Thursday, July 31

Silicon Valley Challenge #5 Results

Article submitted by organizer and chief TD Charles Sun.

The Silicon Valley Challenge #5 was held at Susan’s Dance Studio (see photo above) in northeast San Jose on July 27th. A total of 35 chess enthusiasts participated, four of whom were national masters! No doubt the Open section had plenty of competition.

Before I go on, I would like to take some time to thank my chess coach, Michael Aigner. Mr. Aigner has been my teacher for the past three years and has helped me tremendously both as a chess player and a tournament director. Since the beginning of 2007, he has come more than 100 miles from Davis, California to play and also help me direct. I can easily say that without his help, none of this would be possible!

Also, I would like to thank Colin Ma for his generous donation. Colin Ma is new to the chess community, only starting to play in tournaments since last year. Your altruistic gesture means a lot!

Congratulations to Steven Zierk (photo at right) for winning the top section outright, defeating National Master Richard Koepcke and only yielding a draw versus his teacher, Michael Aigner. The SVC5 has only been one of the numerous successes Steven has encountered while his rating has skyrocketed from 1550 to 2246 over the past two years. Good luck to Steven as he travels to Dallas, Texas for the Denker Tournament of Champions and the United States Open!

Kudos also to Evan Ye (photo at left) for taking the U1700 prize with an incredible 3-1 score. After losing to Mr. Koepcke in the first round, Evan easily defeated one C player and two B players. The result was a rating jump of nearly 100 points from 1576 to 1669. Second place was a six-way tie between Brian Wai, Daniel Liu, Alex Radu, Daniel Zheng, Eric Xu, and Partha Vora.

The U1600 section was rather small with only nine players. Congratulations to Pranav Nagarajan for winning with a 4-0 score. Kiarash Mavandad, John Canessa, Micah Pruyn Goldstein, and Andrew Couse also won money prizes.

Thanks to everybody who played in the tournament. I hope to see everyone again on August 10th for Silicon Valley Challenge #6! Click here for advance entries (limited to 54).

Rebekah Liu in 3rd Place Going into Last Round of Polgar

(This photo of today's action from Lubbock, Texas was taken by Paul Truong and posted on Susan Polgar's Chess and Information Blog. Rebekah played black on the far board.)

CalChess girl's champion Rebekah Liu has 4.0 out of 5 and stands in 3rd place on tiebreaks in the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls heading into tomorrow morning's last round. After two consecutive draws, she defeated Fiona Lam (1720) of Maryland today. Rebekah faces a challenging final pairing: white against second seeded Sylvia Yang (1900) of Texas. Based on her record of success in recent Bay Area tournaments, Rebekah should not be intimidated by the high rating. Goooo Rebekah!

Pairings for the final round
1 Courtney Jamison (2046 : 5.0) - Linda Diaz (1726 : W : 4.5)
2 Ashley Carter (1877 : 4.0) - Michelle Xue Chen (1762 : 4.0)
3 Rebekah Liu (1699 : 4.0) - Sylvia S Yang (1911 : 3.5)
4 Amelia Wheeless (1711 : 3.5) - Rita Mirchandani (1813 : 3.5)
5 Eve Zhurbinskiy (1747 : 3.5) - Angel Bohannon (1700 : 3.5)
6 Nisha Deolalikar (1726 : 3.5) - Taylor Bailey (1650 : 3.5)
7 Fiona Lam (1727 : 3.0) - Alexandra Wiener (1560 : 3.5)

Update on midday Friday: Rebekah drew her final game against the second seed to finish with an undefeated 4.5 out of 6. Woohoo!

Open Letter About Upcoming CalChess Election

Date: Wed, 30 Jul 2008 11:56:29
From: "Michael Aigner"
Subject: Open Letter About Upcoming CalChess Elections
To: "Tom Langland, CalChess President"

Dear Tom,

The CalChess Board elections will be held again at the Labor Day Tournament. Date: Saturday, August 30 at 3pm. Location: Golden Gateway Holiday Inn, Van Ness at Pine in San Francisco.

> The following terms expire in 2008
> ----------------------------------
> Tom Langland (President)
> Jason Gurtovoy (VP)
> Michael Aigner
> Salman Azhar

I am writing this email to formally state that I have no intention of running for reelection at the annual meeting on Labor Day weekend. I also resign as tournament clearinghouse effective at the same meeting, although I pledge to work on a smooth transition with my replacement.

A number of smaller factors contributed to my decision, creating a snowball effect. In short, I have learned that CalChess is no longer the organization that it was when I first volunteered my time. Fully 95% of the efforts of CalChess go to running one scholastic tournament and everything else is secondary. I have nothing against kids in chess (after all, I teach quite a few) but I draw the line between scholastic and junior/adult chess. CalChess has drifted away from adult chess and even away from its top juniors, with the sole emphasis now being on the U1000 rated players that bring in the money at the CalChess Scholastics.

Case in point: We can't even get an up or down vote on the Polgar and Denker stipends despite having over two months to sort it out. I could say more, but I promised to stay out of this (nonexistent) discussion because of an obvious conflict of interest. I also wish there would be the possibility for sponsoring another Masters tournament like other states (e.g. SoCal) have, but again there's been no interest among the rest of the Board.

Even as the Clearinghouse, I have had to put up with an increasing amount of frustration, usually from scholastic organizers. Many view posting tournaments as an entitlement. Frankly, the increasing amount of effort that I put into updating the tournament calendar no longer is worth it to me. Hosting the calendar on what is otherwise a dead website is even more depressing.

I won't rule out further participation in CalChess down the road, if the organization finds its sense of direction again. I have promised to help Salman as a TD at the CalChess Scholastics, like I did this year. And I will continue to write about local events on my blog.

Good luck and good chess to all!

Michael Aigner

Wednesday, July 30

Girl Power!

At the halfway point of the week long Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls, the official Northern California representative Rebekah Liu (1735) of Palo Alto is tied for 4th place at 2.5/3, ahead of several higher rated players. In the photo at left from this online album, she stands next to the tournament's namesake: GM Susan Polgar. Rebekah, who earned her ticket to Lubbock, Texas by winning the CalChess Girl's Championship and the subsequent playoff match, drew yesterday's round as black versus the #2 girl from the host state, Angel Bohannon (1768). This afternoon at 1:30 Central time, she faces Michelle Xueying Chen (1805) from Massachusetts.

The latest article on Chess Life Online mentions Rebekah and includes her round 3 game against Bohannon. I am guessing that Rebekah simply overlooked after 17... Ng6 18.Qxd8 Rxd8 that 19.Nc6 forks both of her rooks. With that in mind, black should have tried 15... bxc3 instead of Kxg7.

Rebekah also found success in the side events. On Saturday evening, she won the second highest quad in the warm-up event, sweeping a field of three 1600s. On Monday night, she won the puzzle contest by correctly solving all 10 checkmate positions in 5:26, a minute and a half faster than any of the other girls! According to her father, Rebekah really enjoys the trip to Texas and has made a few new friends with other competitors.

In other news, the August Top 100 lists are out. Rebekah simultaneously jumped onto two new lists for the first time: #83 for age 14 (including boys) and #91 overall among women (any age). Woohoo! Perhaps there is still some hope for Girl Power in chess!?

Update on Wednesday evening: Rebekah drew again and now has 3.0 out of 4. She will play with the black pieces tomorrow against Fiona Lam (1720) from Maryland. Here are the complete Polgar tournament standings and pairings.

Naroditsky Brothers Play in Czech Open

(Big brother Alan posed with the World U12 Champion at the Reno tournament in March.)

Most families who can afford it spend some time during the summer to travel. What do you do if one of the kids is a World Champion of chess? Of course, you go to chess events in Europe! This year, FM Danya Naroditsky and his older brother Alan went to Pardubice in the Czech Republic (or is it the Check Republic?) to participate in the 1500 player Czech Open. Danya, rated 2313 FIDE, competed in the "Open A" together with over 40 Grandmasters. Alan, who recently got his first FIDE rating of 2136, played in the "Open B" for FIDE ratings under 2300--his first ever international chess tournament.

After nine days of intense competition, both boys finished with strong results! Danya scored 5.5 out of 9 for a 2442 performance. Seven of his opponents were rated over 2400 FIDE, including one GM and two IMs. Danya narrowly missed making an IM norm, coming half a point short in the end. Alan earned 6.5 out of 9 for a performance about 100 points above his shiny new FIDE rating. Ranked 80th in his section at the start, Alan finished tied for 12th place. Way to go boys!

Here is a sample of their games from Pardubice, downloaded from the official website.

Tuesday, July 29

IM Ooops!

(White just retreated Nb2 to attack the c4 pawn. Black to move and win!)

No, this position is not an optical illusion, although I did spend a full minute to double, triple and even quadruple check all of the possibilities. Merely a couple of moves out of theory, white hung a piece to an elementary tactic and immediately resigned after black played the correct response. The shocking part of the story is that white is not an amateur, but rather an International Master! The Mongolian IM Odondoo Ganbold, rated 2380 FIDE, gave me this gift win with the black pieces on Monday afternoon in the Alan Benson IM norm tournament played at the Mechanics' Institute.

This quick victory improved my score to 50% after four games. On the bright side, I already played against all of the three youngsters in the 10-player round robin, drawing with both FM-elect Sam Shankland and FM Daniel Naroditsky but losing badly to NM Gregory Young. My performance rating going into the 2-week break in my playing schedule is 2324. However, to earn a norm, I will need to score 4.0 out of the remaining five games, including contests versus International Masters Vladimir Mezentsev (as black), Ricardo DeGuzman (as black) and John Grefe (as white). While not entirely impossible, this does seem like an incredibly steep mountain to climb. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 24

Episode 6 of Chess Diva TV Show

The latest edition of Chess Diva is now available for viewing. This TV program is the brainchild of two amateur producers and chess players: Lauren and Barbara Goodkind. The hosts hope that their show will encourage more girls and women to push wood on the chess board around the Bay Area.

The sixth episode was filmed on June 30 in the studios of the Media Center in Palo Alto. The 30 minute show has four segments, including two interviews. Check it out!
  1. brief lecture on space on the chess board
  2. images of chess in the community from around the world (very cool!)
  3. interview with 7 year old champion Alisha Chawla
  4. interview with top ranked blind player Jessica Lauser.
Fun quiz: In what Bay Area city is Chess Drive located? Watch the video to find out! Answer: Foster City.

Silicon Valley Challenge on July 27 and August 10

The Sun Chess Club will host the 5th and 6th Silicon Valley Challenge on Sunday, July 27 and Sunday, August 10 in northeastern San Jose. These tournaments are organized by my high school student Charles Sun. I will attend the July 27 event to play and personally make sure that Charles doesn't mess up. Check out my blog story and photos from the 4th Silicon Valley Challenge held in March at the same venue.
  • Events: Silicon Valley Challenge #5 and #6
  • Dates: July 27 and August 10
  • Location: 2146 Ringwood Avenue, San Jose (off I-880 near Milpitas)
  • Format: 4 round swiss in 2 sections (Open and U1600)
  • Open schedule: Reg: 8:30-8:50. Rounds: 9:00, 11:30, 1:45, 4:00.
  • U1600 schedule: Reg: 10:30-11:15, Rounds: 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30.
  • Time control: G/60 for Open; G/30 for U1600
  • Entry fee: $35 adults, $30 juniors by July 15 or August 1, $10 more on site
  • Prize fund: $510 total including $100 for 1st place in Open section
  • Go to Sun Chess Club website for entry forms and advance entry lists.
  • Due to space restrictions, both tournaments are limited to 54 players.

This tournament is highly recommended to my students, particularly those rated below 2000. I plan to play on Saturday just to have fun and hang out with my students.

Update July 24: The advance entry list has 22 players ranging from 562 to 2273. Charles is expecting at least four masters to attend, including the latest local master, Steven Zierk! If you want to play against a master in a rated game, then here's your chance!

Last Call for Summer Session II

This is the last call for my Summer Session II on the Internet Chess Club. I have about a half dozen students signed up for each class and am ready to begin next week. The Advanced class (1400-1700) on Monday evenings will discuss Sacrifices while the Intermediate class (1000-1500) on Tuesday evenings will learn the Sicilian Accelerated Dragon for Black. We had a lot of fun in the first session in June and I'm sure that the second one will be fun too! One of the students in the June session won over $250 at a major tournament recently.

Monday class: 7/28, 8/11, 8/13 (makeup), 8/18, 8/25 from 8:00 to 10:30 PDT
Tuesday class: 7/29, 8/12, 8/14 (makeup), 8/19, 8/26 from 8:00 to 10:30 PDT (note change!)

Please read more about my summer classes at this link to my blog.

Monday, July 21

Sam Shankland and Company Conquer Agoura Hills

(Michael Zhong and Sam Shankland share a lighter moment late on Sunday night in my hotel room after picking up their large prize checks.)

Led by the exuberant teenager Sam Shankland, a small yet highly talented group of Northern California juniors left their mark on the top sections at the Pacific Coast Open in Agoura Hills (near Los Angeles). Three local kids took 1st place in either their division or class prize, each winning over $750. Two broke major rating milestones this weekend. Two scored against Grandmasters (one win and one draw).
  • FM-elect Sam Shankland tied for 1st place in Open section with 4.5 out of 6!
  • Sam defeated top rated GM Sergey Erenburg in final round. (Click here for game.)
  • NM Steven Zierk finished with 4.0 in the Open section, good for top U2300.
  • Steven faced six 2300 players, losing just once and drawing with GM Melik Khachiyan.
  • Kudos to Steven for breaking 2200 USCF and earning the National Master title!
  • Michael Zhong scored 5.0 to take top honors in the U2100 section.
  • Yian Liou finished with 4.0 against six experts to push his own rating over 2000!
Click here for the USCF rating report.

Congratulations to all four juniors for an impressive tournament! Of course, the key to a successful weekend is to win the final round, something which these kids did better than I did. Sadly, I lost miserably on Sunday night to FM Joel Banawa to finish at 50%.

In other news, FM Danya Naroditsky started with an undefeated 2.0/3 in the Czech Open tournament in Europe. He has two draws with 2400+ FIDE rated opponents and is paired with yet another strong player today. His brother Alan Naroditsky also has 2.0/3 in the "Open B" division. Click on this link for daily results from Pardubice, Czech Republic. Update after round 4: Danya drew another 2400+ while Alan won.

Sunday, July 20

Results from Pacific Coast Open

The first four rounds of the Pacific Coast Open were played on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the approximately 200 competitors choosing from three different schedules. GM Sergey Erenburg (upper left photo) and IM Enrico Sevillano lead the Open section at 3.5 each while GM Melik Khachiyan (upper right photo) and IM Mladen Vucic are merely half a point behind. The other International Master in the field, Andranik Matikozyan, has struggled, needing a miracle to draw with aging Life Master Jerry Hanken.

Two Northern California juniors have played exceptionally well so far. Steven Zierk (lower left photo) started out with a bang, beating both FM Joel Banawa and FM Eugene Yanayt before yielding a draw to GM Melik Khachiyan. Despite a round 4 defeat to highly rated NM John Bryant, Steven's rating remains slightly above 2200. Will he earn the National Master title? In the U2100 section, 11 year old Yian Liou (lower right photo) shook off a first round loss to 2007 National High School Champion Michael Zhong with three straight wins against experts. If Yian can hold this result, then he will break 2000.

Northern California scores after round 4
Open: Sam 2.5, Steven 2.5, Fpawn 2.0, Rohan 2.0
U2100: Michael 3.0, Yian 3.0
U1900: Arthur 2.5, Samyukta 1.5

Friday, July 18

Hello from Agoura Hills

Yesterday, I took Amtrak south to the Los Angeles area for the Pacific Coast Open tournament. The venue is the Renaissance Hotel in Agoura Hills, which is a serene venue amidst rolling hills located about 35 miles northwest of downtown LA. As these photos show, it is a laid back and quite enjoyable place for a chess event.

Despite a long travel day on trains and buses, I played in the first round of the 4-day schedule last night. My opponent was Dyland Xue, a 15 year old from Michigan rated 2154. Check out this wild tactical fight in the Sveshnikov variation of the Sicilian, which I won after sacrificing an exchange and a pawn. Unfortunately, my roommates Sam Shankland (draw versus a 2200) and Michael Zhong (loss) didn't do quite as well. The first round of the 3-day schedule is in progress as I write these words, including Grandmasters Sergey Erenburg and Melik Khachiyan plus Northern California juniors Steven Zierk, Rohan Agarwal and Yian Liou versus Zhong (who reentered).

Announcement: Internet Chess Classes and Summer Tournament



USCF Life Master

  • Learn from Experienced Chess Coach of Many Elite Bay Area Juniors
  • Intermediate (1000-1600) and Advanced (1400-1800) Students
  • Class Size Restricted to 10 Students
  • Each Class Begins with a Lecture (Approximately 60 Minutes)
  • One Tournament Game (45 5 Time Control) in Each Class (Not USCF Rated)
  • Internet Chess Club Membership Required ($30/year junior rate)
Session I
  • Advanced Class (1400-1800) on Monday evenings
  • Dates 6/16, 6/23, 6/30, 7/7 from 8:00 to 10:30 PDT
  • Lecture Topic: Survey of Past World Champions
  • Intermediate Class (1000-1600) on Tuesday evenings
  • Dates 6/17, 6/24, 7/1, 7/8 from 8:00 to 10:30 PDT
  • Lecture Topic: Importance of Initiative in Chess
Session II (tentative dates--I might change 7/28-29 if a majority of students can't make it)
  • Advanced Class (1400-1800) on Monday evenings
  • Dates 7/28, 8/11, 8/18, 8/25 from 8:00 to 10:30 PDT
  • Lecture Topic: Sacrifices
  • Intermediate Class (1000-1600) on Tuesday evenings
  • Dates 7/29, 8/12, 8/19, 8/26 from 8:00 to 10:30 PDT (note change!)
  • Lecture Topic: Sicilian Accelerated Dragon for Black
FEE: $80 Per 4-Week Session. Please select the Advanced or Intermediate class.

REGISTRATION: Send email to with your real name, ICC username, age, USCF rating, email address, phone number and the session you wish to sign up for. I will reply with further information, including how to pay. First come, first served.

IMPORTANT INFO: All classes will be conducted on the Internet Chess Club. The instructor examines a board for students to follow. He sets up a position or studies a game, communicating through text (kibitz) and by drawing on the board. The students may also speak with the instructor through text (kibitz or tell). Newcomers to online chess should check out this tutorial.

WARNING: Online classes are not for everyone! It is easy for students to become distracted and difficult for the teacher to monitor them. Parents are expected to watch the children closely.

QUESTIONS? Send email to Michael Aigner at

Wednesday, July 16

Lecture by GM Nick DeFirmian at Mechanics

(Photo of GM DeFirmian teaching group 2 by Chiiwen Liou.)

Three-time US Champion Grandmaster Nick DeFirmian, rated 2541 FIDE, taught the most recent session of the San Francisco School of Chess on July 12-13. Although he currently lives in Denmark, DeFirmian has strong ties to Northern California, growing up in Fresno and earning a degree in physics from UC Berkeley. For many years, he regularly played at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club, the venue for the weekend lecture. His claim to fame now lies in editing the encyclopedia "Modern Chess Openings" (better known as MCO).

Over two days, GM DeFirmian shared a number of opening concepts with the students of the School of Chess. He taught the top group (five students and two guests) for nearly four hours on Saturday, advocating a positional approach to understanding the move orders and strategies to play the 6.Be3 line of the Najdorf Sicilian. GM DeFirmian also demonstrated a "refutation" of the Petrov's defense from the game Naiditsch-Kramnik (Dortmund 2008) and showed some theory in the Zaitsev variation of the Ruy Lopez. It was interesting to watch how even an ultra-tactical opening such as the Najdorf could be understood by a calm positional approach.

The Danish-American Grandmaster returned on Sunday to teach groups 2 and 3, each for about two hours. He started out by going back in history and demonstrating an obscure simul game in the Two Knight's defense where Bobby Fischer played like Paul Morphy. GM DeFirmian spent a large portion of the class on the Yugoslav attack in the Dragon Sicilian, a line which every young player should study sometime in their development as a future master.

The San Francisco School of Chess will continue in August and September with lectures by local International Masters Josh Friedel (August 23) and Vinay Bhat (September 7). Both popular 20-something year old masters have the three norms necessary for the Grandmaster title; Josh is merely waiting for his paperwork to be approved while Vinay needs 17 FIDE rating points to reach 2500. A new group of students will be selected for classes starting this fall.

Tuesday, July 15

Fpawn Simul Results

Thank you to the 21 students who challenged me in a simul yesterday on ICC. My overall record in this 2.5 hour long event was 10 wins, 9 losses and 2 draws. The time control was G/60 +20/move. I faced a wide variety of opponents, ranging in rating from under 1000 to nearly 2000; the top six were all rated above 1800. Here are a few more statistics:
  • I played 1070 moves in 2.5 hours
  • average of 51 moves per game
  • average of 8 seconds per move
  • despite the 20 second increment, I was under 2 minutes on as many as ten boards at once
  • I hung one queen, two rooks and allowed a forced checkmate, all to 1-movers
  • my record against players from Saratoga High School was a miserable 0-4
Congratulations to all of the winners: Arthur Liou, Yian Liou, Rebekah Liu, Eric Chen, Sankash Shankar, Brian Wai, Evan Ye, Charles Sun and Nicholas Karas! The most brilliant game was Evan (see photo above) setting an impressive endgame trap, which I blindly walked right into. The second prize goes to Eric for creating substantial counterplay after losing a pawn. Honorable mention to Charles for blowing me off the board after I made two small inaccuracies.
  1. fpawn vs Evan Ye
  2. fpawn vs Eric Chen
  3. fpawn vs Charles Sun

Monday, July 14

Mechanics' Institute Chess Camp, July 21-25

It is not too late to sign up for the Mechanics' Institute Chess Camp for Intermediate and Advanced Players. This program is unique in the Bay Area as it targets nationally ranked juniors and others rated over 1200. Last year even saw several A players in attendance. The instructors will be the always popular GM-elect Josh Friedel, Mechanics' Institute Chess Director IM John Donaldson and Mechanics' Institute Scholastic Director Anthony Corrales.
  • What? Mechanics' Institute Chess Camp
  • When? July 21-25, 10am to 4pm daily
  • Where? Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco, 57 Post Street, 4th floor
  • Who? Children rated 1200-2200
  • Why? "Look inside a top players' laboratory and get a feel for how they work on their game from the ground up. ... You will learn to identify the critical points of the game and to understand when and why things went wrong."
  • How much? $320 for Mechanics� members, $355 for junior (under 21) non-members, $415 for adult non-members. $80 drop in fee for a day.
To sign up, mail in the entry form or send email to ChessRoom at (replace "at" with @ sign). For questions, call (415) 421-2258 or use email.

Saturday, July 12

KibBlitzing in World Chess Live Newsletter

Check out this fun interview that I gave to World Chess Live a few days ago. The weekly online newsletter is edited by teenage chess writer Jonathan Hilton.

- If you weren’t a chessplayer, what would you be?
An engineer holed up in a cubicle.

Wednesday, July 9

Azhar Will Organize States 2009

by CalChess President Tom Langland

"The CalChess Board of Directors has selected the official organizer for the 2009 CalChess State Scholastic Championships. We accepted proposals during the month of June and we reviewed all of the proposals and selected Salman Azhar! Salman (see photo) obviously did an outstanding job with the 2008 Scholastic Championships, so please join me in congratulating Salman on his selection, and help us look forward to making the 2009 Scholastic Championships the best ever!"

Additional note by fpawn: The contract for the 2009 Championships has not yet been signed, but I expect an announcement soon. The tentative dates are May 2-3.

Schwarz Plays in the Red Zone, Wins Sacramento

Despite soaring gas prizes and hot temperatures, the annual 4th of July tournament attracted a solid turnout of 84 players to California's capital city. Perhaps attracted by a quality tournament at longer time controls, adult players came from all over Northern California and as far away as Washington state; in fact, only about 1/3 of the participants were juniors. The field was officially split up into two sections, Open and Reserve (U2000), but a majority of A players chose to play for experience in the Open section.

Eight masters entered the tournament, headlined by International Masters Ricardo DeGuzman and Walter Shipman. In the end, Sacramento native and Stanford University sophomore NM Daniel Schwarz (2249) dominated the competition in the Open section, taking clear 1st place with a 5.0/6 score. He did not get easy pairings, instead facing five straight masters and beating three of them for a 2546 performance rating! Daniel even defeated defending champion and top rated IM DeGuzman in the 5th round. Proving that he has come a long ways since his days as a scholastic champion, Daniel beat his first teacher NM Zoran Lazetich and earned a tense final round draw with the black pieces against yours truly, his coach for over a half dozen years. Congratulations Daniel!

Four players shared 2nd place and top U2200 honors at 4.5 in the Open section: IMs Ricardo DeGuzman and Walter Shipman, expert James al-Shamma and the fpawn. Your reporter drew a short game against DeGuzman, but was unable to win lengthy endgames against NM Viktors Pupols from Washington state and Schwarz on the final day. Other than Schwarz, the biggest story of the weekend must be the impressive result by my student 11 year old Yian Liou (1956), who defeated former master Kenneth Hills (2120) and drew with FM Bela Evans (2303). Yian ended up with 4.0/6 after losing just once (to his teacher), thus gaining tons of experience and bumping his rating up to 1987.

Kudos to Douglas Legvold (1934) for winning the 53 player Reserve (U2000) section with 5.5 out of 6, drawing only in the last round to clinch 1st place. Sacramento club member Romeo Pilar, rated just 1652, took clear 2nd place at 5.0 while juniors Arun Gomatan (1795) and Ted Xiao (1731) shared 3rd place at 4.5.

Finally, thanks to National TD John McCumiskey (wearing red, white and blue for the holiday) for once again directing a smooth and enjoyable weekend tournament in Sacramento. He has run every single major chess event in town since the mid 1990s and since established himself as the top director in Northern California. This year, there were actually two McCumiskey's present at the tournament, as John's younger brother Tom (see photo here) visited from Virginia and played in the Open section.

Tuesday, July 8

Chessboxing on CNN

(A chess table appears in middle of a boxing ring! Photo from ChessBase website.)

File this story under the heading of "Anything Is Possible". Yes, chessboxing!? The World Chessboxing Championship was held on July 5th in Berlin. This unique sport combines the brains of chess with the brawns of boxing. Check out the complete rules at the official website of the WCBO. The two competitors in the final were defending champion Frank Stoldt of Germany and challenger Nikolay Sazhin from Russia, who both reportedly have a chess rating in the 1900 range. Watch this video on CNN for footage from the championship match and see who won the title.

I wonder which of my students would try out chessboxing? I know Steven would be good.

Shankinator Strikes in Philly

A week ago, I blogged about FM-elect Sam Shankland as a patient teacher who mentored some of the Bay Area's top juniors during a meeting of the San Francisco School of Chess. However, Sam is better known as a fearless tournament competitor who is capable of beating literally anyone, anytime, anyplace. He emphatically proved this point in the first round of the World Open when he scalped last year's US Champion GM Alexander Shabalov with a crushing kingside attack. What could Sam do for an encore?

The primary goal for Shanky's adventure in Philadelphia was to earn one of the three norms required for the International Master title. To score a norm, the player must perform at a level above 2450 FIDE in a 9+ round tournament against a variety of opponents from different countries, at least 3 who hold the GM/IM title. After beating GM Shabalov, Sam scored against two strong titled players from India and drew with IM Dean Ippolito. His final result in the World Open was merely 50% (4.5 out of 9), but he faced an incredibly difficult field of 4 Grandmasters, 3 IMs and a WGM! Thanks to these high rated opponents, Sam could wrap up his norm even before the final round began. Mad props to the Shankinator for his first IM norm! His next norm opportunity comes at the Mechanics' Institute invitational in August.

Several other local juniors also participated in the World Open (click for crosstables). FM Danya Naroditsky remained in contention for an IM norm through 7 rounds with several impressive draws in a row with titled players, plus a win against local IM David Pruess. Unfortunately, Danya's dream ended with a loss to a Grandmaster in round 8 and he finished at 4.5/9. Teenage expert Rohan Agarwal scored 50% in the U2400 section, defeating three opponents rated above 2270. Last but not least, CalChess Denker representative Steven Zierk won major money at the World Open for a third time in his young life by sharing 3rd place in U2200 at 7.0/9. Way to go Steven!

Click here for a great photo of Sam Shankland taken by USCF web editor Jennifer Shahade or read the entire final report about the World Open on Chess Life Online.

Monday, July 7

Photos from 2008 Sacramento Championship Part 3

More photos from the Sacramento Chess Championship. You don't need to be a kid to play! Upper left: NM Viktors Pupols from Washington state (originally from Latvia). Upper right: venerable class player Bob Baker. Lower left: Tom McCumiskey came all the way from Virginia to play in his brother's tournament. Lower right: NTD John McCumiskey poses with Sacramento Chess Club President Steve Bickford.

Photos from 2008 Sacramento Championship Part 2

Photos of more of my students at the Sacramento Chess Championship last weekend.

Photos from 2008 Sacramento Championship Part 1

Photos from Sacramento Chess Championship held over 4th of July weekend. Upper left: tournament winner NM Daniel Schwarz. Upper right: Daniel holds a draw with the black pieces against his former teacher in the last round. Lower left: top seed IM Ricardo DeGuzman struggled this weekend, even losing to Schwarz. Lower right: FM Bela Evans and US Junior co-champion NM Gregory Young are hard at work during round 5.

Friday, July 4

Happy 4th of July from Sacramento Chess Championship

The first two rounds of the annual Sacramento Chess Championship were played on the 4th of July holiday at the Best Western Expo Inn. While the Cal Expo fireworks show (see photos below) in the evening was a pleasure to watch, I also had fun playing with fire on board during my round 2 game. Four players are tied at 2-0 in the top section: my students NM Gregory Young (upper left) and Yian Liou (upper right), veteran Martin Marshall and myself (round 3 pairings: Yian versus fpawn). Four masters played today and another four are expected for the faster 2-day schedule tomorrow; the overall attendance will probably be between 90 and 100 players.

Wednesday, July 2

Shankland Crushes GM Shabalov with Black

Bay Area teenager FM-elect Sam Shankland (photo on left) has always been known to play well against higher rated opponents. He took it to a new level tonight in the first round of the World Open against last year's US Champion Alexander Shabalov (photo on right), winning in style in 35 moves! This win puts Sam on the early track to earn a norm.

Playing the black pieces against a passive anti-Sicilian setup, Sam gained tremendous space on the kingside and was able to open up the white king. Shabalov's position began to unravel with the overly optimistic pawn push 27.f4, further weakening the kingside. The key black move was 29... h3!; for example, 30.Qxh3 allows Rh8, but even stronger is Bd4+ 31.Be3 Nxf4 32.Qf3 Nxe2+ winning the exchange. In the final position, white can't save the bishop on g4, e.g. 36.Bf5 Qxh2+! 37.Kxh2 g1=Q+.

Good luck to Sam and the rest of the Northern California delegation at the World Open, including GM-elect Josh Friedel, IM David Pruess, FM Danya Naroditsky, WIM Batchimeg Tuvshintugs, Steven Zierk, Rohan Agarwal and Alan Naroditsky. Check for games throughout the 4th of July weekend on the MonRoi website.

Update on midday Thursday: FM-elect Sam Shankland defeated IM Rajaram Laxman (2488 FIDE) in round 2.