Tuesday, June 16

Blog Poll: National Master Watch

(Photos from left to right: Yian Liou, Evan Sandberg and Samuel Sevian.)

I just opened up an exciting new poll on the right sidebar of my blog, underneath my tournament calendar. Which Bay Area junior will become the next National Master? A brief look at recent results shows a tight two-way race with a third highly talented kid quickly closing the gap to the leaders. Who will reach the 2200 mark first? Please vote in this poll by the end of June.
  • 6th grader Yian Liou (2147) earned 1st on tiebreaks in the High School section of the CalChess Scholastics, defeating the top seed and defending champion in the final round. In his last 10 tournaments, Yian finished with six 2200+ performances, including three over 2350. He gained 76 rating points in just the past two months. Most impressively, Yian has already defeated my longtime nemesis IM Ricardo DeGuzman not once but twice, and also drew a third game!
  • 10th grader Evan Sandberg (2136) also shared 1st in the High School section of the CalChess Scholastics and will attend the Denker Tournament for High School Champions. Playing in five tournaments over the last six weeks, Evan gained a grand total of 101 points. On the way to 2nd place at the Stamer Memorial, he scored an undefeated 3.0/4 against 2100+ opponents for a 2385 performance rating.
  • 2nd grader Samuel Sevian (2049) is rated nearly 100 points lower than Yian and Evan, but is also much younger and perhaps the most talented of all three. He is already the youngest expert ever in America and has an excellent chance to break Nicholas Nip's record for the youngest master. Samuel gained 80 rating points in the last two tournaments, notably drawing against five masters in a row (IM DeGuzman, two FMs and two NMs) at the Bay Area Chess Memorial Day event for a 2308 performance rating!

Friday, June 12

Class of 2009

Congrats High School Graduates 2009!!!

(From left to right: Mike Zhong, Jeff Young and Aaron Garg.)
Update June 12: New photos of Jeff and Aaron.)

As the 2009 graduating class moves on, it is time to briefly reflect on one of the largest classes of chess players ever in Northern California. The graduating seniors include the highest rated local junior ever and five additional players who have been rated over 2000.

They also achieved many noteworthy successes over the years. Sam Shankland flew all the way to Vietnam and came home with a share of first place at the 2008 World Youth U18, thereby earning the esteemed title of International Master. Michael Zhong battled four straight teenage masters en route to a tie for first place at the 2007 National High School Championship. Jeff Young stared down IM Salvijus Bercys to help Saratoga High School earn third place at the 2006 National High School Championship. Veni, vidi, vici!

Here is a list of all of the Bay Area's chess players who are graduating from high school this month. For those whom I know, I included the university that they will attend. Please contact me if I left someone out.
  1. IM Sam Shankland 2474 - Brandeis University (Boston)
  2. Adarsh Konda 2108 - ?
  3. Mike Zhong 2092 - Columbia University (New York City)
  4. Alan Naroditsky 2058 - UCLA
  5. Jeff Young (Saratoga H.S.) 1990 - UC Berkeley
  6. Louiza Livschitz 1981 - ?
  7. Sreekar Jasthi 1905 - Emory University (Atlanta)
  8. Greg Bodwin 1882 - ?
  9. Aaron Garg (Saratoga H.S.) - Stanford University
  10. Ken Law - ?
  11. Alex Lun (Saratoga H.S.) - UC San Diego
  12. Avinash Kumar (Saratoga H.S.) - Marquette University (Milwaukee)
I had ties to almost everyone on this list. Four were private students: Jeff, Alan, Aaron and Ken. Then Alex, Avinash and Greg participated in some group classes in Saratoga. And although I never formally taught Sam and Mike, I developed friendships with both at tournaments and on ICC. Here's my brief tribute to some of the graduates.
  • Jeff, I knew you since you were in 7th grade. You have grown from 1200 to 2000, and from a scrawny kid into a confident and outgoing young man. For many years, you and David Chock were the heart and soul of the Saratoga team, climaxing with a magical result in Milwaukee. Congratulations on your engineering scholarship!
  • Alan, you amazed me by cheerfully accepting your role in your family's chess hierarchy, and yet you managed to step out of the shadows to become a star in your own right. You defied the trend of cutting back in chess during the later years of high school, despite your talent in piano and a heavy courseload at a prestigious school.
  • Aaron, I worked with you for two years but knew you much longer. You always were the genius, but in many ways a gentle giant. I can't believe you got accepted at MIT, Harvard, Yale and literally everywhere else. Go Stanford! Beat Cal!
  • Alex and Avinash, I didn't know you two as well as your teammates. You contributed to the positive chemistry that made the Saratoga team so enjoyable for everyone. From time to time, your games made us laugh, both brilliancy and blunder.

Western Invitational Chess Camp

(Photo of skittles action from 2008 camp. Click here for more pictures.)

For those readers who have not yet made up their summer plans, I have one more option to consider. I am posting this for my friend FM Robby Adamson from Tucson, Arizona.

For yet another year, Robby hosts the Western Invitational Chess Camp that he bills as the strongest in the USA. Players must be rated a minimum of 1500 to be invited and the top group of participants should have an average rating near 2200. The instructors include Grandmasters Alexander Onischuk, Alex Yermolinsky and Alejandro Ramirez plus other veteran masters.

The dates for this year are July 12-16 (yes, it starts on a Sunday) with the optional Ye Olde Pueblo Open tournament on the following weekend. The camp schedule includes two daily lectures, a GM simul, a G/35 tournament (USCF quick rated), blitz and various fun activities each evening. For more information, please visit the Western Invitational Chess Camp website or contact Robby Adamson by email. A couple of folks from Northern California already attended and came back with enthusiastic reviews.

Saturday, June 6

CalChess Top 20 List for July 2009

(Photos of nationally #1 ranked 8-year old Samuel Sevian on left and #1 ranked 7-year old Tanuj Vasudeva on right.)

This post contains two lists of the top juniors in Northern California on the July USCF rating supplement. These ratings include the CalChess Scholastics, Powell G/45 plus Spring Tuesday Night Marathon from the Mechanics Institute, and the Bay Area Chess Memorial Day tournament.

(Nationally ranked gold, silver and bronze medalists are highlighted in color.)

CalChess Top 20 Elementary School -- July 2009

1 Yian Liou 2140
2 Samuel Sevian 2037
3 Kyle Shin 1956
4 Jack Zhu 1934
5 Daniel Zheng 1902
6 Jerome Sun 1867
7 Daniel Liu 1829
8 Tanuj Vasudeva 1821
9 Hemang Jangle 1804
10 James Kwok 1798
11 Cameron Wheeler 1780
12 Paul Richter 1776
13 Vignesh Panchanatham 1714
14 Allan Beilin 1713
15 Neel Apte 1703
16 Kesav Viswanadha 1700
17 Colin Chow 1675
18 Daniel Ho 1637
19 Armaan Kalyanpur 1633
20 Eric Chen 1599

CalChess Top 20 Junior High and High School -- July 2009

1 IM Sam Shankland 2474
2 FM Danya Naroditsky 2378
3 NM Steven Zierk 2312
4 NM Greg Young 2249
5 NM Rohan Agarwal 2214
6 Adarsh Konda 2108
7 Evan Sandberg 2098
8 Michael Zhong 2092
9 Hayk Manvelyan 2071
10 Alan Naroditsky 2058
11 Jeff Young 1990
12 Arthur Liou 1985
13 Michael Lin 1984
14 Sam Bekker 1958
15 Louiza Livschitz
16 Andrew Yeh
17 Nicholas Karas
18 Sreekar Jasthi
19 Mukund Chillakanti
20 Rahul Desirazu

Fpawn Rating Lists -- July 2009

(CalChess K-12 co-champions Yian and Evan shared a laugh in my team room.)

I updated the Fpawn Rating List for the July USCF supplement which is already available at the MSA website. The names on top of the list have not changed this year, although the ratings keep moving upwards. I also included the rating gains over the past seven months. Bearing in mind how difficult it becomes to improve above 2000, the +84 and +68 jumps by CalChess K-12 co-champions Yian Liou and Evan Sandberg look even more impressive.

Top 5 Students Overall

  1. NM Steven 2312 (+54, photo at right by Richard Shorman)
  2. NM Gregory 2249
  3. Yian 2140 (+84)
  4. EvanS 2098 (+68)
  5. Alan 2058 (+6)
(Honorary: FM Danya 2378 and NM DanielS 2313)

My group of students gained 68 points on average just since December. Eight moved up by 100 or more points. Kudos to Daniel Chen for going from 892 to 1337 in half a year!

Largest Rating Gain (Past 7 Months)
  1. DanielC +445 (see photo at right)
  2. EvanY +138
  3. Arthur +135
  4. Roland +128
  5. Neel +126
  6. DanielL +117
  7. MichaelM +101
  8. Andrew +100
  9. Brian +98
  10. Yian +84

Tuesday, June 2

Practice Tactics at ChessTempo.com

(Black to move and win. Final position from Mamedyarov vs Kurnosov at the Aeroflot Open in Moscow. White resigned in disgust and then accused his opponent of cheating. Instead of being a bad sport, maybe he should have worked on tactics puzzles instead.)

This post has been reprinted from May 2008. The internet has so many cool websites that it is impossible to know each one. Sometimes you stumble on a new site either by luck or upon a suggestion. I came across the chess tactics server www.chesstempo.com on advice from one of my opponents. This chess tactics website is nearly everything that I could have dreamed of!

This Chess Tactics Server allows users to solve tactics puzzles and receive a rating. The standard rating requires only accuracy (get the correct solution) while the blitz rating requires accuracy plus speed (lose points if you take too long). The interface is quite easy to use. They are still growing; since last year, they added two endgame puzzle categories. Best of all, registering for this exciting website is free!


  1. Nearly 40,000 problems! You won't run out anytime soon.
  2. A new problem pops up automatically (click on "last problem for session" to stop).
  3. Wide variety of puzzles so that you won't get bored.
  4. Harder problems have a higher rating and you get more points for solving.
  5. All problems are from real games.
  6. Some positions are easy (e.g. 1-movers) but the correct move is difficult to spot.
  7. Can view your solving history and go back to problems you missed.
  8. Solve endgame puzzles, both theoretical and practical.
  1. A few problems are dumb (e.g. a piece is hanging).
  2. It is frustrating when you find an easily winning move, but there is a better one (e.g. winning queen instead of checkmate or different mates in 2). This has improved.
  3. There is no partial credit if you get the first move but mess up in the full variation.
  4. Standard ratings are lower than USCF. Ratings seem to be closer to USCF now.
  5. Blitz ratings are higher than USCF.
  6. Can't search the database for specific types of tactics. Premium option.
I highly recommend this site to all of my students as well as other chess players. One hint: When you find a good move, first stop and try to find a better one!

Monday, June 1

USCF Top 100 Juniors (U21) for June

A whopping ten Northern California juniors are ranked in the top 50 of the USCF Top 100 Juniors (U21) list for June! For those mathematically challenged, this statistic means 20% of the nation's elite juniors play in the Bay Area!

Five of these ten stars are still in K-12 school; the other five attend local universities. In fact, four of the top 100 young chess players in the country can be found on the Stanford University chess team (see photo above). I guess that's just one more reason to get good grades and apply to Stanford. Except for those offering chess scholarships, I wonder if any other universities can match this feat?
  • #6 IM Sam Shankland, 2481, 17
  • #11 FM Elliott Liu, 2405, 19 (attends Stanford; from S. California)
  • #15 FM Danya Naroditsky, 2378, 13
  • #20 NM Steven Zierk, 2333, 15
  • #26 NM Daniel Schwarz, 2313, 19 (attends Stanford)
  • #36 NM Julian Landaw, 2284, 19 (attends UC Berkeley; from S. California)
  • #42 NM Drake Wang, 2262, 19 (attends Cal Poly SLO)
  • #46 NM Greg Young, 2249, 14
  • #48 NM Jimmy Heiserman, 2236, 20 (attends UC Davis; from Texas)
  • #50 NM Rohan Agarwal, 2231, 16
  • #53 NM Vaishnav Aradhyula, 2226, 18 (attends Stanford; from Arizona)
  • #96 Christopher De Sa, 2158, 18 (attends Stanford; from Arizona)