Monday, June 30

IM Pruess Kicks Off San Francisco School of Chess

The San Francisco School of Chess kicked off its inaugural session on Sunday, June 22 with three exciting classes taught by Berkeley area natives IM David Pruess (photo at left) and FM-elect Sam Shankland. This was the fourth such lecture targeting the many elite young chess prospects in Northern California hosted and sponsored by the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club. Earlier programs featured GM Yury Shulman in January (sponsored by the US Chess School), GM Gregory Kaidanov in March and GM Melik Khachiyan in May.

The official goal of the School is to generate an environment for top juniors to learn by interacting with titled players and each other. Of course, the invited titled player will personally teach the top group. However, one difference between this program and others is that these students are also expected to share their understanding by teaching lower rated peers, under the supervision of the GM or IM in charge. NM Michael Aigner will further contribute to teaching support and consistency from one class to the next. Another goal of this School, as Chess Room director IM John Donaldson pointed out, is to mimic the many teaching opportunities of New York City.

On June 22, IM David Pruess taught the first and third classes while FM-elect Sam Shankland (photo at right) taught the second class. The elite group, which consisted of masters Shankland, Gregory Young, Nicholas Nip plus expert Michael Zhong, learned valuable lessons in calculation, first in an endgame of rook and knight versus rook and then in a typical middlegame pawn structure that arises both from the French defense and the Scheveningen Sicilian. Together with the second group of players rated 1850 to 1950, high school senior Shankland explored a variety of complex middlegames in the Najdorf and then reviewed his wild recent game against FM Danya Naroditsky. Several observers noted the irony when "Shanky"--always known as a creative yet impulsive player-- implored his students to be more patient and calculate carefully. Lastly, Pruess, assisted a little by IM Irina Krush, taught the lowest group of three talented elementary age kids plus three top local girls, practicing the fine art of searching for unexpected moves in puzzles as well as real games.

(Photo of the second group below. Students seated at table from top to bottom: Evan Sandberg, Adam Goldberg, Andrew Yeh, Kyle Shin and Yian Liou. Photo by Yian's mother.)

CalChess FIDE Rated Juniors

(World U12 Champion FM Danya Naroditsky reviews his games with 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov at a master class in New York City two weeks ago.)

The following list includes all juniors (grades K-12) living in Northern California who have a published FIDE rating. Source: July 2008 FIDE rating list. The top two players each gained a remarkable total of about 70 points over the past three months.
  1. NM Sam Shankland 2368 (FM-elect)
  2. FM Danya Naroditsky 2313
  3. NM Gregory Young 2233
  4. Rohan Agarwal 2199
  5. NM Nicholas Nip 2150
  6. Alan Naroditsky 2136
  7. Steven Zierk 2132
  8. Adarsh Konda 2115
  9. Michael Zhong 2113
  10. Adam Goldberg 2008
  11. David Chock 1999
  12. Louiza Livschitz 1972

CalChess FIDE Top 20

(Top local players GM-elect Josh Friedel and IM David Pruess posed at the now-defunct East Bay Chess Club. Someone needs to teach Josh how to smile.)

The following list includes the top 20 players presently living in Northern California who played in at least one FIDE rated event on the West Coast during the past year. Source: July 2008 FIDE rating list.

  1. IM Josh Friedel 2524 (GM-elect)
  2. IM Vinay Bhat 2483 (GM-elect)
  3. IM David Pruess 2438
  4. GM Walter Browne 2435
  5. IM John Donaldson 2411
  6. IM Vladimir Mezentsev 2400
  7. FM Vladimir Strugatsky 2397
  8. IM Ricardo DeGuzman 2389
  9. IM Dmitry Zilberstein 2388
  10. FM Craig Mar 2372
  11. IM John Grefe 2369
  12. NM Sam Shankland 2368 (FM-elect)
  13. FM Danya Naroditsky 2313
  14. FM Shiv Shivaji 2308
  15. WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs 2288
  16. NM Nicolas Yap 2279
  17. NM Andy Lee 2240
  18. NM Michael Aigner 2234
  19. NM Gregory Young 2233
  20. IM Walter Shipman 2224

Friday, June 27

Alan and Steven Earn First FIDE Ratings

Congratulations to my students Alan Naroditsky and Steven Zierk and for earning their initial published FIDE ratings on the July 2008 list. Alan is 2136 while Steven is 2132. Both can now travel around the world and always have a rating. In fact, both will be playing at the World Open in Philadelphia next week. (Note: The first FIDE rating often means nothing. Both Alan's superstar brother and I started out with ridiculously low FIDE ratings. Some other players somehow experience the opposite. However, it all tends to sort itself out over time.)

Fpawn's FIDE Rating List
  1. FM Danya Naroditsky 2313
  2. NM Michael Aigner 2234
  3. NM Gregory Young 2233
  4. NM Daniel Schwarz 2222
  5. Alan Naroditsky 2136
  6. Steven Zierk 2132
  7. Adam Goldberg 2008
  8. David Chock 1999

Thursday, June 26

Sacramento Championship on July 4th Weekend

(Photos from 2005 Sacramento Chess Championship on my website.)

If you're looking for some serious chess action and a mini family vacation, then I suggest the 2008 Sacramento Chess Championship on 4th of July weekend (July 4-6). The kid-friendly venue at the Best Western Expo Inn and experienced tournament director John McCumiskey (photo at upper right) are merely two reasons why this tournament is one of the largest annual adult events in Northern California, with a peak turnout over 100. Actually, there will be two McCumiskey's at this event--expect twice the laughter! I would have to be out of country to miss this tournament (yes, it happened a few years ago).
  • two sections: Master/Expert (2000+) and Reserve (U2000)
  • 3-day schedule = all six rounds at 30/90, SD/60 starting on Friday
  • 2-day schedule = first three games at G/60 on Saturday, then merge
  • 1-day schedule = play in 2-day on Saturday with byes for rounds 5 and 6
  • $325 + trophy for 1st place in both sections
  • prize fund of about $2,600 based on about 85 entries
  • mail in entry fee by June 27 or pay on site for $5/$10 more
  • click here for the entry form
  • check out the advance entries
  • defending champion IM Ricardo DeGuzman (see last year's crosstable)
  • Cal Expo fireworks show on Friday night after the round concludes
I recommend the 3-day schedule for my students to play serious tournament games at a long time control, but the 2-day option may work better for some players and their parents. Juniors rated between 1800 and 1999 should consider playing up, depending on whether they seek experience against stronger opponents or an opportunity to win money.

Wednesday, June 25

Wanted! Local Chess Photos

(Here's a photo of the Cherryland Cafe, a chess hangout in Hayward the 1970s. Thanks to the dedicated volunteers ChessDryad for maintaining a detailed historical record. Also read the ICC finger notes of Frisco Del Rosario for more info.)

There's a lot of chess in the community, such as a big chess board at a town center, chess bumper stickers on a car, chess tables at Starbucks, and etc.... Please send us an original picture of "Chess in the community" by June 28 and we'll share it on our next show!

Please tell us your name and where the picture was taken. We prefer JPEG picture format. Send your pictures to (at)

Thank you,
Lauren and Barbara

Monday, June 23

Gregory and Fpawn

2008 US Junior Closed co-champion NM Gregory Young poses together with the fpawn. Only 13 years old, this was his second national championship behind the 2007 National Junior High School Championships in Sacramento (also a tie for first).

Can you believe that when I started teaching him, I could look him eye to eye? Three years later, both his chess rating and height have increased substantially. What's next, the FM title? I estimated Gregory's FIDE rating to be 2249 after the US Junior, meaning that he now needs only 51 more points for his international title. Good luck!

Sunday, June 22

Naroditsky Featured in SF Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Magazine published another feature about the local chess prodigy FM Daniel Naroditsky (photo at right). The story profiles three young Bay Area "brainiacs" who have achieved national or international success at their respective fields: Danya is the World U12 Chess Champion, Leyan Lo won the national Rubik's Cube competition and Chester Santos holds the USA title for memorizing sequences of data, e.g. playing cards. Will one of these three become the next Steve Jobs or Jerry Yang? If you don't subscribe to the Chronicle, you can read the article online at this link.

In other news, Danya qualified for the round of 16 in the Mainz Chess Classic online Chess960 blitz tournament on the Internet Chess Club. He will face British GM Gawain Jones (aka VerdeNotte on ICC) in the knockout format. The winner probably faces GM Hikaru Nakamura (aka Smallville) in the quarterfinals. The action begins on Sunday at 12:00noon Pacific time. Type "follow Danya" to watch our local hero play!

Saturday, June 21

San Francisco School of Chess

(IM David Pruess meditates during the final round of National Open in Las Vegas.)

Hello from San Francisco, the city by the bay! I am presently connected to the internet at Starbuck's Coffee on New Montgomery near Market Street.

The San Francisco School of Chess will meet tomorrow at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club. This new school offers a series of lectures, roughly once a month, targeting the top kids in the Bay Area. The stated goal is to provide a boost to promising young chess players in Northern California both through interactions with GMs and IMs as well as their fellow juniors. Click on links to blog posts about previous lectures by GM Gregory Kaidanov and GM Melik Khachiyan. The brainchild of IM David Pruess and IM John Donaldson, the School is funded largely by the Mechanics' Institute and donations.

Check out this website that I have created for the School. About 15 invited juniors will attend tomorrow's lectures taught by IM Pruess and NM Sam Shankland. Future sessions will feature GM Nick DeFirmian, GM-elect Josh Friedel and GM-elect Vinay Bhat. Stay tuned for a special report next week.

Thursday, June 19

Gregory Young Shares Top Honors at US Junior

(Final photo from the US Junior. From left to right: organizer FM Tom Brownscombe, US Junior Champion Tyler Hughes, US Junior co-Champ Gregory Young, 3rd place Daniel Yeager, 4th place Edward Lu and Karpov School President Marck Cobb. Visit the official website for more photos from both the US Junior and US Cadet.)

What a wild week it has been! Playing the role of underdog, 13 year old NM Gregory Young (photo at right) took on the country at the 2008 US Junior Closed Championship in Lindsborg, Kansas. Despite a small field that was weakened by unprecedented cancellations, Gregory and his father and sister flew to Kansas knowing that a challenge would lay ahead. He was the youngest and one of the lowest rated competitors in the strange 5-player field from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, Texas and California. A score of 50% or even "minus 1" seemed respectable for his first major chess tournament outside of Pacific time zone.

For four days, it seemed like Gregory could do no wrong. He won his first three games, including this spectacular queen sacrifice against NM Edward Lu (2227) of Virginia. Perhaps the highlight came in round 3 against FM Daniel Yeager (2373) of Pennsylvania, when Gregory trapped his opponent's king on h4 and won a piece with the double attack 30... Rbd1! By Sunday night, Gregory was on top of the standings, a full point ahead of the field.

The intensity of the tournament picked up on Monday morning against NM Tyler Hughes (2264) of Colorado. Despite allowing his opponent to play the classic pawn break 20... d6-d5 in the Maroczy bind and later displaying some horrific technique in the rook endgame (48.Kd4?), Gregory managed to save half a point in a time scramble. The "young" master (pun intended) from California displayed his never-say-die attitude once again on Tuesday with a desperado attack against FM Yeager after hanging a piece during middlegame tactics.

A pair of short draws in the penultimate round set up the final showdown on Wednesday morning. NM Gregory Young maintained his full point lead but NM Tyler Hughes (photo at lower left) commanded the white pieces and had a small advantage in the tiebreaks. What followed was incredibly sad from my perspective, but perhaps also it was Caissa's payback for the luck of the previous rounds. Click on this link to Chess Publisher's game viewer to follow my annotations below.

Hughes,T - Young,G 2008 US Junior (9)
{Last round of US Junior. White needs to win to tie for first. Black only has to draw.} 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. c3 Nc6 {This is an unusual line of the Leningrad Dutch, but both players were well prepared for it.} 5. Nh3 Bg7 6. Qb3 {White's main idea is to attack black's weakened light squares, e.g. e6, f7, g8 and b7.} e6 7. Nd2 d5 {Black employs a solid stonewall formation, thereby weakening the critical e5 square.} 8. Nf4 Qe7 9. h4 {White shows his aggressive intentions.} b6 10. Nf3 {Interesting was 10.h5 g5 11.h6 Bf8 12.Nd3 Bb7 13.Nf3 Ne4 with a small edge to white.} Ne4 11. Nd3 Bb7 12. Bf4 O-O {White has a comfortable position and an objective advantage. Black needs to play actively to avoid getting rolled up.} 13. a4 {?! The audience on ICC suggested Qc2 or e3.} Na5 14. Qc2 c5 15. e3 Rfc8 16. Be5 Nc6 {?! Better was Ba6, activating the bad bishop and perhaps trading away one of the pesky white knights. If black can achieve that, he would be approximately equal.} 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. Nfe5 Nxe5 19. Nxe5 Nf6 {The only move because white was going to play Bxe4 next. White is happy with this position, but black can still draw.} 20. f4 c4 {? I hate this move, although my pet Rybka seems to like it. Why lock up the bad bishop even more? I prefer the immediate h7-h5 to prevent white's next move.} 21. h5 {A typical pawn sacrifice against the Leningrad Dutch.} Nxh5 22. g4 {White says "all in". Perhaps playing Bf3 and Qf2/Qh2 first should have been considered.} Nf6 {Black is careful not to create more weaknesses.} 23. Bf3 fxg4 24. Bxg4 Rg8 {Not falling for Nxg4 25.Rxh7+!! Kxh7 26.Qxg6+ Kh8 27.Nf7+ and white wins. The text overprotects the g6 pawn while preparing to evacuate the king.} 25. Qh2 Kf8 26. a5 {Garry Kasparov taught us the importance of attacking on both sides of the board simultaneously.} b5 27. a6 Bc8 {Black is solid and white has no obvious way to break in. White's time pressure now becomes a factor.} 28. Bf3 Bd7 29. Qh6+ Rg7 30. Ke2 Rb8 {This is the perfect defensive formation. Black even has some counterplay on the b-file.} 31. Qh2 b4 {Most people would have played Rb6 to get off the h2-b8 diagonal.} 32. f5 {?! Objectively this desperation move gets white into trouble. But it sets one subtle trap.} bxc3 {?? Played almost instantly. Black never saw white's devastating threat. Once again, he should have tried Rb6 after which white might play 33.fxg6 bxc3! 34.Qf4 Rxb2+ 35.Ke1 Kg8 36.gxh7+ Kh8 with complications favoring black.} 33. Nxg6+ {BANG!!!} hxg6 34. Qxb8+ Be8 35. bxc3 gxf5 36. Rhb1 {In the background, the proverbial fat lady is warming up.} Nd7 37. Qh2 Rh7 38. Qg3 Rh4 39. Rh1 Rxh1 40. Rxh1 Qg7 41. Qd6+ Kf7 42. Qc7 Ke7 43. Qxa7 f4 44. Qb7 Bg6 45. exf4 Bd3+ 46. Kf2 Qf6 47. Qb4+ Kf7 48. Qd6 Nb6 49. Qc7+ Ke8 50. Rh8+ Qxh8 51. Qb8+ {Tragic. As I.A. Horowitz and many others have said: "One bad move nullifies forty good ones."} 1-0

Final Standings of the US Junior: (click for rating report)
  1. Tyler Hughes 4.5, wins World Junior invitation on tiebreaks
  2. Gregory Young 4.5
  3. Daniel Yeager 3.5
  4. Edward Lu 2.5
  5. Bradley Sawyer 1.0
Final Standings of the US Cadet: (click for rating report)
  1. Conrad Holt 5.0
  2. Darwin Yang 4.5
  3. Deepak Aaron 3.5
  4. Andrew Shvartsman 3.0
  5. Alex Markovitz 2.0
  6. Richard Tuhrim 2.0
  7. Patrick Tae 1.0
Congratulations to US Junior Champion Tyler Hughes and co-Champion Gregory Young! Tyler won the 1st place trophy and the associated invitation to the World Junior (U21) Championship in Turkey this August due to superior computer tiebreaks (Sonneborn-Berger). Living in Colorado, Tyler often is unable to compete in the biggest tournament and is probably significantly underrated. Best of luck to Tyler Hughes as he prepares for his big trip to compete on the world stage! Kudos also to Conrad Holt (see photo above at right) from Kansas for a dominating performance to win the US Cadet with four straight wins and two draws.

As Gregory Young's coach, I can safely say that we are all disappointed to have lost the final game in such a tragic way. Perhaps there's an important lesson to be learned, one summed up best by the noble words of Horowitz at the end of my annotation. But let's not dwell only on the negative. Simply put, Gregory had one heck of a wild ride! Kudos for achieving what few had imagined possible with a performance rating of near 2400! As FM Robby Adamson kindly wrote in his preview, Gregory had the potential to "make a few upsets" but was hardly a serious contender for the top honors. Clearly, the young master from San Francisco now proved that he deserved to play with the big boys. At just 13, he has yet another seven years of eligibility for this tournament! Rock on Greg, rock on!

Fremont Girl is a Chess Star

Check out the nice newspaper article about 7 year old star Alisha Chawla from Fremont on the local news website Already ranked among the top girls in the country for her age, Alisha recently tied for 1st place at the Susan Polgar World Open for Girls in Las Vegas. She now moves on to a bigger stage in Texas in the last week of July, competing against other top girls of all ages. The news article describes Alisha:

"Alisha is adorable. She's sweet and petite. Like most 7-year-olds, she's precocious at times and shy at others. ... But on a chess board, particularly wielding her favorite piece — the queen — Little Miss Chawla quickly transforms into a tiger. She moves the pieces authoritatively and thumps them hard onto the board wherever she places them."

To read the full article, please click on this link. The photo on the left of Alisha with GM Polgar was first posted on the Susan Polgar Chess and Information Blog.

Wednesday, June 18

Gregory Leads by 1.0 Heading into Final Round

And now it comes down to one last game...

Gregory Young
drew both of his games yesterday to maintain a 1.0 point lead in the US Junior Championship. In the morning round, white blundered an entire piece in the Sicilian and lived to tell about it, launching a desperado attack on the black king that, after even more adventures, yielded a perpetual check. After overcoming two completely losing positions, Gregory played it safely last night and drew by repetition in a slightly superior middlegame position.

US Junior after Round 8 (most people played six games): Gregory Young 4.5, Tyler Hughes 3.5, Daniel Yeager 3.0, Edward Lu 2.0, Bradley Sawyer 1.0/4

In the last round, Gregory faces his main rival, NM Tyler Hughes from Colorado. They drew a wild contest two days ago and now they switch colors and play again. Tyler is a strong, talented and underrated (at 2264 USCF) young man who has played in several California tournaments. Gregory will no doubt have his hands full with the black pieces. If Tyler manages to win, they would be considered co-champions, but Tyler has an edge in the tiebreaks (Sonneborn-Berger).

The game will be relayed live both on MonRoi and on ICC beginning at 8:00am Pacific time. Best of luck to Gregory!

Update on midday Wednesday
: Gregory lost a heart breaker this morning. Perhaps this was Caissa's payback for his incredible luck earlier in the tournament. Congratulations to US Junior Champion Tyler Hughes and co-champion Gregory Young!

Tuesday, June 17

Many Surprises in Lindsborg

Words simply cannot describe today's epic round 5 game at the US Junior between NM Gregory Young and NM Tyler Hughes. Both competitors are known fighters at the chess board, but I doubt that they had this in mind. The opening went poorly for the California kid after he naively allowed the central break 20... d5 against the Maroczy bind (20.Qf2 was better). However, thanks to some tenacious defense, Gregory managed to equalize by the time control on the 40th move.

The conclusion of this game will no doubt get both competitors in hot water with their chess teachers. After 48.Kf4 Bxb7 49.Nxb7 Rxb7 50.Rxa3, the position is a theoretically drawn rook endgame of 3 pawns versus 2. Instead, white tried 48.Kd4, overlooking that his king gets cut off by 50... Re7! Now black could have won easily with the greedy variation 64... Rg1 65.Ra3 Kg4 66.Ra6 g5. After a few more inaccuracies, the players reached a winning endgame of rook and pawn versus rook, until 71... Kf3 threw away the win (Re3+ was necessary). The game finally ended in stalemate after more than 100 moves. Rumor now is that Gregory will have several endgame books waiting in the mail when he returns home.

(Photo in front of the building for the Anatoly Karpov School of Chess in Lindsborg, Kansas.)

US Junior after Round 5 (everyone has played 4 games): Gregory Young 3.5, Tyler Hughes 2.5, Daniel Yeager 2.0, Edward Lu 1.0, Bradley Sawyer 1.0

US Cadet after Round 6: Conrad Holt 4.5/5, Darwin Yang 3.5/5, Deepak Aaron 3.5/6, Andrew Shvartsman 2.0/5, Alex Markovitz 2.0/5, Richard Tuhrim 1.5/5, Patrick Tae 1.0/5

The other stunning news this afternoon was that Bradley Sawyer dropped out of the US Junior due to illness. That leaves the tournament with merely four (!) players, truly sad for a national championship. The second half of the double round-robin will be played as a quad with the colors alternating from the first half. There will be two rounds on Tuesday and the last one on Wednesday morning. Is it possible that there are even more logistical surprises in store on the final two days?

Good luck to Gregory as he defends his lead as white against FM Daniel Yeager and as black versus NM Edward Lu on Tuesday! The games are available live on the MonRoi website and I will attempt to arrange for coverage on ICC too.

Update on Tuesday afternoon: Gregory survived another completely lost position, down an entire piece, to draw FM Yeager in 68 moves. Thus, he maintains his 1.0 point lead.

Update on Tuesday evening: Gregory Young 4.5, Tyler Hughes 3.5, Daniel Yeager 3.0 Edward Lu 2.0. Gregory carefully protected his lead with a short draw as black against NM Lu. In the other game, NM Hughes had a small advantage against FM Yeager, but they also drew without much of a fight. Kudos to Conrad Holt of Kansas for winning the US Cadet!

Sunday, June 15

Gregory Young Leads US Junior

(Playing room at the Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess in Lindsborg, Kansas.)

San Francisco middle school student NM Gregory Young has taken command of the US Junior Championship with a perfect 3.0/3 score. He won two games with the black pieces today, first against top rated FM Daniel Yeager of Pennsylvania and later against Bradley Sawyer of Texas. Gregory achieved an opening advantage in the evening contest, but let it slip between moves 36 and 38, only to have his opponent blunder on move 46.

With four of the ten rounds in the books, Gregory sits in clear 1st, a full point ahead of the field. However, he faces a critical test on Monday morning as white against his closest competitor: Tyler Hughes of Colorado. You may follow the game live on MonRoi website beginning at 8:00am Pacific. Best of luck from the California peanut gallery!

US Junior after Round 4: Gregory Young 3.0/3, Tyler Hughes 2.0/3, Daniel Yeager 2.0/4, Bradley Sawyer 1.0/3, Edward Lu 0.0/3

US Cadet after Round 4: Conrad Holt 3.0/3, Andrew Shvartsman 3.0/4, Deepak Aaron 2.5/4, Darwin Yang 1.5/3, Richard Tuhrim 1.5/3, Alex Markovitz 1.5/4, Patrick Tae 0.5/3

Yeager 0-1 Young (Round 3)

(Black to move and win! The white monarch is not very happy on h4.)

NM Gregory Young (2213) just defeated the top seeded player in the US Junior, FM Daniel Yeager (2373), with the black pieces. The opening was a main line Leningrad Dutch with the somewhat unusual move 8.Nd5. White's king got stuck on the h-file on move 26. In the above position, Gregory played 30... Rbd1! (Rgd1 is equally good) threatening the bishop on d5 and checkmate via Rd2 and Rxh2. Seeing nothing better, white surrendered the bishop and resigned ten moves later. Click here to play through the entire game.

The California kid now has 2-0 plus a bye. Gregory gets black against Sawyer tonight and white versus Hughes tomorrow morning to complete the first half of the double round-robin.

US Junior after Round 3: Gregory Young 2.0/2, Tyler Hughes 2.0/3, Bradley Sawyer 1.0/2, Daniel Yeager 1.0/3, Edward Lu 0.0/2

Saturday, June 14

Day 1 Report from US Junior

(Although Gregory Young is the youngest player the US Junior and also younger than all but one in the US Cadet, he's one of the tallest in the room, making him a formidable presence at the chess board.)

The first two rounds of the US Junior and US Cadet have been completed at the Karpov School in Lindsborg, Kansas. With only five participants, everyone plays everyone else twice (eight games plus two byes) in this year's Junior. The Cadet is a more traditional single round-robin, but everyone gets one bye since there are only seven players. The time control for both tournaments is the standard 40/2, SD/1.

According to my sources, the hospitality at the Swedish Country Inn is quite nice. Pretty teenage waitresses at the breakfast offer a small distraction from chess to the all-male field of competitors. The players have not yet experienced any thunderstorms or tornadoes, but Gregory did suffer a minor crisis when the airline lost his luggage for 24 hours. Too bad the "tropical" weather is so unlike San Francisco: upper 80s with 70% humidity.

Now on to the chess tournament results. In the words of the budding philosopher Mr. Young the Younger, the tournament is "upset city" so far. Both of the favorites went down in round 2: FM Daniel Yeager lost in 24 moves to NM Tyler Hughes in the US Junior while FM Darwin Yang was impressively outplayed by Conrad Holt in the US Cadet. NM Gregory Young had the bye in round 1 and then sacrificed his queen to beat NM Edward Lu this evening! The games are available on MonRoi after each round, but I recommend clicking on the links above because of some weird bugs in the MonRoi website.

US Junior after Round 2: Tyler Hughes 2.0/2, Gregory Young 1.0/1, Daniel Yeager 1.0/2, Bradley Sawyer 0.0/1, Edward Lu 0.0/2

US Cadet after Round 2: Conrad Holt 2.0/2, Deepak Aaron 1.5/2, Andrew Shvartsman 1.5/2, Patrick Tae 0.5/1, Richard Tuhrim 0.5/2, Darwin Yang 0.0/1, Alex Markovitz 0.5/2

Good Luck to Gregory Young in the US Junior

(This photo of most of the participants in the US Junior and US Cadet Championships was posted on the official website. Four of the five US Junior players stand at the left side: Daniel Yeager, Edward Lu, Tyler Hughes and Gregory Young.)

San Francisco's own Gregory Young is playing in the US Junior Championship in Lindsborg, Kansas beginning today. He was originally set to play in the concurrent US Cadet (U16) Championship, but when he received the second invitation, he jumped ship. Both events will take place at the Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess on June 14-18. The details have not all been sorted out yet, but instead of the usual 10-player round-robin, this year's US Junior will be a 5-player double round-robin. Yes, only five players came to Kansas for this once-prestigious national championship. Here's the field:
  1. FM Daniel Yeager, 2373, age 16 from Pennsylvania
  2. NM Tyler Hughes, 2264, age 17 from Colorado
  3. NM Edward Lu, 2227, age 16 from Virginia
  4. NM Gregory Young, 2213, age 13 from California
  5. Bradley Sawyer, 2192, age 19 from Texas
Clearly, the ratings favorite is Daniel Yeager. However, some of the other players are significantly underrated, particularly Tyler Hughes. Although this is the weakest ever field for the US Junior, it is no walk in the park and any person can beat anyone else. For a controversial preview by FM Robby Adamson, including an honest discussion of why so many talented juniors skipped this year's event, visit Chess Life Online and make sure to read the comments at the end of the article. Even after this article was written, one of the invitees, Chris Williams of Massachusetts, dropped out because he never booked a flight!?

Since there is an odd number of participants, Gregory has the bye for round 1. He is currently playing a training game against 11 year old FM Darwin Yang, the heavy favorite of the concurrent US Cadet (U16) Championship (the player list is the same minus Gregory). Tonight, Gregory has white against Edward Lu. Unfortunately, I have not yet found any live coverage on the internet.

Friday, June 13

ConGRADulations to David, Marvin and Kevin!



Three of my present and past students just graduated from High School. The Saratoga High School ceremony was yesterday, June 12. This section is a small tribute to each of them.

David Chock (2094 USCF, photos at top) completed four years as the top board for Saratoga High School. Shortly after I began teaching him in 2003, David won the U2000 section in Sacramento with a 6-0 score--as the lowest rated player, thus setting the record for the most rating points gained in one tournament by a student of mine! His greatest moment of glory came at the 2006 National High School Championship when he nearly won the whole enchilada, even defeating top seeded IM Alex Lenderman (reigning World U16 Champion) on the stage. David's school won five straight state championships dating back to middle school and even won three top 5 team trophies at the annual Nationals in the spring. In the past two years, he helped mold the young players from Redwood Middle School into a strong team that has now won two state team titles itself. As a recognition for how long we worked together, David joins Daniel Schwarz as a lifetime emeritus student. David will attend the University of California at Berkeley in the fall.

Marvin Shu (1804 USCF, photo at left) probably was better at math than chess, but he sure had fun playing the royal game. My earliest recollection of Marvin came from a game in middle school when he checkmated a higher rated opponent with two bishops against two rooks (even number of pawns). I also remember once thinking of how to scold him for playing on down a rook against a 1900 in tournament, when hours later he drew the game! I don't know if that's determination or just plain dumb luck. After graduating with highest honors from Saratoga High School, Marvin will attend my alma mater, Stanford University, in the fall.

Kevin Hwa (1802 USCF, photo at right) was never a star chess player, but studied the royal game for its beauty. As a natural attacker and a disciple of gambit openings, Kevin loved to play with fire on the board and occasionally even burned himself. After considering some east coast and midwest schools, Kevin finally chose the University of California at Berkeley for the fall.

Congratulations to all three graduates! Hopefully you will remember your days as a chess player when you're older and have an accomplished career.

Thursday, June 12

Will Magnus Break 2800?

17 year old "Wunderkind" GM Magnus Carlsen of Norway stands poised to break the 2800 barrier in chess ratings. According to the LiveRating website, Magnus already passed GM Vladimir Kramnik for the unofficial #2 ranking in the world after starting out with a blazing 5.0 out of 6 in the Aerosvit Tournament in Foros, Ukraine (finger Foros08 on ICC). Top rated GM Vishy Anand remains at 2798, merely 6 points ahead of the teenager.

It is now a foregone conclusion that Magnus will be ranked #1 in the world either sooner or later this year! Even if he cools off in Ukraine, it appears to be merely a matter of time considering his meteoric rise. What's next for King Magnus? World Champion?

Friedel Hits Jackpot in Las Vegas

Now that I had time to collect my thoughts from Las Vegas, let me recap the National Open tournament. To make a long story short, everyone finished respectably well except for me!

Let's start at the top of the Open section. Congratulations to GM-elect Josh Friedel (see photo at top left) for a wild ride ending in a tie for first place. After administering the Spanish torture on yours truly, Josh took on three of the top rated Americans in the field. First, he drew with GM Hikaru Nakamura, then he beat GM Varuzhan Akobian and finally, he drew with FIDE World Cup Champion GM Gata Kamsky (photo at top right). Josh's performance rating was a whopping 2818, enough to make Kasparov happy. Read Chess Life Online for games and comments by America's next strong Grandmaster!

Three other local players competed among the big boys. IM David Pruess (photo at bottom left) ended up on the stage himself in the final round by beating GM Nakamura in a major upset. However, David's chance to share the top honors fell short against the attacking prowess of Armenian GM Tigran Petrosian. FM-elect Sam Shankland (photo at bottom right) lost to two Grandmasters, but earned a few rating points from one strong draw. FM Danya Naroditsky had both high and low points over the weekend, with the biggest highlight being a solid draw against Israeli GM Sergey Erenburg. Unfortunately, your humble blogger stank up the Las Vegas Strip, first hallucinating in a favorable position against a Grandmaster and then hanging an entire piece versus a lower rated opponent.

Few CalChess juniors came to Las Vegas because schools were not out yet. Kudos to three of my students for gaining experience and rating points in the lower divisions: Yian +8 in the Expert section, Kyle +37 in Class A and Samyukta +23 in Class B.

Wednesday, June 11

Luck and Determination to Win in Las Vegas

(It is White to move. Black has just offered a draw. What to do? What can you do? It sure looks dead drawn, doesn't it? Not so fast says 10 year old whiz kid Yian Liou!)

Sometimes a little bit of luck and a lot of determination can go a long ways in a chess game. The person who wants to win more and is willing to take some chances tends to get his way. Many masters believe in playing out positions that others would call a draw. When his higher rated opponent offered draw, perhaps young Yian Liou remembered something about the fighting style of IM Ricardo DeGuzman. The game finished as follows:

52. d4!? A bold sacrifice. cxd4 53. Bd3 Kf7 54. Be1 Ke7 55. Be4 Qh8 56. Kg2 Qb8 It still looks dead drawn. 57. Bb4 Setting a trap. Qb7?? And Black falls right into it! Any bishop move was preferred. 58. Bxd6+! Kxd6 Move Kd8 holds out a bit longer. 59. Qa3+ Black resigned since Kc7 loses the queen to d6+. 1-0

Click on this link to Chess Publisher for the entire game. Yian finished the National Open with a respectable score of 2.5 out of 6 while playing up in the U2200 section, facing only experts to gain tons of experience and even +8 rating points to 1964. Thanks to Yian's mom for the photo below of Yian and me in front of the stage.

Friday, June 6

National Open Day 1

FM Danya Naroditsky impressively drew against Israeli GM Sergey Erenburg tonight in round 2 of the National Open. He now has 1.5/2 and will probably face another strong opponent in the morning. Also look for an exciting new article about Danya in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. You can find it in the magazine insert.I lost a strange Ruy Lopez game to GM-elect Josh Friedel tonight. I was losing out of the opening, but Josh didn't put me out of my misery until a flurry of tactics right before time control. Click here to review it in Chess Publisher's game viewer. Josh now has 2.0/2 and I have 1.0/2. NM Sam Shankland lost badly to GM Tigran Petrosian and he also has 1.0/2. Although IM David Pruess sat next to me, he was still playing when I left and I do not know how his game ended up.

Click here for tournament results and pairings. Some, but not all, of the top games are being broadcast live on the MonRoi website. Check out Susan Polgar's chess blog for photos from each round (thanks to photographer FM Paul Truong for the above pictures).

For me, one fun part of traveling to a big tournament is meeting a variety of chess celebrities. Here's just a partial list of masters living outside of the Bay Area whom I have spoken with so far: GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Tigran Petrosian, GM Melik Khachiyan, GM Susan Polgar, WGM Jennifer Shahade, IM Ben Finegold, IM Ray Robson, IM Joe Bradford, FM Robby Adamson, FM Paul Truong and FM Sunil Weeramantry.

Trivia question
: Which of the above people are from the same family? There are two pairs of answers. Post a comment to this post or send a message to "fpawn" on ICC.

Update on Saturday morning: David Pruess drew last night and has 1.5/2. The most interesting round 3 pairings are Kamsky-Paragua, Friedel-Nakamura, Akobian-Robson, Yermolinsky-Naroditsky and Aigner-Akopian.

Poker Stars

Does anyone recognize this poker pro? It is Eric Hicks, webmaster for and trainer of young star Nicholas Nip. Sadly, he has spurned the educational world of chess for the big bucks of poker, preferring royal flushes over royal forks. He is just the latest chess player to switch games for the money (e.g. GM Walter Browne and Ricky Grijalva). On June 3, Eric won $41,295 for 14th place at a 3,900 player tournament. While the big National Open chess tournament takes place this weekend at The Riviera in Las Vegas, Eric will be across town playing in the World Series of Poker at The Rio. Too bad!

Thursday, June 5

June Top 100 Lists

Newcomers to the USCF Top 100 lists: Brian on left and DanielL on right. Do you see the similarity in the look on their faces?

As I posted on this blog last week, the June USCF Top 100 lists were released. The CalChess presence on these national lists keep growing, as judged by the Magnificent Seven who placed in the top 5 of the nation for their age. Kudos to gold medalists Tanuj Vasudeva, Nicholas Nip, Yian Liou, Daniel Naroditsky, Gregory Young, Steven Zierk and Sam Shankland! Please check out the CalChess Top 100 for the complete rankings.

Now it is my turn to brag a little bit. Congratulations to my 23 chess students who are ranked in the top 100 of the country for their age (plus 3 new students whom I will begin teaching this summer). A special pat on the back to Brian Wai (#98 for age 14) and Daniel Liu (#63 for age 10) who are ranked for the first time and to Tyler Sypherd (#100 for age 11) for returning to the rankings after nearly a year's absence. It is both an honor and a challenge to work with this talented group of kids.
  • GOLD MEDAL (top 5): Yian Liou, #5 age 10; FM Danya Naroditsky, #1 age 12; Gregory Young, #3 age 13; Steven Zierk, #3 age 14
  • BRONZE MEDAL (top 25): James Kwok, Sam Bekker, David Chock, Alan Naroditsky, NM Daniel Schwarz
My students are well represented on the CalChess Top 20 lists as well. In fact, I am proud to be able to teach exactly half of the age 12-17 Top 20 list, including three of the top four. I presently teach four students on the U12 Top 20 list, and including my new students, five of the top nine. Keep up all of the good work to make me look good! ;-)
  • CalChess Top 20 for Age 12-17: #2 Danya, #3 Gregory, #4 Steven, #7 David, #9 Alan, #11 Jeff, #12 Evan, #15 Sam, #15 Adam and #15 Charles
  • CalChess Top 20 for Age U12: #2 Yian, #6 James, #7 Alex, #14 Aamir

Hello from Las Vegas!

Photo of The Strip at night. Yes Yian, the Eiffel Tower is not just a landmark in Paris.

Hello from The Riviera in Las Vegas, home of the National Open chess tournament. I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, giving me time to relax for one day before pushing pawns. You won't believe what all happened within the first hour of my arrival:
  • The baggage handlers at Southwest Airlines apparently fixed a minor yet annoying problem with the left rear wheel of my wheelchair. Lucky me!
  • After boarding a bus, a passenger uttered four words that I never expected: "I read your blog." This gentleman travels annually to Las Vegas from Ireland.
  • I got soaked by a freak shower upon exiting the bus. In fact, the local weather was quite strange: moderate temperatures, 35-50 mph winds and scattered rain.
The main tournament begins on Friday with 629 players preregistered (see entry list here). The top seeds are Grandmasters Gata Kamsky and Hikaru Nakamura, who may now both be above 2700 FIDE on the July 1 rating list. I expect some live coverage on MonRoi. Four of my students and a few good friends will play this weekend, plus another student who will participate in today's G/10 side event only. Wish us all luck!

Tuesday, June 3

Save Our Chess Club!

Ever since I started playing chess in 1993, the Sacramento Chess Club has met at the Ethel Macleod Hart Senior Center on J Street between 27th and 28th Avenues. The Club was fortunate to pay no rent over all the years, allowing it to run weekly events on Wednesday nights at the rock bottom entry fees of $2 and $5. These events include G/10 and multi-week G/60-G/75 rated tournaments. Attendance varies throughout the year from 40 to near 100; some players choose only to play unrated skittles games.

The Club's historical records date back to at least 1934. Multiple-time champions include strong masters such as former USCF President Col. Ed Edmondson, Serge von Oettingen, Mark Buckley, Tom Dorsch, James MacFarland, Zoran Lazetich and Robby Adamson. In 1964, Bobby Fischer gave a simul at the Sacramento Chess Club. The Club offered a hangout for many of Sacramento's adult chess players, many who have fixed incomes. It has, over the past 15 years, nurtured the development of young stars such as NM Winston Tsang, David Pecora, NM Daniel Schwarz, Matt Zavortink, Tyler Wilken and Isaac Zhang. I can safely say that I would not be a chess master and teacher today without the support and competition of the Sacramento Chess Club.

Unfortunately, the budget crisis facing the State of California and City of Sacramento has required reducing the hours of service at many facilities, including the Hart Senior Center. Two years ago, the Chess Club's closing time changed from 10pm to 9pm, cutting into the tournament schedule. Meetings on the 5th Wednesday of the month were eliminated.

This year, the cuts are even deeper. The City of Sacramento recently wrote this letter to the Chess Club announcing a minimum rental fee of $11/hour or $38.50 per week effective August 1. The Club now faces a difficult decision that calls its very existence into question. On the homepage, Treasurer John McCumiskey wrote about the limited options. "It would appear that the club needs to secure a new meeting facility that we can continue to use for free. The alternatives appear to be securing a benefactor for the Sacramento Chess Club, begin taking donations and/or charging people to play at the Club." The last scenario would, unfortunately, force out some of the regular members and would be the end of the Club as we know it.

It is a dark day in Sacramento chess history. Hopefully, it is not the end of a Chess Club that dates back over 80 years. Stay tuned...

Monday, June 2

Fpawn Rating List - June 2008

I have updated the USCF rating for all of my chess students using the June supplement that is now available on the MSA site. New students are only eligible for these rankings after at least two months of lessons (sorry Kyle). This will be final the ranking list for the 2007-08 school year; I will add +1 to everyone's grade later this summer, assuming that nobody flunked a year in school. ;-)

You may view the entire Fpawn Rating List by clicking on the link. Check to see who is moving up (hint: that kid in the photo is one).

Top 5 Students Overall

  1. FM Danya 2320
  2. NM Gregory 2213
  3. Steven 2147
  4. Alan 2049
  5. Jeff 1978
(Honorary: NM Daniel 2249 and David 2098)

Top 5 Grades K-6
  1. FM Danya 2320 -- CalChess High School co-Champion
  2. Yian 1956 -- CalChess Elementary (K-6) Champion
  3. Sam 1901 -- tied for 6th place K-8
  4. James 1747 -- tied for 2nd place K-6
  5. Alex 1684
Top 5 Grades 7-8
  1. NM Gregory 2213 -- invited to US Cadet (U16) Championship
  2. Adam 1901
  3. Arthur 1873
  4. Andrew 1727 -- tied for 3rd place K-8
  5. Brian 1683 -- tied for 6th place K-8
Top 5 Grades 9-12
  1. Steven 2147 -- CalChess High School co-Champion and Denker representative
  2. Alan 2049 -- tied for 5th place K-12
  3. Jeff 1978 -- CalChess High School co-Champion
  4. Charles 1901 -- tied for 8th place K-12
  5. MichaelL 1871 -- tied for 8th place K-12