows of Danya Naroditsky and Nicholas Nip, there's no doubt that Yian would be the local star. Fortunately, Yian has the opportunity to study with Danya, Nicholas and other elite Bay Area kids at the series of Grandmaster seminars sponsored by the Mechanics' Institute.

Final Standings of 4-6 Varsity
  1. 5.5 Yian Liou (1939) -- $50 gift certificate
  2. 5.0 Aamir Azhar (1596) -- 1 year ICC extension
  3. 5.0 James Kwok (1750) -- 1 year ICC extension
  4. 5.0 Jerry Wu (1464)
  5. 4.5 Neel Apte (1588)
  6. 4.5 Thomas Gonda (1470)
  7. 4.5 Kevin Zhu (1577)
  8. 4.5 Kunaal Naik (1366)
  9. 4.0 Suraj Nair (1250)
  10. 4.0 Nathan Zhang (1372)

Big Tie in Elementary 4-5 Varsity

(Top trophy winners in 4-5 Varsity. From left to right: Qijie "Jack" Zhu, Kyle Shin, Vikram Ganesh, Hemang Jangle and Jessica Zhu.)

Nobody is perfect, but that didn't stop five players from sharing the top honors in the 4-5 Varsity division of the CalChess Scholastics. Qijie "Jack" Zhu was leading at 5-0 going into the last round, but he lost to top rated Kyle Shin to set up the tie for 1st place. Kyle himself had lost in round 3 to another one of the co-champions, Vikram Ganesh, who gained over 100 rating points. Impressively, three of the top five and six of the top ten at the trophy ceremony were 4th graders who have another shot at winning next year.

Final Standings of 4-5 Varsity
  1. 5.0 Qijie "Jack" Zhu (1619) -- 50 Dollars
  2. 5.0 Kyle Shin (1813)
  3. 5.0 Vikram Ganesh (1422)
  4. 5.0 Hemang Jangle (1508)
  5. 5.0 Jessica Zhu (1382)
  6. 4.5 Daniel Liu (1498)
  7. 4.5 Tudor Muntean (1299)
  8. 4.5 Aakaash Rao (1231)
  9. 4.0 Anthony Luo (1346)
  10. 4.0 Daniel Ho (1398)

Friday, May 23

Zierk Will Represent CalChess at Denker

Steven Zierk, a 9th grader at Los Gatos High School, has qualified for the Denker Tournament of High School Champions on August 2-5 in Dallas, Texas! Steven finished tied for first place in the High School section of the CalChess Scholastics. With two of the four co-champions ineligible due to either residency or age, Steven and Jeff Young were slated to face off in a two-game playoff match. However, Jeff has conceded the playoff due to a conflict with his summer schedule.

Congratulations to Steven and best of luck at both the Denker and the concurrent US Open!

Tanuj Wins Primary (1-3) Section

First grader Tanuj Vasudeva, the nation's top ranked six year old and National K-1 Co-Champion, won the 1-3 Varsity division of the CalChess Scholastics with an impressive 5.5/6 score. As the top seed, he beat the 2nd place finisher in round 2 and scored wins against two of his top three rated competitors in the final rounds. Afterwards, he proudly showed off his trophy, which was merely two inches shorter than he (see photo at left)! The Bay Area has many prodigies that we've come to know by their first name: Jordy, Vinay, Danya and Nicholas. Tanuj already has a head start to becoming the next star.

Let us not lose sight of the other talented players in the 1-3 division. The average rating of the top 10 trophy winners was over 1360! Many elite players began their chess career as a beginner; Joel Benjamin quintupled his 500 rating from 1st grade as moved up to Grandmaster. While Tanuj shows the most promise, maybe a future GM is named Armaan, Allan, Cameron, Aaron, Kesav, Vignesh, Darren, Alvin or Kevin. If names count for anything, then perhaps Chester has a leg up on everyone else.

Final Standings of 1-3 Varsity
  1. 5.5 Tanuj Vasudeva (1577) -- 50 Dollars
  2. 5.0 Armaan Kalyanpur (1334)
  3. 4.5 Allan Beilin (1538)
  4. 4.5 Cameron Wheeler (1325)
  5. 4.5 Aaron Chow (1354)
  6. 4.5 Kesav Viswanadha (1494)
  7. 4.5 Chester Lo (1233)
  8. 4.0 Vignesh Panchanatham (1472)
  9. 4.0 Kevin Tang (1231)
  10. 4.0 Wolfgang Wehle (1084)

Bay Area Chess Memorial Day and Other Tournaments

For those of you not fortunate enough to be in Chicago this weekend, there still is plenty of chess available in the Bay Area over the coming weeks. In fact, there are three major multi-day adult tournaments in the Bay Area over the next four weekends.
  • Memorial Day Festival begins tomorrow in Santa Clara. 3-day schedule 5/24-26 (all games are 30/90, SD/60) with popular 2-day option 5/25-26 (rounds 1-3 are G/55); six round swiss with sections: Master, Expert, A, B, C and D/E/Unrated. Scholastic swiss and blitz on Saturday; quads on Sunday. Advance entries include six players over 2000, but I expect more on site.
  • Berkeley Open on May 31 to June 1 at Hillside School (home of the Berkeley Chess School). Four rounds (30/90, G/60) with sections: Master, Expert, A, B, C, D/E/Unrated. This event makes up for the lack of a People's Tournament this year.
  • 45th Arthur Stamer Memorial on June 14-15 at the Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco. This rich tradition pits players of all ratings from 1000 to 2400+ in one large Open section. Rounds 1-4 on Saturday are G/60; rounds 5-6 on Sunday are 30/90, SD/60. I will probably play and strongly encourage my students to attend.
In between these Bay Area events comes the annual National Open in Las Vegas on June 6-8. I realize that it is difficult for most older kids to travel due to school commitments (finals and graduations); nonetheless, I expect at least four of my younger students to play. Yes, this all means that my playing schedule will be quite busy over the next three weeks: Chicago Open, National Open and Stamer Memorial. I hope to boost my FIDE rating (currently 2257) back up near 2300 so that I can finally earn the FM title.

Thursday, May 22

Hello from Chicago!

I arrived in the Windy City today, leaving behind an even windier city in California. A week after coaching kids all weekend, the purpose of this trip is to dedicate myself to improving my own chess game. I will compete in the U2300 section of the Chicago Open from Friday night through Monday (seven rounds, $5000 for 1st place in my section). Yes, for the first time in ages, I am not playing in the Open section! Check out the advance entry list to see if I have a chance to do well.

Understandably, very few California players have come out to the Midwest. In fact, I only recognize three names from the Bay Area: Josh Friedel, Rohan Agarwal and Cesar Tamondong. All eyes will no doubt be on GM-elect Friedel as he tries to earn those elusive final 10 FIDE rating points for the Grandmaster title.

Wednesday, May 21

US Champion Yury Shulman

With a short draw in the last round, Grandmaster Yury Shulman of Chicago won the 2008 Frank K. Berry US Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He finished with an undefeated score of 7.0 out of 9, half a point ahead of top rated GM Alexander Onischuk. In an interview with Chess Life Online, Shulman pointed out his round 7 win with black against GM Julio Becerra (Winawer French) as the most critical game of the tournament. However, it was the victory in round 5 with black against GM Gregory Kaidanov (Alapin Sicilian) that propelled the eventual champion into the lead. Congratulations to GM Yury Shulman for winning his first national championship!

Yury Shulman and I have known each other for a while, dating back to the 1st President's Cup (Intercollegiate Chess Final Four) in Dallas, Texas in April, 2001. I played board 5 for Stanford University while he manned the top board for the University of Texas at Dallas. We were seated together at the social mixer on the night before round 1 and have been cordial ever since. A few years later, Shulman won the 2006 US Open in Oak Brook, IL while I finished tied for 2nd place. Thanks to this tournament, we both qualified for the 2007 US Championship, where Shulman finished near the top while I languished at the bottom.

Final Standings of 2008 US Championship
  • 7.0 Yury Shulman
  • 6.5 Alexander Onischuk
  • 6.0 Sergey Kudrin
  • 5.5 Josh Friedel, Eugene Perelshteyn and Varuzhan Akobian
  • 5.0 Benjamin Finegold, Alexander Ivanov, Julio Becerra and Boris Gulko
  • 4.5 John Fedorowicz, Dmitry Gurevich, Gregory Kaidanov and Alexander Shabalov
  • 4.0 Daniel Ludwig, David Pruess, Jesse Kraai and Alex Yermolinsky
  • 3.5 Larry Kaufman, David Vigorito, Michael Langer and Dean Ippolito
  • 2.5 Sam Shankland
  • 1.5 Sergey Galant
The US Women's Championship came down to the wire, as described in detail at Chess Life Online. IM Irina Krush was leading by 0.5 heading into the last round, but needed a miracle just to save a draw against WGM Katerine Rohonyan (2318). IM Anna Zatonskih had already won her final game and was waiting for a playoff to determine the title of US Champion. Both ladies finished with an impressive score of 7.5. Unfortunately, the quality of play in the tiebreak games was low considering the amount of effort both ladies expended getting to this point. After a win and a loss at G/15 and another win and a loss at G/5, Zatonskih won on time in the final Armaggedon game. Congratulations to IM Anna Zatonskih (see photo at right) for winning her second national title!

Final Standings of 2008 US Championship
  • 7.5 Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush
  • 6.0 Tatev Abrahamyan and Katerine Rohonyan
  • 5.5 Batchimeg Tuvshintugs
  • 4.5 Tsagaan Battsetseg
  • 3.5 Iryna Zenyuk
  • 2.0 Esther Epstein and Chouchanik Airapetian
  • 0.5 Courtney Jamison
Five players with strong ties to Northern California travelled to Oklahoma for this premiere tournament. Two put together strong results while the other three must be unhappy. Mad props to GM-elect Josh Friedel for earning his third and final Grandmaster norm! His most exciting game was in a wild round 4 victory against veteran GM Boris Gulko. Friedel now needs only 10 more FIDE rating points to complete the requirements for the GM title. In fact, his next opportunity to score points comes this weekend, at the Chicago Open. Batchimeg Tuvshintugs also put together a strong performance of "plus 2" in the Women's Championship, even winning in round 7 against the eventual champion Zatonskih.

Unfortunately, GM Alex Yermolinsky, IM David Pruess and NM Sam Shankland didn't perform so well. Both the "Yermonator" and David apparently ran out of gas in rounds 7 and 8, each losing consecutive games. Sadly, Sam's will to win was crushed by a long and tragic loss to IM Benjamin Finegold in round 5. Sam: I know that you are disappointed because you did poorly, but down the road you should look back at this trip as a learning experience that propels you to even greater successes. I speak from experience as a fellow competitor who also struggled in the very same event last year.

To close, I would like to thank organizer Frank K. Berry for putting his money where his mouth is by sponsoring the US Championship for the second straight year. Mr. Berry has now donated over $150,000 to support the top chess players in America. For this, he deserves a big round of applause! Thank you! Signed, chess player and chess fan.

Photos from CalChess Scholastics

(The playing hall was huge! I actually enjoyed speeding around in my wheelchair.)

A number of accomplished photographers graced the San Jose McEnery Convention Center last weekend to record the sights and sounds of the biggest annual chess tournament west of the Continental Divide. The following individuals toiled for hours to bring you over one thousand pictures of smiling young chess players. Please recognize their work by visiting the websites below.
I will post a final report and photo impressions from all of the Championship sections (K-3, 4-5, 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12) on this blog on Friday, after my flight to Chicago. By a stroke of luck, I managed to obtain photos of the winners in each division.

Tuesday, May 20

BREAKING NEWS: Friedel on Verge of Final Grandmaster Norm

(Photograph of IM Josh Friedel from the official US Championship blog.)

I just spoke with IM Josh Friedel on ICC and confirmed what has been reported in the rumor mill. Playing in Tulsa at the US Championship, Josh now stands a half point away from his third and final Grandmaster norm. His pairing tomorrow is a dream: white against GM Yury Shulman, who needs just a draw to clinch 1st place and the title of US Champion. Since both players will benefit greatly from a draw, I think the only remaining question is how many moves they will play? Will Josh be the first to congratulate Yury?

Stay tuned tomorrow at 12:15pm PDT for the final round of the US Championship. Games will be broadcast live on both ICC and MonRoi. My apologies for not covering the US Championship more, but I was swamped and sleep-deprived over the weekend with the CalChess Scholastics.

Update on Wednesday at 12:30pm: Josh Friedel and Yury Shulman played 11 moves in the exchange French before they agreed to a draw. Congratulations to US Champion Yury Shulman and to Grandmaster-elect Josh Friedel! I expect to post more on the US Championship later tonight after all games finish.

Gregory Young Set to Play in US Cadet (U16) Championship

The field for the 2008 US Cadet (under 16) Championship has been announced by FM Tom Brownscombe. This 8-player invitational round-robin will take place side-by-side with the US Junior Championship from June 14-17 at the Anatoly Karpov International School in Lindsborg, Kansas. The ratings below are current from the MSA website.
  1. FM Darwin Yang, 2231, age 11 from Texas
  2. NM Gregory Young, 2213, age 13, from California
  3. Patrick Tae, 2180, age 15 from Tennessee
  4. Conrad Holt, 2109, age 14 from Kansas
  5. Alex Markovits, 2090, age 14 from Ohio
  6. Deepak Aaron, 2082, age 13 from New York
  7. Richard Tuhrim, 2080, age 14 from New York
  8. Andrew Shvartsman, 2073, age 14 from New Jersey
A number of other deserving kids declined to play in this event for two reasons: 1. they were invited to play in the US Junior instead or 2. they made plans to attend a seminar with Garry Kasparov in New York City on the same weekend. Our local star, FM Danya Naroditsky, falls into the second category. I think it is really a shame that such a conflict could not have been worked out by our leaders in the USCF, especially considering that both events were on the calendar since January or earlier. I'm afraid that Kasparov versus Karpov politics were at play again.

Good luck to Gregory as he takes on a tough field of underrated juniors! Looking at both the ratings and ages of these players, I would expect to see a two horse race between Gregory and Darwin Yang. Most pundits will probably give Darwin the inside track, but I know that Gregory will do everything he can to bring home the national title.

Monday, May 19

CalChess Scholastics Have Been USCF Rated

Since my initial report on the CalChess Scholastics featured Steven Zierk and FM Danya Naroditsky, I have now posted photos of the other two co-champs of the High School division. At left is Boglarka Erdos from Hungary, who is visiting California on vacation. At right is Jeff Young of Saratoga High School.

The individual and team results for the CalChess Scholastics are posted! Moreover, the tournament is now USCF rated!

I have also posted all of my photos on my Flickr page. Click to enjoy a slide show or simply to see the gallery of photos.

Boys Will Be Boys

The troublemakers above are: Isaac Zhang (left), Ted Xiao (top) and Sam Bekker (right); the "victim" is Andrew Chen (middle). All four kids finished in the top six of the Junior High section, with Isaac earning a share of 1st place.

Short Report on CalChess Scholastics

(High School co-champs FM Danya Naroditsky and Steven Zierk. This was Danya's second straight 1st place finish, which is amazing considering that he is in 6th grade!)

I would like to congratulate the winners of the 33rd annual CalChess Scholastic State Championships in San Jose. The following participants distinguished themselves by winning one of the five Open divisions in a huge tournament of about 1050 players.
  • High School K-12: Boglarka Erdos (from Hungary), Steven Zierk, FM Danya Naroditsky and Jeff Young (Zierk and Young qualify for Denker playoff)
  • Junior High K-8: Mukund Chillakanti and Isaac Zhang
  • Elementary 4-6: Yian Liou
  • Elementary 4-5: Qijie "Jack" Zhu, Kyle Shin, Vikram Ganesh, Hemang Jangle and Jessica Zhu (no relation between the Zhu's)
  • Primary K-3: Tanuj Vasudeva
The full results of the tournament are not available on the internet as of 12:30am on Monday. I hope everyone can understand that the staff is even more exhausted than the participants and their parents. Please check the official website again on Monday night.

In the meantime, you may wish to enjoy hundreds photos from our friends at ChessDryad (Mark Shelton and Richard Shorman). I am sure that other photographers will post their pictures online as well. In fact, I expect to post dozens of my photos on this blog over the next three days, in addition to the more detailed final report.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank the staff and many volunteers for ensuring a reasonably smooth and enjoyable tournament. I will single out three special individuals for personal recognition: first and foremost Organizer Salman Azhar, National Tournament Director John McCumiskey and CalChess President Tom Langland. Thank you!

Sunday, May 18

Bughouse Photos

Trophy winners at the CalChess Scholastics bughouse championship. The youngsters in top photos played in the primary division while the bottom pictures came from the Elementary section. This side event was, as predicted, lots of fun for all!