Thursday, February 16

Magnus on 60 Minutes This Sunday!

It may seem a polite game of quiet wit, but chess grandmasters are really out for blood. The number-one chess player in the world, Norway's Magnus Carlsen, tells Bob Simon that he especially enjoys making his opponent suffer in a game that is downright war. Simon profiles the 21-year-old chess prodigy for 60 MINUTES on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Read more at CBS News. Also make sure to vote in my poll on the right sidebar for who you think is currently the strongest chess player in the World.

Monday, February 6

Bay Area Shines on All-America Team

(Photos of local talents by Richard Shorman and Mark Shelton at ChessDryad.)

January 31 Press Release from Jerry Nash:

The United States Chess Federation (USCF) is pleased to announce the 2012 All-America Team sponsored by Trophies Plus. Team members were announced at the 2011 National K-12 held this past November in Dallas, Texas. Each member of the 2012 All-America Team receives a team jacket and plaque.

The All-America Team was created in 1987 to honor the very best players ages 18 and under. The team, one of the highest national honors attainable by a young chess player, is selected on the basis of age, rating, and activities during that year, similar to the selection process of “all conference” sports teams. This year’s candidates were selected based on their age as of January 1, 2011, and their peak post-tournament rating from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. Since this award is a “post-season” selection, the minimum rating limits in each age group are reviewed annually by the USCF staff and the USCF Scholastic Council.


2011 All Americans from California

Age 17 (minimum peak rating 2400):

  • Steven Zierk, CA-N

Age 15 (minimum peak rating 2300):

  • Daniel Naroditsky, CA-N
Age 13 (minimum peak rating 2250):

  • Yian Liou, CA-N
  • Varun Krishnan, CA-S
  • Michael William Brown, CA-S

Age 11 (minimum peak rating 2100):

  • Kesav Viswanadha, CA-N
Age 10 (minimum peak rating 2050):

  • Samuel Sevian, CA-N
  • Cameron Wheeler, CA-N

Age 9 (minimum peak rating 1900):

  • Albert Lu, CA-S
  • Michael Wang, CA-N

Age 8 & Under (minimum peak rating 1800):

  • Rayan Taghizadeh, CA-N

Commentary: This may be old news to many, but the official Press Release came out only a week ago. It can't hurt to congratulate these talented juniors again. The local names should be familiar to those who read this blog regularly. Note that they are all a full year older now. One sharp observer pointed out that there are 11 players from California (8 from the Bay Area), 9 from New York and 8 from Texas. No doubt, we have witnessed a westward shift over the past decade.

Friday, February 3

Amateur Team Fever Hits the Bay

(The photo at left shows the
2011 Amateur Team West champions, USC captained by IM Jack Peters. On the right is the 2000-01 Stanford chess team at the Pan Am Intercollegiate, with FM Philip Wang playing against GM Yuri Shulman of UT-Dallas.)

For more than 35 years, the President's Day weekend has been dedicated to the People's Tournament. Unfortunately, the traditional venue at UC Berkeley no longer was available for the past four years. Local organizers tried to find a viable replacement.

Now I can recommend a unique national tournament on February 18-20: Amateur Team West. Instead of playing just for yourself, join a 4-player team (plus an optional alternate). If you score 2.5 or more, you win the match and your team earns a point. Pairings each round are done by team, not individual players. (The individual scores contribute to the first tiebreaker.) The team that scores the most out of 6 rounds wins the tournament and advances to an internet playoff against champions from East, Midwest and South.

Sound fun? Yeah! Here are the details:
  • Event: Amateur Team West (there's also East, Midwest and South)
  • Dates: Feb 18-20 (no 2-day schedule)
  • Venue: Santa Clara Hyatt Regency ($109/night)
  • Rating: Average of top 4 < 2200 + board 4 within 1000 of board 3; use January ratings
  • Format: 6-SS (team), all teams in one big section
  • Rounds: Sat/Sun 11:30 and 5:00, Mon 10:00 and 3:30
  • Time control: 30/90, SD/60 (max 5 hours per round)
  • Prizes: Team Trophy and four Commemorative Clocks: top 3 overall, top U2000, U1800, U1600, U1400, U1200, top family, top all-junior, top school, top company plus board prizes
  • Playoff: 1st place team faces winners from East, Midwest and South in an internet playoff!
  • Entry: $188/team or $47/player by Feb 14
  • Flyer:
  • Info:
If you are trying to win the tournament and thus qualify for the internet playoff, then you will probably need a team with average of 2100+. No doubt, whoever is on board 1 will face strong masters, probably a few IMs and maybe a GM. There are two common strategies to build a winning team:
  • Balanced team, meaning everyone between 2050 and 2300
  • Stack team, meaning two (or three) high rated masters and a low but underrated board 4 to keep the average under 2200 (note: the 1000 point rule prevents a team of 2600, 2500, 2400, 1299)
I prefer a balanced team, but the stack lineup can be very successful if board 4 is a B player who draws against experts. Keep in mind that this event uses the January rating list, generated shortly after Thanksgiving, so December and January tournaments do not count.

How to find a team? If you can play with your family, school, or long time chess buddies, then that always seems the most fun. Although everyone plays in the same section, there are plenty of class prizes (by rating) so a high average is not mandatory. If you can't find anyone, or have just 2 or 3 players, then register and get onto the "Looking for" lists.

Finally, make sure to pick a creative team name--there are special prizes! The 99 percent have already chosen to "Occupy FIDE". The "ChessPunks" (see photo at right from a year ago) may sound like a rap team from Da Hood, but instead they study the openings of classical composers like Taimanov, Reti and Philidor. And the organizer Salman Azhar asked me if I knew of any "fPWNers". Regretfully, I will not be able to attend, so my students will have to PWN for me.