Thursday, October 30

IM Sam Shankland Takes Bronze Medal!

The title of this post is not a misprint. It is my great honor to introduce the readers to America's newest International Master: Sam Shankland! Simply said, Sam fulfilled the unthinkable last night in Vietnam by defeating a strong young Grandmaster from the host country, Quang Liem Le (2583). Sam tied for 1st place in the World Youth U18, earning the BRONZE MEDAL on tiebreaks. Incredibly, there's more! According to FIDE regulations (see 1.21), up to three players tied for 1st shall earn the automatic IM title! (I reported incorrectly yesterday that the prize was a GM norm.) Gooooo Shankypanky!!!

Update midday Thursday: Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Director IM John Donaldson has confirmed Sam's automatic IM title through his connections within FIDE!

How did Sam do it? He faced two of the four players who tied with him, scoring 0.5/2. He played against two Grandmasters (1.5/2), two International Masters (1.0/2) and a total of seven opponents rated above 2300 FIDE (4.0/7). With a final score of 8.0/11 (+7 =2 -2), Sam's performance rating was 2552, incredibly a full 100 points above the IM norm threshold! His post tournament FIDE rating will be above 2450.

The final game was far from perfect. (Last round photos above from the official website show Sam in the black shirt.) It began as a Dragon Sicilian, but the queen trade on move 17 produced an even endgame. The draw would have no doubt been acceptable to Sam at that point, but probably not to his higher rated opponent. From then on, Sam got slowly outplayed and he was losing after 38... Nxh3 and 39... Kg5. His opponent missed the decisive blow and allowed Sam to generate tricky counterplay with 45.c5! and 46.d6! By move 53, Sam is miraculously winning despite being down a pawn! The game could have ended 53... Ke6 54.Kc4 e4 (if Rxd7 then b8Q wins) 55.Kxc5 Rh8 56.Kc6 Rd8 57.Rh1 and Black can neither capture d7 nor defend h2. Instead, Black tried the desperado 53... Rxd7 and resigned after Sam found the refutation 54.Rf1+ (to be followed by b8Q).

IM Shankland, Sam (2436) vs GM Quang Liem Le (2583)
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. O-O-O Nxd4 10. Bxd4 Be6 11. Kb1 Qc7 12. h4 Rfc8 13. h5 Qa5 14. hxg6 fxg6 15. a3 Rab8 16. Bd3 Bf7 17. Ne2 Qxd2 18. Rxd2 a6 19. Re1 Nd7 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Nc3 b5 22. Bf1 Rc5 23. Rd4 Ne5 24. Nd5 Bxd5 25. exd5 g5 26. Re3 h5 27. g3 Rf8 28. Be2 Rf5 29. b4 Rc8 30. a4 Rh8 31. axb5 axb5 32. f4 gxf4 33. Rxf4 Rxf4 34. gxf4 Ng6 35. Bxb5 Nxf4 36. c4 h4 37. Bd7 Kf6 38. Bh3 Rg8 39. Bd7 Rh8 40. Bh3 Rb8 41. b5 Nxh3 42. Rxh3 Kg5 43. Kc2 Kg4 44. Re3 Re8 45. c5 dxc5 46. d6 e5 47. b6 h3 48. d7 Rd8 49. b7 h2 50. Re1 Kf5 51. Rb1 Rb8 52. Rd1 Rd8 53. Kc3 Rxd7 54. Rf1+ 1-0

After two weeks in Vietnam, the American delegation returns home on Halloween. That's not as scary as it sounds! Local star FM Danya Naroditsky had a disappointing result by his lofty standards, yet somehow he still finished in the top 10 (tied for 6th place). I am sure we can expect more next year when Danya returns for a second attempt to win U14. Fremont's little chess queen, Alisha Chawla, was no doubt outclassed but held her head high with 4.0/11. She finished with 50% in rounds 4-11 after losing her first three games on the international scene. Keep your head high!

Round 10:
  • Sam beat IM P. Kartikeyan (2426) of India
  • Danya drew with 2260 from Singapore
  • Alisha beat UNR from Canada
Round 11:
  • Sam beat GM Quang Liem Le (2583) of Vietnam
  • Danya beat 2265 from Netherlands
  • Alisha lost to UNR from New Zealand
Final Standings: (see official results online)
  • IM Sam Shankland has 8.0, BRONZE MEDAL and tied for 1st, 2552 performance
  • FM Danya Naroditsky has 7.5, tied for 6th place
  • Alisha Chawla has 4.0
Six USA representatives ended the 11 day championship in the top 10 for their age group, including our own IM Shankland and FM Naroditsky. Despite struggling with 1.0 in the last three rounds, FM Darwin Yang of Texas finished 3rd in U12 and also earned a bronze medal! Young Jonathan Chiang, also from Texas, took 5th place in U8. Two young girls finished in the top 10 as well: Hannah Liu of Texas in Girls U8 and Simone Liao of Southern California in Girls U10. No doubt the future of American chess remains bright, especially in scholastic hot spots such as Texas and California!

Wednesday, October 29

US Chess League Photos #2

San Francisco Mechanics

Miami Sharks

October 29, 2008
Click here for slide show!

  1. GM Vinay Bhat uses a chess board with clock for his games.
  2. Team manager IM John Donaldson sets up a board for IM David Pruess.
  3. IM Dmitry Zilberstein focuses on the flat panel screen.
  4. IM Pruess and NM Gregory Young are both in battle mode.

US Chess League Photos #1

San Francisco Mechanics


Miami Sharks

October 29, 2008
Click here for slide show!

  1. GM Vinay Bhat smiles before the round.
  2. IM John Donaldson (seated) and IM Dmitry Zilberstein look over last minute prep.
  3. IM David Pruess personifies intense focus.
  4. NM Gregory Young keeps score to make it feel like a serious over-the-board game.

Chess Mania on Three Continents

October 29, 2008. What an exciting day to be a chess player!!!

Just a few minutes ago, Viswanathan Anand of India clinched the World Chess Championship by drawing Game 11 against Russian challenger Vladimir Kramnik. He won the match held in Bonn, Germany by a 6.5-4.5 margin to retain the title. Click to replay Games 1-10. Anand also gained 8 rating points from this match to tie Veselin Topalov on top of world rating list.

Tonight, I will report from the Mechanics' Institute in The City on the final week action of the US Chess League. Watch this blog for photos! Can the San Francisco Mechanics close out the 2008 regular season on top of the Western Division? All that SF needs is a 2:2 tie tonight against the 2nd place team, the Miami Sharks. The lineup for the good guys: GM Vinay Bhat, IM David Pruess, IM Dmitry Zilberstein and NM Gregory Young! Watch on ICC starting at 5:30pm!

Perhaps the biggest and most surprising news comes from the World Youth Chess Championship in Vung Tau, Vietnam. Local FM Sam Shankland (see photo at right) has unofficially earned his second IM norm by winning today's game against IM P. Karthikeyan (2426) of India. There's more! He will play the white pieces in the final round against #2 seed GM Quang Liem Le (2583) of Vietnam. If Sam (7.0/10) somehow wins, he guarantees at least the BRONZE MEDAL on tiebreaks and, depending on two other results, he could tie for 1st in the World U18! A tie for 1st would include another carrot: an automatic GM norm. Alisha Chawla (4.0/10) also won this morning while FM Danya Naroditsky (6.5/10) drew again.

Wow! I am out of breath! Time to pack for my trip to San Francisco.

Monday, October 27

More Results from Vung Tau

As the World Youth Chess Championship in Vietnam enters its second week, the tension on the top boards mounts. Everyone hopes to finish well in the 11 round event, either earning a medal for the top 3 places, or at least to score within the top 10. Considering the level of competition, any top 10 result is highly impressive.

After scoring a combined 3.5/4 over the past two days, FIDE masters Sam Shankland and Danya Naroditsky both have a shot at a respectable finish. Depending on his pairings, Sam even has a chance at bringing home his second IM norm (but he needs to play one more GM or IM). Danya has recovered from a rocky beginning to pull up to 5.5/8, just half a point out of a tie for fourth place. Either could medal with three straight wins to close out the week, although that may be unrealistic given the strength of opposition.

Update on Tuesday morning: Sam has 6.0/9 for a 2474 performance rating. Normally this would be enough for a norm, but he faced only 1 GM and 1 IM. As luck would have it, he is paired with an IM in round 10 and needs a draw for what appears to be a norm!

I update the daily results below. Check out the games from rounds 1-7 at

Round 7:
  • Sam beat 2262 from India
  • Danya drew with 2200 from India
  • Alisha lost to UNR from Peru
Round 8:
  • Sam beat 2322 from Greece
  • Danya beat 2170 from Russia
  • Alisha lost to UNR from Iran
Round 9:
  • Sam drew with FM Ruben Pereira (2437) of Portugal
  • Danya drew with 2256 from Philippines
  • Alisha got a full point bye
Standings after round 9:
  • FM Sam Shankland has 6.0, tied for 6th place, 2474 performance
  • FM Danya Naroditsky has 6.0, tied for 8th place
  • Alisha Chawla has 3.0
The USA delegation consists of 28 players, parents and a half dozen coaches. Coverage on US Chess Online has been uncharacteristically disappointing due to a complete lack of first-hand news from Vietnam. Don't they pay enough for one of the coaches to spend 30 minutes to write up a daily blog story?

The following list includes 13 Americans with a score of 5.0 or more after round 8. Kudos to FM Darwin Yang of Texas, who leads the U12. Can Darwin repeat Danya's success from last year?
  • Jonathan Chiang, 5.0 in U8
  • Tommy He, 5.0 in U8
  • Jeevan Karamsetty, 5.5 in U10
  • FM Darwin Yang, 7.0 in U12 (section leader!!!)
  • David Adelberg, 6.0 in U12 (tied for 3rd!)
  • Atulya Shetty, 5.0 in U12
  • FM Danya Naroditsky, 5.5 in U14 (tied for 8th)
  • FM Sam Shankland, 5.5 in U18 (tied for 6th)
  • FM Daniel Ludwig, 5.0 in U18
  • Hannah Liu, 5.5 in Girls U8 (tied for 5th)
  • Simone Liao, 6.0 in Girls U10 (tied for 4th)
  • Caroline Zhu, 5.0 in Girls U12
  • Alena Kats, 5.0 in Girls U14

Play Chess in the City? Check Out a New Blog!

Joe Russell started a new SFChessNews blog geared towards chess players in the city of San Francisco. Readers may recognize this "Average Joe" from tournaments at the Mechanics' Institute, where he plays with a class A rating. The current top stories on his blog explore different venues to meet and play in the City, such as Cafe Abir on Divisadero at Fulton (see photo above).

Sunday, October 26

Earth vs Space Reaches Critical Position

Earth vs Space after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.Bb5 Qa5+ 6.Nc3 Ne4 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.O-O Nxc3 9.Qd2. Black to move.)

The ongoing correspondence chess match between astronaut Greg Chamitoff (on left in NASA photo, posing with fellow American Richard Garriott) and us Earthlings has become tactical by move 9. After Earth voted for Qa5+ on move 5, White's resources along the a5-e1 diagonal were limited. Humanity has seized the initiative. On the bright side, the resident of the International Space Station still has a development advantage and even managed castled. Is that enough?

If you read this post by Sunday at noon Pacific time, please surf to the USCF website to vote on move 9. You do not have to be a member to participate. The champions from Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington selected four candidate moves: Ne2+, cxd4, Bg4 and Ba6. I won't reveal which one I chose; instead, I urge the reader to calculate the tactical possibilities after each option.

Western States Open Report on US Chess Online

(Photo of GM Kudrin playing against GM Sadvakasov in round 5.)

My final report on the 26th Western States Open has been posted at Chess Life Online. The article focuses on the results in the Open section. I annotated five games, including the critical round 5 pairing between Grandmasters Sergey Kudrin from Connecticut and Darmen Sadvakasov from Kazakhstan. Kudrin won that game and took clear first place.
Kudos to these players from Northern California who finished near the top of their sections.

1st U2500 GM Vinay Bhat, East Bay
2nd U2300 NM Michael Aigner, NM Steven Zierk, IM Walter Shipman, Rohan Agarwal, Dana Mackenzie

1st-2nd Igor Margulis, San Francisco

Class A:
1st Hayk Manvelyan, East Bay

Class B:
1st-6th Richard Haggstrom, Sacramento
1st-6th Kesav Viswanadha, South Bay
1st-6th Robert Russo, Sacramento

Class C:
1st-3rd Sam Young, Sacramento

Class D:
1st-2nd Suraj Nair, Sacramento
1st-2nd Darren Chapla, Chico

Class E:
1st Merak Arriola, East Bay
2nd-3rd Larry Webb, Sierra foothills
2nd-3rd Colin Chow, Sacramento

Saturday, October 25

Golden Knights

I attended the college football game this evening at UC Davis. A highlight came at halftime when seven skydivers from the Army's elite Golden Knights landed on the field. (You may wonder if there is a connection to chess. Only in the name: the USCF correspondence chess open tournament each year is also called the Golden Knights.) As a footnote, the Aggies won the Great West Conference game by 34-21 over North Dakota.

Thursday, October 23

World Youth Results

(Vung Tau lies on the coast of the South China Sea. Photo from German club website.)

The World Youth Chess Festival in Vung Tau, Vietnam invites only the best of the best from around the world. Anyone who holds their head high among this competition is a champion, even if they don't finish in the top three.

Northern California's three champions have not had it easy so far. FM Sam Shankland drew with a Grandmaster yesterday in U18, but lost to an equally strong International Master today. Still, his overall performance rating remains above the IM norm threshold. Proving that lightning doesn't strike twice, FM Danya Naroditsky has uncharacteristically struggled in U14 with two draws and a loss. Last but not least, Alisha Chawla plays the hardest event of her young life in Girls U8, but she is on the scoreboard with a win.

Results updated for round 6 on Friday morning. Danya is back on track after a rough start. Alisha won her second game. The next round is on Sunday.

I update the daily results below. Check out the games from rounds 1-5 at

Round 5:
  • Sam lost to IM Ivan Saric (2516) of Croatia
  • Danya beat UNR from Finland
  • Alisha lost to UNR from Vietnam
Round 6:
  • Sam lost to 2377 from Russia
  • Danya beat 2132 from Azerbaijan
  • Alisha beat UNR from Kenya
Standings after round 6:
  • FM Sam Shankland has 3.5/6, 21st place, 2410 performance
  • FM Danya Naroditsky has 4.0, tied for 10th place
  • Alisha Chawla has 2.0
Unfortunately, the playing conditions remain poor due to the tropical heat without fans, air conditioning or other means of ventilation. Danya's father, Dr. Vladimir Naroditsky collected testimonials from parents over the past two days for this summary:
  • "Yesterday was very hot, my daughter said she had a headache. I felt the same way, I do not think the air conditioner was on. A lot of kids felt exhausted. I think we should complain about it."
  • "The accounts are consistent with no air conditioning and all doors and windows to the arena open. I do not know the exact temperature but my wife and I are sweating just sitting in our seats watching the chess."
  • "I have the same sentiment regarding the playing hall. The air condition is not working and not enough ventilation. I think this is unacceptable playing condition for our kids."
  • "The playing conditions today were horrible, as it was too hot. There were no fans or AC. The rest rooms are below standard. The day got particularly tougher as there were two rounds today. If the organizers can arrange for some fans at least, that may be good."
  • "I do not know how high the temperature is, but it is certainly hot and humid. I do not know what can be done; it is a big area (stadium) and is relatevely open (bad for air conditioning), but with quite bad ventilation."
  • "Yes, this is absolutely correct. We went to complain and they said that they are fixing the A/C. It's been very hot there all three days but today is definitely the worst."
Hopefully enough coaches and parents from different countries complain so that the organizers will address this problem, either by fixing the A/C or at least installing an army of fans. If the parents suffer while just sitting and waiting, then I worry about the young chess players who try their best for 4+ hour long games in this heat.

Wednesday, October 22

What Is Wrong with Kramnik?

(Can white take the d4 pawn, intending to skewer the black queen and the knight on d7?)

The World Chess Championship in Bonn, Germany has taken an unexpected turn. Please stand up if you predicted that Vishy Anand would lead by three games at the midway point of his 12 game match against Vladimir Kramnik. The relevant question today is not "Will Anand win?" but rather "What is wrong with Kramnik?" For all practical purposes, the final games of the match merely serve as Anand's coronation as the 15th undisputed World Chess Champion.

The match turned with a pair of victories by Anand from the black side of Meran, which is a sharp variation of the semi-Slav defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6). The semi-Slav is Anand's favorite opening against 1.d4 and he is not afraid to mix it up. Black's king was stranded in the center in both contests, but he had counterplay on the g-file. In Game 3, Anand crashed through on the kingside and Kramnik subsequently blundered in a wild position. In Game 5, Anand again equalized and then Kramnik allowed a spectacular combination by capturing the poisoned pawn on d4 (see diagram at top of article). The game ended with 29. Nxd4?? Qxd4 30. Rd1 Nf6! 31. Rxd4 Nxg4 32. Rd7+ Kf6 33. Rxb7 Rc1+ 34. Bf1 Ne3!! 35. fxe3 fxe3 0-1
In between these two wins, Anand played the white pieces in Game 4. Perhaps content to just consolidate his lead, white achieved nothing in the Queen's Gambit Declined and a draw was agreed before move 30. By the time Game 6 began, Kramnik was two points in the hole and desperate for a win with either color. He overpressed in a position that he should have looked for ways to draw and Anand calmly scored another point. The score now stands at 4.5-1.5 in favor of the Indian superstar. After three misses, Kramnik is like the hero in Ernest Thayer's famous sonnet about America's pasttime: "mighty Casey has struck out."

The next two games are scheduled for Thursday and Friday at 6am PDT. Due to the end of summer time in Europe, the final four games on Sunday and next week begin at 7am. However, the match will immediately end when (if) one player achieves an insurmountable score of 6.5 points. Regardless of the winner, both players will split the 1.5 million Euro purse evenly. The catch is that the World Champion is guaranteed another rich purse soon while the loser fights his way through the complicated qualification cycle.

Concerns About Organization from Vietnam

Dr. Vladimir Naroditsky remained at home to tend to business while his wife Lena and son Danya traveled to Vietnam. Here are observations from several emails that Vladimir asked me to share with the public so that word gets out.
  • The weather conditions are almost unbearable, especially since the air conditioning does not work inside the playing halls. Playing conditions are inhumane!
  • There were no board numbers for round 1. Some players moved several times, apparently without explanation due to the language barrier.
  • ID tags for some players were mixed up, creating confusion. Danya's round 1 opponent showed up late and appeared to be significantly older than 14.
  • Internet does not work inside the hotel as promised, although some nearby hot spots have limited wireless access.
  • On the bright side, the local people are very friendly and genuinely try to help.
How is this different from previous years? Certainly any large tournament with participants representing many different countries will have difficulties related to the language barrier and vastly different cultural expectations. Often the local organizers and hotel staff are ill-prepared for the crush of people from around the world. Nonetheless, most reports from the 2007 World Youth in Antalya, Turkey were positive with only minor inconveniences. On the other hand, the 2005 World Youth in Belfort, France was an unmitigated disaster! You may contrast Antalya and Belfort by reading the threads on the CalChess forums.

World Youth 2008 from Vietnam!

Readers of my blog may already be aware that the World Youth Chess Festival began last weekend in Vung Tau, Vietnam. The American delegation flew between 20 and 30 hours and then endured a bumpy 2-3 hour bus trip. On one hand, the venue is a beach resort on the southern tip of the country, about 100km outside of Ho Chi Minh City. On the other hand, the weather reports give temperatures in the 90s with extreme humidity, worse than Florida in the summer!

A total of 885 participants from 73 countries arrived in Vietnam for this annual tournament. Among this crowd are 28 American youths plus parents and coaches. The players compete in 12 sections: U18, U16, U14, U12, U10 and U8 for both boys (open) and girls, with age determined as of January 1, 2008. The competition is brutal and even the strongest often finish far away from the podium. The top three in each section earn medals and other prizes, including IM norms or automatic FM titles (depending on which age).

Three Northern California residents have made the trip to Vung Tau. FM Danya Naroditsky (left photo) is a true veteran of these tournaments, winning the World U12 last year. He moved up to U14 in 2008. FM Sam Shankland (center photo) also participated last year and now competes in the strong U18 section with 3 GMs and 9 IMs. Alisha Chawla (standing next to GM Susan Polgar in right photo) is the newcomer, playing in the Girls U8 division at her first international event. I plan to follow all three players on this blog.

The schedule includes rounds on most days at 3:00pm local time, which translates to 1:00 in the morning in California. The first round was on Monday and the final round will be on October 30. Exceptions: Both rounds 3 and 4 are today while Saturday is a rest day.

Here are the results from the early rounds. All ratings are FIDE. Sam is rated 2436, Danya is 2382 while Alisha is unrated.

Round 1:
  • Sam beat 2142 from Vietnam
  • Danya drew 2017 from Vietnam
  • Alisha lost to UNR from Bulgaria
Round 2:
  • Sam beat 2255 from Austria
  • Danya drew 2046 from China
  • Alisha lost to UNR from Mongolia
Round 3:
  • Sam beat 2263 from Iran
  • Danya beat 2044 from Canada
  • Alisha lost to UNR from Vietnam
Round 4:
  • Sam drew GM Ngoc Truong Son Nguyen (2567) of Vietnam
  • Danya lost to 2093 from Switzerland :-(
  • Alisha beat UNR from Sri Lanka
Standings after round 4:
  • FM Sam Shankland has 3.5, tied for 1st, 2643 performance
  • FM Danya Naroditsky has 2.0
  • Alisha Chawla has 1.0
In contrast to some previous editions of the World Youth, this year's organizers have a strong web presence, albeit sadly without any live games broadcast. Chess Life Online reports daily with results from the American delegation, including photos and an exciting game annotated by FM Shankland. Web portal has posted colorful photos and some stories from the tournament. They also promise to upload more games on a java viewer (only round 1 so far).

Tuesday, October 21

Wrap-up of the Western States Open

Click here for the crosstables on the Reno chess website. The tournament has been USCF rated.

I returned home after a long and tiring weekend in Reno and slept in my familiar bed again. Reno has always been one of my favorite destinations, but this year's Western States Open was up and down both at the chess board and away from it. My wheelchair problem (see previous blog entry) distracted me a lot, although fortunately, my joystick worked well after I "fixed" it using my finger. Nonetheless, I blundered left and right in my final three games, still somehow scoring 1.5/3 after my last round opponent repeated moves in a winning position. Maybe I was more frustrated than usual because all of my opponents were from Northern California. My final score of 3.0/6 (two wins, two losses, a draw and a bye) was good for $135 in prize money, but I lost 3 USCF and 4 FIDE rating points. I picked up another $120 net from gambling. It could have been worse. :-\

Most of my half dozen students finished with respectable results. On the bright side, Nicholas (photo at upper left) was undefeated at 4.0/6 in the A section and 11 year old Yian (photo at upper right) gained valuable experience from 3.5/6 in the Expert section. NM Steven Zierk continued two contradictory streaks: he remained undefeated lifetime against Grandmasters by drawing with Alex Yermolinsky in round 1, but he also added to an otherwise mediocre record against IMs and 2400s. Getting to 2300 and beyond was never supposed to be easy. Congratulations to Sacramento area 12 year old Suraj (see photo at right) for winning the D section on tiebreaks with 5.0/6!

I expect the organizers to upload the final standings and submit the tournament for rating by Wednesday. In the meantime, please check out over 60 photos at Flickr: click to view the album or the slideshow.

My final report will appear at the USCF homepage later this week. Kudos to GM Sergey Kudrin for taking top honors at 5.0/6. Three tied for 2nd at 4.5: GM Jaan Ehlvest, GM Melik Khachiyan and IM Enrico Sevillano (photos below from left to right).

Sunday, October 19

Update From Reno

I have been unable to post on this blog in two days due to a hectic tournament schedule and some unexpected trouble with my wheelchair. On Friday night, the joystick on my control box became loose and a safety feature prevented me from even turning the power on. After the round 2 game, my opponent GM Vinay Bhat (photo at top left) kindly pushed the wheelchair to my hotel room. For about 18 hours, I was stuck. Then in a classic moment of engineering, my dad and I stuck our fingers into the joystick, wiggled them around and presto! I still do not know exactly what went wrong.

To make a long story short, I have two wins, one loss to GM Bhat and an emergency half point bye in round 3 for a total score of 2.5/4. I should face a GM or IM on Sunday morning. Kudos to my student NM Steven Zierk (photo at top right) for continuing his undefeated record against Grandmasters by drawing with GM Alex Yermolinsky in the first round. He now has 2.0/4 after losing to IM Enrico Sevillano. My other students are entered in the Expert and A sections--all with mixed results so far.

Check out my Western States Open story on Chess Life Online and the accompanying slideshow on my Flickr album. I hope to update more photos later today.

In other news: Viswanathan Anand leads the World Chess Championship by 2.5-1.5 after winning with black in game 3 on Friday. I have updated the right sidebar after each game. Also, the World Youth Chess Championship begins tonight in Vietnam. Local representatives are FM Danya Naroditsky in U14, FM Sam Shankland in U18 and Alisha Chawla in GirlsU8. I will have more coverage of both major events over the coming weeks.

Thursday, October 16

Fpawn Has Landed in Reno

Hello readers from the self-proclaimed "Biggest Little City in the World": Reno, Nevada! I arrived a day early for the 26th annual Western States Open chess tournament that begins at noon on Friday. The main event draws about 350 players of all ratings, including at least 15 Grandmasters and International Masters, making this one of the strongest annual events on the West Coast. Many players, myself included, return each year in part because of the hospitality by organizer Jerry Weikel and the Sands Regency hotel.

I expect to post occasional updates on this blog. Seven of my students will join me this weekend for some serious fun on the 64 squares. Make sure to also check Chess Life Online for the two or three columns that I will write over the next five days.

Kramnik Draws with the Nimzo Indian

(Photo of the stage during game 1 from the Chessbase website.)

Game 2 of the
World Chess Championship took the same number of moves (32) as game 1, but most observers would agree that the action was more exciting. Defending champion Vishy Anand surprised many by playing 1.d4 in his first game with the white pieces, as he is known primarily as a king pawn player. In response, the challenger Vladimir Kramnik tried the Nimzo Indian defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4). After 4.f3 and 6... c5, both Grandmasters looked for a sharp fighting contest. Kramnik would later sacrifice his h-pawn for pressure against Anand's monarch. Unfortunately, the combatants prematurely agreed to a draw when black threatened to win back the c-pawn. Read Chessbase news for commentary by super-GM Levon Aronian and light analysis of game 2 by IM Malcolm Pein

The third game is on Friday beginning at 6am PDT. So far, the organizers have imposed a 30 minute internet delay on broadcasting the moves of the match, but I hope that they will see the light and open up live coverage of the games on ICC and other online servers. Regardless of the delay, ICC has exciting daily audio analysis by invited Grandmasters on its ChessFM program (Jan Gustafsson on Friday and Nick deFirmian on Saturday).

I will update the sidebar of this blog for each game. If you have not already, please vote in the poll by Friday morning: Who will win the World Chess Championship?

Tuesday, October 14

World Chess Championship Begins

(Kramnik on the left and Anand were all smiles at the walk-through on Sunday, prior to the start of the much anticipated match. They even played a pseudo game: 1.g4 b5 1/2.)

The official World Chess Championship between reigning champion Viswanathan Anand and challenger Vladimir Kramnik began this morning in Bonn, Germany. The first game saw Kramnik essay the solid Exchange Slav as white and, not surprisingly, a draw was agreed in an opposite bishop endgame on move 32. Boring! The Grandmasters will meet another 11 times between now and November 2, with one game daily except for rest days on every third day. Each game begins at 3pm CET = 6am PDT and can take upwards of six hours. In case of a 6:6 tie, the combatants will square off in tiebreaks: first four rapid games of 25+10, then two blitz games of 5+10 and, if necessary as a last resort, an Armageddon game. Unlike previous championships, there are merely 12 games (not 24) and the defending champion does not hold draw odds in case of a 6:6 tie.

Both Anand and Kramnik are well-qualified for this title fight. They have occupied two of the top three spots in the world rankings since the mid 1990s. Anand won the 2007 World Chess Championship held in Mexico City with an undefeated performance in an 8 player double round-robin. Many of the world's top players participated in this amazing tournament, but not Veselin Topalov, Vassily Ivanchuk and the young rising star Magnus Carlsen. Before Mexico City, Kramnik had reigned as the champion for seven years. He defeated the legendary Garry Kasparov in 2000 and then defended his title in matches against Peter Leko (2004) and Topalov (2006). While nobody questions Anand's skill, he lacks the strong credentials of Kramnik in the intense arena of match play. Will this give the challenger an edge?

Here is the tale of the tape, so to speak:

Viswanathan Anand (2783)

  • Born December 11, 1969 in India
  • FIDE World Champion, 2000-2002
  • 15th Classical World Champion, 2007-present
  • Seconds: Peter Heine Nielsen, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Radoslaw Wojtaszek
  • First major success: won 1987 World Junior and became India's first ever Grandmaster in 1988.

Vladimir Kramnik (2772)

  • Born June 25, 1975 in Russia
  • 14th Classical World Champion, 2000-2007
  • Seconds: Peter Leko, Sergei Rublevsky, Laurent Fressinet
  • First major success: +8 =1 -0 at Manila Olympiad in 1992.
Classical (51 games): +6 =41 –4 or 26.5-24.5 for Kramnik
Anand is White (21 games): +2 =19 –0 for Anand
Kramnik is White (30 games): +6 =22 –2 for Kramnik

I plan to provide coverage of most of the games in this match on my blog. I will include any exciting stories that I pick up around the internet. Hopefully the chess community can avoid another major scandal like ToiletGate between Kramnik and Topalov in 2006. Please let there be many exciting sacrifices and important opening novelties for all the chess fans around the world to enjoy!

You may follow this match on the internet. Almost every serious chess website seems to have some coverage.
  • Check this blog for stories. I will update the side bar with games and score each day. Don't forget to vote on my poll (see side bar) before game 3 begins on Friday!
  • Visit the official World Chess Championship website.
  • Internet Chess Club has live Grandmaster commentary on ChessFM radio and exciting video reports from the tournament venue.
  • Read Chessbase news and The Week In Chess for daily photo reports.
  • The USCF homepage started out with an interesting Fan's Guide for this match.

Episode 7 of Chess Diva Show

Amateur producers Lauren and Barbara Goodkind recently filmed the seventh show in their Chess Diva instructional series. Check it out either on the Community Access TV channel if you live in or near Palo Alto or by clicking on the Google viewer embedded below.

In a press release, the producers described their latest program: "Learn about some cool chess positions, watch Barbara and Lauren play a five minutes blitz game and learn what you need to know to play in a United States Chess Federation chess tournament. We explain how to use the clock, good sportsmanship and other basic rules."

The Alliance for Community Media recently announced the Western Access Video Excellence Awards. One of the three finalists in the Instructional Programming category was Episode 6 of Chess Diva! The winner will be announced on October 24 at an awards ceremony in Denver. Congratulations to Lauren and Barbara!

Sunday, October 12

Vote on Sunday for Earth vs Space

(Earth vs Space after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.Bb5. Black to move.)

The Earth vs Space match is proceeding slowly but steadily on the USCF website. In a unique outreach from a high orbit on the International Space Station (see photo at right), astronaut Greg Chamitoff is playing a chess game against all of us Earthlings. The opening is a London system featuring 3.Bf4 instead of the far more popular (among masters) move 3.Bg5.

On Saturday afternoon, the astronaut played the natural but novel response 5.Bb5 (c3 or Be2 are common). Actually, it isn't entirely a novelty, as my database turns up a game between two Cuban Grandmasters (Nogueiras vs Bruzon 2005) which continued with 5... Bg4 6.Nbd2 cxd4 7.exd4 Qb6. The good news for us Earthlings is that black won.

What four moves will the national champions from Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue, Washington recommend to us? And more importantly, what will humanity decide to play? Here's your chance, yes YOU, to vote! The match director emailed me that the polls will be for much of the day on Sunday, beginning in the early afternoon. Let's rock the vote! (You do not have to register at the USCF website to vote. This event is open to ALL chess players, including non-USCF members.)
Update on Sunday afternoon: Our choices are Qb6, Qa5+, e6 and Bd7. The move Bg4 played by GM Bruzon was not seriously considered by the kids from Washington.

Friday, October 10

SuperNational IV Website Launched

(I plan to attend this tournament as a coach and recommend that students begin considering the trip as well. It is THE event in 2009, all under one roof! Even if you wait until next year to make the final decision, I suggest reserving a room now. Despite the economy, I expect the turnout to exceed 5000 players plus family and coaches!)

Announcement from the USCF

Here is the link to the SuperNationals website -

You can find tournament and hotel information as well as discounts and local attractions. We will be adding more in the days to come.

Please forward this to as many people as possible and encourage them to visit the site and pass the word to others. We are trying to demonstrate to potential sponsors that our scholastic audience is much larger than those who come to the events. Hits (and separate IP addresses) on the website are a concrete way of making that point.

Thank you for your help. If you think of FAQ’s or other information which would be helpful to add for this event, please let us know. We look forward to your feedback.