Saturday, October 30

World Under 18 Champion!!!

I woke up early today just for this special moment. I logged into the official World Youth website and saw the final moves. Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was seeing; perhaps I wasn't awake yet. Alas, I woke up just in time to see my student become undisputed World Under 18 Chess Champion. Within 32 short moves, Steven Zierk crushed a 2495 rated Azeri Grandmaster, his fourth straight victory at the end of this two week long tournament.

Merely four years ago, Steven was a retired 1500 rated middle school player who played chess off and on as a hobby. Those who knew him already saw his talent back then. With a little motivation and guidance, Steven reached 2100 in the first year and 2300 in the second. Today, he stands as the newest International Master in the country, plus with a valuable Grandmaster norm to boot. His performance rating is a mindboggling 2723, more than 100 points above the GM norm requirement! Steven becomes the third Bay Area World Youth champion in four years, joining Daniel Naroditsky (U12) in 2007 and Sam Shankland (U18) in 2008.

What else can I say? Congratulations Steven! I am really proud of you.

Two other Americans won medals this year. Kudos to Kayden Troff of Utah, who was leading U12 for most of the tournament. He took home the silver medal after losing a crucial round 9 pairing. More kudos to talented youngster Jeffrey Xiong of Texas for winning another silver medal in U10. Click here for the complete results for Team USA.

Bay Area Final Standings at World Youth
  • U18: FM Steven Zierk 9.5 -- 1st place
  • U12: Kesav Viswanadha 4.5
  • U12: Allan Beilin 5.0
  • U10: Cameron Wheeler 8.0 -- 5th place
  • U10: Samuel Sevian 8.0 -- 6th place
  • U10: Vignesh Panchanatham 8.0 -- 9th place
  • U8: Rayan Taghizadeh 7.0
  • Girls-U8: Joanna Liu 6.5

Thursday, October 28

Round 8 Interviews with Zierk and Troff

Check out twin interviews with FM Steven Zierk and NM Kayden Troff starting at 4:13 in the round 8 video below. Rock on Steven and Kayden! And thanks once again to the Bulgarian chess news website Chessdom.

Wednesday, October 27

Kayden Troff and Steven Zierk Rock at World Youth

(The World Youth website includes literally hundreds of photos taken by Chessdom.)

NM Kayden Troff of Utah rocks the entire world in Halkidiki, Greece! He has scored an amazing 7.5 out of 8 and leads the U12 section by a full point with three rounds left. Kayden's pairings have certainly been difficult enough; counting tomorrow's round, he has played five of the top eleven seeds, for a performance rating of 2525 FIDE. Make sure to check out his interesting chess blog.

Bay Area FM Steven Zierk has an undefeated 6.5/8 in the U18 section, good enough for clear 2nd place. He already drew with the leader and his performance of 2649 easily exceeds the GM norm threshold. Unfortunately, Steven has faced only two of the required three Grandmasters; the other GMs all struggled to score even 5.0. What a big shame!

Bay Area Standings at World Youth (after 8 of 11 rounds)
  • U18: FM Steven Zierk 6.5 -- 2nd place
  • U12: Kesav Viswanadha 4.0
  • U12: Allan Beilin 3.5
  • U10: Cameron Wheeler 6.0 -- 6th place
  • U10: Samuel Sevian 5.5 -- 13th place
  • U10: Vignesh Panchanatham 5.5 -- 19th place
  • U8: Rayan Taghizadeh 5.0
  • Girls-U8: Joanna Liu 5.0 -- 18th place

Sunday, October 24

FM Zierk Leads Local Delegation at World Youth

(At left, array of flags flying outside playing hall. At right, both Steven and his young pupil Cameron have excellent results
. Visit Cameron's chess blog for more photos.)

The two week long World Youth Chess Championships in Halkidiki, Greece reached its midway point today as the 1400 participants played both rounds 5 and 6 (of 11). Tomorrow is the rest day, typically reserved for sightseeing tours and a well-deserved break from the chessboard. The tournament concludes with a closing ceremony after the final round on Saturday.

First-hand accounts from Halkidiki have been quite positive, fortunately in stark contrast to World Youth nightmares of yesteryear, e.g. Belfort, France in 2005. Check out this detailed chess blog written by 10 year old Cameron Wheeler and his father Rob. Great photos! In addition to pairings and standings, the excellent official website features round-by-round reports, PGN files with 50 top games per round, hundreds of photographs, and video interviews.

The eight CalChess juniors who flew to Greece fare quite well given the tough competition. Half of our kids are in the top 10 of their section! Samuel Sevian, the top seed in U10, remains at the top of the hill, having surrendered just one draw. A bit more surprising is the phenomenal result of Cameron Wheeler in the same section. Cameron scored four wins and two draws against opposition that includes a trio of young FIDE masters. His friend Vignesh Panchanatham recovered from a first round loss by winning four straight games (plus a draw for 4.5/6). Two of Coach Ted Castro's talented 8 year olds, Rayan Taghizadeh (photo at right) and Joanna Liu (wearing her Weibel shirt!) stand at 4.0 and 4.5 respectively. Lastly, Kesav Viswanadha and Allan Beilin may have earned less points than the others, only because they are playing in the more advanced U12 section.

However, the biggest story so far has been the phenomenal performance of FM Steven Zierk in the U18 division. My former star student stands at an undefeated 5.0 out of 6 despite facing three opponents rated around 2500, including a pair of Grandmasters. His performance rating of 2656 puts him on track for a GM norm, and nearly clinches an IM norm! He already drew against the leader, GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan of Armenia, in a wild game. In fact, he played three of the top six seeds, beating one and drawing with the other two, in spite of losing positions. Admittedly, anything is possible with five rounds to go, but Steven currently finds himself in a most enjoyable situation. Good skill, mate!

Bay Area Standings at World Youth (after 6 of 11 rounds)
  • U18: FM Steven Zierk 5.0 -- 2nd place
  • U12: Kesav Viswanadha 3.0
  • U12: Allan Beilin 2.5
  • U10: Samuel Sevian 5.5 -- 1st place
  • U10: Cameron Wheeler 5.0 -- 5th place
  • U10: Vignesh Panchanatham 4.5 -- 16th place
  • U8: Rayan Taghizadeh 4.0
  • Girls-U8: Joanna Liu 4.5 -- 8th place

Interview with Zierk in Greece

The round-by-round video reports from the World Youth in Greece have been a real pleasure to watch. Check out a 45 second interview with Bay Area representative FM Steven Zierk at the end of the round 4 video below. Thanks to the Bulgarian chess news website Chessdom for all of the media available online.

Friday, October 22

Los Angeles Norm Tournaments

Thanks to NM Ankit Gupta for sharing this news.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Chess Club will host an IM norm invitational next month. This ten player round-robin will be the first such event in LA for five years. The nine rounds are spread out over consecutive weekends (November 12-14 and 20-21) at the California Market Center on 110 East Ninth Street in downtown LA. The time control is 40/90, G/30 with an increment of 30 seconds from move 1.

The average rating of the field is 2338 FIDE, which makes it a respectable Category 4. Players must score 6.0 out of 9 to earn an IM norm. The field includes three International Masters: Enrico Sevillano (see photo at right), Tim Taylor and Zhanibek Amanov of Kazakhstan. Most of the norm seekers are role players for the Los Angeles Vibe team in the US Chess League: Roman Yankovsky, Alexandre Kretchetov, Tatev Abrahamyan, Joel Banawa, Jouaquin Banawa, Konstantin Kavutskiy and Ankit Gupta.

Metro Club director Michael Belcher hopes to organize more international tournaments in the future. Any readers with interest in such norm tournaments in the future (either IM or GM norm tournaments) should send an e-mail with subject "METROCHESSLA" to Michael Belcher at td(at)chess(dot)com and Ankit Gupta at gupta.ankit.h(at)gmail(dot)com. You will receive more information from the Metropolitan Chess Club mailing list.

Monday, October 18

October Top 100 Lists

(Left photo: Organizer Salman Azhar.)

(Right photo: Coaches Alan Kirshner and Ted Castro with 2010 K-3 National Champions.)

I recently updated the CalChess Top 100 and CalChess Top 20 lists for October. The October supplement includes tournaments rated by the first Friday in September, meaning the Labor Day Festival did not make the cut. The age is current as of September 1.

Kudos to 113 local juniors ranked among the top 100 of the nation for their age. Salman Azhar of Bay Area Chess and All Star Coach Ted Castro apparently discovered the mythical Fountain of Youth. No fewer than 50 Northern California kids are nationally ranked for age 10, 9, 8 or 7 & under, the majority affiliated with either Salman or Ted! I can't wait to see how many young masters we'll have in about five years.
(The Chesspunks train with FM Daniel Naroditsky for World Youth. From left to right: Vignesh, Allan, Danya, Kesav and Cameron. Photo from Cameron's blog.)

A record 16 kids age 17 & under are currently rated above 2000, including four in elementary school! New experts this year: Cameron Wheeler, Jack Zhu, Kesav Viswanadha, Daniel Liu, James Kwok and Andrew Yeh. Superstar FM Daniel Naroditsky, incredibly almost 2500, holds the only #1 ranking this month, but nine more youngsters are ranked among the top five for their age, including four #2's. Here's a big round of applause for ten unofficial gold medalists for October!

GOLD MEDAL (top 5)
Advait Budaraju (#4 age 5)

Josiah Stearman (#4 age 7)
Rayan Taghizadeh (#4 age 8)
Michael Wang (#5 age 8)
Samuel Sevian (#2 age 9)
NM Yian Liou (#2 age 13) -- Co-champion of US Cadet Invitational
FM Daniel Naroditsky (#1 age 14)
NM Gregory Young (#2 age 15)
NM Steven Zierk (#4 age 17) -- Winner of Denker High School Invitational
IM Sam Shankland (#2 age 18) -- Winner of US Junior Invitational

Players ranked in the top 15 and top 25 of the country also deserve a special recognition. The names shown in bold and italics are all current or former students of mine.

(top 15)

Ben Rood (#15 age 6)
Anthony Zhou (#8 age 7)
FM Tanuj Vasudeva (#8 age 9)
Cameron Wheeler (#6 age 10)
Vignesh Panchanatham (#10 age 10)
Udit Iyengar (#13 age 10)
Jack Zhu (#7 age 11)

Kesav Viswanadha (#9 age 11)
NM Evan Sandberg (#14 age 17)
NM Rohan Agarwal (#15 age 17)

Solomon Ge (#21 age 7)
Leyton Ho (#21 age 8)
Jeffrey Tao (#18 age 9)
Colin Chow (#17 age 10)
Richard Yi (#20 age 10)
Allan Beilin (#17 age 11)
Daniel Liu (#16 age 12)
Kyle Shin (#17 age 12)

Paul Richter (#21 age 12) -- CalChess K-12 Co-champion
Andrew Yeh (#30 age 14) -- CalChess K-12 Co-champion
Hayk Manvelyan (#19 age 16)

Saturday, October 16

Play Chess in Reno Next Weekend!

To those readers not flying to Greece on Sunday, I highly recommend the annual Western States Open in Reno starting in just five days. Unfortunately, I can't attend one of my favorite events because of an extended illness.

The Western States is one of the largest and strongest annual chess events west of the Continental Divide. Come to watch the Grandmasters play! Organizer Jerry Weikel, his wife Fran and the entire staff work diligently to make the weekend as enjoyable as possible for all. In fact, the Western States draws more players from Northern California than any local adult event except Labor Day. If you still have doubts, check out my article in the February 2008 issue of Chess Life about the 25th anniversary tournament in 2007.
  • Event: Western States Open
  • Dates: October 22-24
  • Location: Sands Regency in Reno (map)
  • Format: 6 round swiss in six sections (Open, Expert, A, B, C, U1400)
  • Schedule: Registration: Fri 9-10. Rounds: Fri 12, 7, Sat 10, 6, Sun 9:30, 4.
  • Time control: 40/2, 20/1, SD/30 (up to seven hours!)
  • Prize fund: $37,000 based on 400 players, $25,000 guaranteed.
  • For more information, visit the Reno Chess Club website.
  • At this late date, register on-site on Thursday evening or Friday morning.
  • Click here for the advance entry list (149 entries).
Although the tournament is held at a casino, the chess rooms are on the second floor, above the gambling floor. Surprisingly, the chess event is actually quite kid-friendly. One suggestion: If you request a room in the Regency or Dynasty towers, the children can ride the elevators between your hotel room and the tournament hall without passing through the casino at all.

Many students find it difficult to attend because of school. If you can, skip classes on Friday; otherwise take a round 1 bye and drive up in the early afternoon. Unlike most other 3-day tournaments, Reno doesn't offer a 2-day schedule. Despite this conflict, plenty of local juniors play in Reno each year, including many of my students.

Postscript: Students of mine may wish to visit my house in Davis on the way to or from Reno. I live just two minutes away from I-80. While I am sick, I would love to say hi. Please email me if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 12

Slow Chess League on ICC

The Team 45 45 League on ICC is accepting signups for a new tournament! You play one game each week for six weeks (plus playoffs) against different opponents at a mutually negotiated time. The time control is 45 minutes plus a 45 second increment for every move; a typical game may last 2-3 hours. The league, which has been active on ICC for a dozen years now, offers sections at 200 rating point intervals to allow everyone the opportunity to play opponents near their own rating.

I have played in T4545L for quite a few years and I also volunteer as a section TD. About 15 of my students have played in the league--great practice! There are several teams of Bay Area kids, both elementary school and middle school. Please email me for references. The league is both highly recommended and fun to play!

Before joining, please carefully read the Quick Guide and Player Handbook. The T4545L has some strict rules which require a modest level of personal responsibility. It also helps if you are somewhat flexible in your availability to play, either after school on several days of the week or on most weekends. If you're busy at a big weekend tournament, you may wish to ask your captain to sit out that week. Feel free to contact me with further questions.

World Youth in Greece

(Three of our biggest contenders
at World Youth: FM Steven Zierk, Samuel Sevian and Rayan Taghizadeh.)

The 2010 World Youth Chess Championships begin next week at the Porto Carras Grand Resort (see photo at right) in Halkidiki, Greece. From October 20 to 30, more than 1400 boys and girls will play 11 rounds in a dozen sections ranging from U8 to U18. The competition should be fierce since the most promising talents from around the world will attend. There are future Grandmasters in every section!

The American delegation consists of 40 players, 5 official coaches and over 100 people in all. The Bay Area is well represented with eight participants, all who will attend their first World Youth. Will anyone follow in the footsteps of FM Daniel Naroditsky (gold medal U12 in 2007) and IM Sam Shankland (equal first and bronze medal U18 in 2008)? We shall see!

Northern California representatives
  • U18 boys: FM Steven Zierk
  • U12 boys: Kesav Viswanadha and Allan Beilin
  • U10 boys: Samuel Sevian, Cameron Wheeler and Vignesh Panchanatham
  • U8 boys: Rayan Taghizadeh
  • U8 girls: Joanna Liu
Certainly I won't be the only one watching the results come in each day. Here's the round schedule. Most of the games begin at 16:00 Greek time, which is 6:00 in the morning in California. In past years, three to five boards from each section were broadcast live at the official website. Also make sure to follow youngster Cameron Wheeler and his father Rob, who plan to tweet and blog with daily results, stories and photos.

Good luck everyone! Go USA!!

Monday, October 11

Mike Goodall 1946-2010

An expert rated chess player, longtime USCF delegate, prominent San Francisco Bay Area event organizer, National Tournament Director and International Arbiter Mike Goodall passed away on October 5. Read the tribute written by Frisco Del Rosario for the chess blog at the San Francisco Examiner website.

Goodall had already lost a step or two when I first met him in the late 1990s. He remained active in the chess community through this year, playing Tuesday nights at the Mechanics' Institute and visiting the annual People's Open in Berkeley. He played in the first five rounds at the 2010 US Open just two months ago and directed the annual weekend tournaments in Santa Rosa until April 2009. It was obvious to me how much he loved chess and chess players. Like Bobby Fischer, Goodall moved on to a higher board at the appropriate chess age of 64.

Rest in Peace, Mike.

Does anyone have word of funeral arrangements? Please email me if you know.