Tuesday, March 31

Learning Chess from the Best

Two World Champions: Hou Yifan and Magnus Carlsen. Credit: Alina L' Ami

Editor's Note:  I first published this article about two years ago.  The thoughts remain vivid and relevant today.  If you are rated 1800 or higher and struggling to move to the next level, please take the following advice to heart.  Good luck! 

One of the best ways to improve in chess is to study master games.  I strongly encourage any student rated 1800+ to regularly review the games of recent elite Grandmaster tournaments.  Watch some of the world elite or pick your own favorites.  Bay Area fans might follow American top players Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, or perhaps local prodigies Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky.  Chinese families, for example, may cheer for Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi or 15-year old talent Wei Yi, currently the youngest player over 2700.  Those with ties to India may prefer former world champion Vishy Anand.

What should you pick from these games?  A typical A player can learn from the positional strategies and tactical creativity of the super Grandmasters.  As you improve, you should attempt to mimic the strengths of your superiors.  Experienced experts and masters know to focus on their favorite openings, picking up new variations based on the latest trends.  You will find out that the strongest players pick mainstream openings simply because they offer the best chances to win.

In some sense, growth of the internet has diminished the importance of studying collections of games by the champions of yesteryear.  Nonetheless, any true disciple of Caissa should read some of the classics, e.g. Alekhine's Best Games of Chess, Life and Games of Mikhail Tal and My Sixty Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer.  You should also take advantage of the expanding wealth of information online to supplement the foundation presented in these books.  The modern chess student benefits from the many resources at his fingertips.
 
My favorite website to watch tournaments is, of course, the Internet Chess Club (ICC).  You can find quality event coverage, analysis, photos and videos elsewhere too, including Chess Life Online, Chessbase, Chess.com, Chess24, Chessdom, and TWIC.  The MonRoi and CCA websites broadcast the top boards at many major American tournaments.  The CCSCSL in Saint Louis offers a wealth of content, from live coverage of the US Championship to dozens of YouTube lectures.

Upcoming Major Events
  • US Championship in Saint Louis, April 1-12
  • Gashimov Memorial in Azerbaijan, April 16-25
  • World Team Championship in Armenia, April 19-28
  • FIDE Grand Prix in Russia, May 13-27
  • Norway Chess, June 15-27
  • Dortmund Chess Classic, June 27 - July 5
  • Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, August 23 - September 4
  • World Cup in Azerbaijan, starts on September 10

Monday, March 30

FM Panchanatham Qualifies for Denker

Denker players (L to R): Jack, Colin, Vignesh, Teemu, Siddharth, Cameron,
Jordan Langland (TD), Pranav, Kesav and Tom Langland (TD).

The most heavily loaded Denker qualifier in CalChess history took place last weekend at Bay Area Chess headquarters in Milpitas.  Eight high school masters competed in a high class round-robin with an average USCF rating of  2296!  In a sign of the cutthroat competition, the top three seeds each scored a win and a loss in the head-to-head pairings.  However, the favorites finished undefeated against the other five participants, and the final standings depended on the number of draws allowed.

At the end of a long weekend, 15-year old FM Vignesh Panchanatham (2365) earned a trip to the Denker Invitational at the US Open in Phoenix.  IM Kesav Viswanadha (2386) and FM Cameron Wheeler (2386) took 2nd and 3rd places.  Vignesh beat Kesav in round 2, but lost to Cameron in round 6.  Alas, Cameron succumbed to Kesav in the finale.  Along the way, Vignesh surrendered just one draw, Kesav two, and Cameron three.   Click here for the Denker crosstable.

Denker Qualifier - Final Standings
Vignesh and Rayan at 2014 World Youth.
  1. FM Vignesh Panchanatham (2365) 5.5
  2. IM Kesav Viswanadha (2386) 5.0
  3. FM Cameron Wheeler (2386) 4.5
  4. NM Pranav Nagarajan (2200) 3.5
  5. NM Siddharth Banik (2298) 3.0
  6. NM Jack Zhu (2255) 3.0
  7. NM Colin Chow (2261) 2.5
  8. NM Teemu Virtanen (2218) 1.0

Two more qualifiers occurred alongside the Denker last weekend.  In another clutch victory for the #3 seed, 12-year old FM Rayan Taghizadeh (2226) scored 1.5-0.5 against his highest rated competitors to qualify for the Barber Invitational (restricted to K-8 players).  Click here for the Barber crosstable.  The National Girls Invitational qualifier followed a similar script, when 12-year old Simona Nayberg (1821) scored 1.5-0.5 against her top challengers.  Click here for the Girls crosstable.

Congratulations to Vignesh, Rayan and Simona for qualifying to represent Northern California in Phoenix during the first week of August.  These scholastic invitationals take place alongside the U.S. Open.   Best of luck in Arizona!!

Saturday, March 28

NorCal House 3-Peats as National Champs

In white sweatshirts from L to R: GM Sevillano, IM DeGuzman,
captain Ted Castro, and FM Cusi. Photo credit: Castro.

NorCal House of Chess dominated the U.S. Amateur Team, capturing the national playoff for an unprecedented third straight year.  They qualified for the playoff by winning all six matches at the Amateur Team West in Irvine on President's Day weekend.  Today, they won two more matches, first eliminating the North champion Pinoy of Chicago by 3.0-1.0 and then crushing the East champion Virginia Assassins by 3.5-0.5.

Organized by Metropolitan Chess L.A.
Before last year, no team had ever repeated in the playoff.  NorCal House now can claim a hat trick!

Major props to the following All Star cast of coaches and students.  GM Enrico Sevillano (2554), IM Ricardo DeGuzman (2453) and FM Ron Cusi (2302) capably manned the top three boards for two straight years.  Juniors Ronit Pattanayak (1480) and Evan Vallens (1377) shared duties on the bottom board, with Ronit winning two pivotal contests today against much higher rated opponents.  Club founder and organizer Ted Castro served as team captain.

See for playoff games at Chess Life Online and in the May edition of Chess Life magazine.

Friday, March 27

Reno Draws a Gaggle of Grandmasters

Large ballroom at the Sands in Reno!

The Larry Evans Memorial attracts a mix of experienced masters and motivated amateurs to Reno each Easter weekend, .This event, organized in the self-proclaimed Biggest Little City in the World, has always been one of my favorites!  The trip to Reno always feels like a mini vacation; and I'm hardly a gambler.  The competition is always stiff.  Indeed, the early entries include 6 Grandmasters!

Last year saw a solid turnout of 201 participants.  Check out the final results.

Details of the Larry Evans Memorial (formerly Far West Open)
  • Dates: April 3-5
  • Location: Sands Regency Casino in Reno, NV
  • Format: 6 rounds in 5 sections: Open, A, B, C, U1400
  • Time control: 40/2, G/1
  • Entry fee: $156-160 (add $11 more on-site)
  • Prize fund: $26,000 based on 275 entries
  • Read the complete details here.
  • Check advance entries by section (148 as of March 31).

Note to parents: I know conventional wisdom says that casinos and kids do not mix well, but this event seems to be an exception. Dozens of kids rated from 1000 to 2400 play each year. Simply request the Regency tower while checking in so that the kids can take the elevator directly to the playing hall without walking through the casino.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, please say hi in Reno! :-)

Play USCF Rated Online!


The US Chess Federation has partnered with two leading online chess sites to offer weekly rated quick and blitz tournaments on the internet.  Participants will earn a USCF online quick or online blitz rating, which are separate from the regular quick and blitz categories.  There are no plans at this time for online rated slow time control events.

You must have a current USCF membership in addition to an active account at either the Internet Chess Club or Chess.com.  The Internet Chess Club (ICC) requires a paid account to play in these events.  Special: USCF members may now claim a 20% discount!  On the other hand, Chess.com offers free basic accounts, but the many premium features are well worth the price.  While I am a longtime ICC administrator, I play blitz on both live servers.

ICC schedule:
3+2 blitz on Mondays @ 4pm PDT
12+3 quick on Saturdays @ 2pm PDT
Log into the main server and register under the Activities or Events console.  Alternatively, you can type "/tell uscf join" without quotes to sign up with the USCF robot.  Beware the popup form!  Tournaments open 20 minutes before start time, and are open to late join.

Chess.com schedule:  
3+2 blitz on Wednesdays @ 5pm PDT 
15+10 quick on Fridays @ 5pm PDT
Log into the Live Chess server (from Play menu) and join under the Tournaments tab.  Arrive a few minutes early--no late entries!  In addition, you must fill out the USCF Authentication form and request to join the USCF group at least one day in advance. 

Note 1: Schedule and time controls are subject to change.
Note 2: Each time control has an increment, e.g. 3+2 is G/3 min with 2 sec increment.
Note 3: You need your USCF ID and PIN to verify your membership before your first tourney.  You may find the PIN on the address label on Chess Life magazine, or by completing this form.

Sunday, March 22

Top Grandmasters to Play at US Champ

Hikaru Nakamura
Wesley So

The 2015 US Championship kicks off in a week, promising an exciting battle for first featuring two of the World Top 10 and six of the World Top 100. Check out the USCF Top 20 below.  Bay Area Grandmasters Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky, both now rated over 2700 USCF, continue their steady climb!  Click on the links to visit their personal websites.
      USCF Top 20 - April 2015

      1.Nakamura, HikaruNY2881World #3
      2.So, WesleyMN2841World #8
      3.Kamsky, GataNY2762World #61+ reigning champ
      4.Robson, RayMO2750World #96
      5.Onischuk, AlexanderTX2747World #73
      6.Shankland, SamCA2742World #88
      7.Naroditsky, DanielCA2724
      8.Lenderman, AleksandrNY2706
      9.Akobian, VaruzhanCA2703
      10.Gareyev, TimurNV2688
      11.Stripunsky, AlexanderNJ2676
      12.Ramirez, AlejandroTX2675
      13.Christiansen, LarryMA2661
      14.Erenburg, SergeyVA2655
      15.Shulman, YuryIL2649
      16.Sevian, SamuelMA2642
      17.Benjamin, JoelNJ2629
      18.Troff, KaydenUT2625
      19.Hess, RobertNY2621
      20.Becerra, JulioFL2619

Wednesday, January 14

Teenage Mutant Chess Masters

11 y/o NM Hans Niemann (by parents)
10 y/o NM Andrew Hong (by Shorman)



















The explosion of scholastic chess in the Bay Area has resulted in the proliferation of a mutant subspecies of chess master.  Most of these mental wizards mastered the relevant skills in their early teens, and a few even younger than that!  Overfeeding of adult masters forced the mutants to compete against each other, and they studied diligently merely to keep up with peers.

The net results are astonishing: no fewer than 23 local youngsters under age 18 lay claim to the distinguished title of National Master!  That's 7 more than just three months ago.  Even the legendary state High School championships of 1997 (Zilberstein, Bhat, Mont-Reynaud, Pruess, Frenklakh) and 2006 (Schwarz, D.Wang, Yap, M.Ho, Shankland, Naroditsky) cannot compare to the current tidal wave of precocious masters. 

Top CalChess Juniors (rated above 2150 on January supplement)

Rank Age Name USCF FIDE
1 17 IM Liou, Yian 2502 2417
2 15 IM Viswanadha, Kesav 2389 2404
3 14 FM Wheeler, Cameron 2383 2282
4 14 FM Panchanatham, Vignesh 2365 2303
5 17 NM Richter, Paul 2281 2220
6 14 NM Banik, Siddharth G 2274 2154
7 13 NM Wang, Michael 2269 2112
8 15 NM Chow, Colin 2265 2123
9 16 NM Zhu, Jack Qijie 2254 2092
10 12 FM Taghizadeh, Rayan 2238 2160
11 15 NM Virtanen, Teemu (FIN) 2213 1985
12 15 NM Beilin, Allan 2212 2093
13 17 NM Sun, Jerome 2211 2045
14 15 NM Nagarajan, Pranav 2202 2163
15 11 NM Niemann, Hans Moke 2200 2192
16 11 nm Stearman, Josiah Paul 2195 2007
17 10 NM Hong, Andrew Zhang* 2192 2146
18 13 FM Vasudeva, Tanuj 2190 2013
19 14 nm Jirasek, Ladia** 2190 1972
20 16       Klotz-burwell, Hunter 2188 2104
21 14 nm Iyengar, Udit 2177 2035
22 15 NM Zhao, Art*** 2174 2034
23 17 nm Liu, Daniel 2159 2091
24 15       Bick, Gabriel 2156 1939
25 14       Moy, Kevin 2155 1966
26 14 nm Eswaran, Ashritha 2150 1954
nm = NM but currently rated under 2200
* Andrew broke 2200 at New Year Open
** Ladia broke 2200 at NM Lawless Champ but fell below at New Year Open
*** Art broke 2200 at North American Open

All told, there are 2 International Masters, 4 FIDE Masters, 16 rated above 2200 on January rating list.  And here's a special round of applause for the newest masters, those who broke 2200 since this post dated September 19: Teemu, Jerome, Pranav, Hans, Andrew, Ladia and Art!  (Corrected 1/20)

Who's next?

Friday, January 9

Popular Chess Video Passes Milestone


This hilarious chess video comes from the US Chess School in December 2010.  The precocious lad was, at that time, the youngest chess master in the country at 10 years old.  He destroys overconfident teacher IM Greg Shahade in both the blitz game and the kibitzing, all the while sipping 7-Up.  The video resurfaced in the summer of 2013 on the Top 50 rankings at Reddit.com.  Today, four years after upload, it surpassed one million views on YouTube!

Whether you have seen it before or not, this video is definitely worth another look.    

Starting tomorrow, Sam Sevian, now a full-fledged Grandmaster, participates in the prestigious Tata Steel Tournament at Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands).  Many can remember him from Bay Area events as an 8 or 9 year old, already a dangerous opponent.  He certainly has come a long way, and his future appears very bright!

Wednesday, January 7

Happy New Year 2015!!

Bright winter day in the Austrian Alps.

Wishing Everyone Many Brilliant Moves for 2015!

The first Bay Area chess event of 2015 is in the books.  The New Year Championship drew 180 players to the San Francisco Airport Hyatt for $13,000 in prizes.  Elite Chinese Grandmaster Xiangzhi Bu dominated the strong Open section, finishing a full point ahead of the other two GMs.  Yours truly finished with a respectable but unsatisfying performance.  Click here for USCF rated results.

The largest local adult tournament of the year is just 10 days away!  The Golden State Open, which attracted almost 300 participants a year ago, guarantees a $25,000 prize fund.  Note that this event moved 25 miles south from Concord to the Dublin-Pleasanton Holiday Inn, near BART.  Register soon and view the advance entries at ChessAction.com.      

If you enjoy following top level international chess festivals, then you're in luck!  The Tata Steel Tournament at Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands) begins this weekend.  The Masters section features World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway plus four more of the Top 10: Italian-American Fabiano Caruana, defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia, Dutch-Russian Anish Giri, and the young American immigrant (from the Philippines) Wesley So.  The Challengers include the Czech David Navara, the young Chinese star Wei Yi, and a pair of American Grandmasters with strong ties to the Bay Area: Orinda native Sam Shankland and the now 14-year old prodigy Sam Sevian.  Each section is a 14-player round-robin, meaning 13 rounds, beginning on Saturday at 4:30am PST.  Make sure to check out the live internet coverage when you wake up (especially Twitter and Instagram).

Happy New Year to All!

Tuesday, January 6

Helicopter Parents at Scholastic Tournies

In the latest issue of CalChess Journal, President Tom Langland addresses the cultural phenomenon of helicopter parents at chess tournaments.  Indeed, any experienced coach or director can share their unique laundry list of nightmares involving overly affectionate parents.  Oxford Dictionaries define a helicopter parent as one "who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child."  These parents frustrate coaches, drive directors nuts, and do no favor to the kids they adore!

For more news and information about chess in Northern California, please visit the CalChess website.  Membership is $5/year.  Join here



"I see it all time, especially in chess tournaments. Parents who have extreme anxiety about separating from their child before their game starts are the chess equivalent of what is known as helicopter parents. Before a round starts, their child has to have all their pencils sharpened for them, tissues ready, their notation sheet filled out, drink bottle filled, snacks close at hand and that last minute hug (or two or three) before the round starts. Unfortunately, this causes trouble for the tournament directors who want to start the round on time. The TDs are stuck between upsetting parents who want to continue to cosset their child, and those parents, players and coaches who expect the tournament rounds to begin on time.

"I really do appreciate the problem a parent has with separating from their child and wanting to be comparable to a helicopter watching over them. Many times, I have been criticized that I don't know what it is like! Anyone who knows me understands I really do. In fact, that's how I ended up being most prolific National Tournament Director and International Arbiter in the US. When my sons started playing in like the second grade I remember being exactly like a helicopter. I would watch every move from afar, cringing every time they would hang their queen or miss a checkmate in one move. Finally at the State Grade Level Championship, I was driving my wife crazy and she suggested I volunteer to help direct to keep my mind busy. That's what got me here, and yes, I know exactly just how it feels to be a helicopter parent! It's tough!

"I've even seen helicopter parents vie against each other, like it’s a competition for who is the better parent. Two moms of opposing players aspire to be the last to leave their child. Which will get the final hug and a kiss in? All the while you can see the child hoping their parent would stop the fuss, go away and let them begin their game. Then we have the parents who have to peek in whenever the opportunity arises, holding the door open indefinitely to get that last glance in, hoping to get a glimpse of their child's position. I wish parents could see how distracting this is to all the participants. Every child has to look up to see if it is their parent peering at them, instead focusing on their game. I've even had a parent somehow observe their child forgetting to press their clock and insisted that I go over and remind the player to press their clock!
 
"Parents, the tournament staff do understand your desire to fuss over your child and to make them happy at the tournament. But please, remember the staff also wants to make the tournament a complete success and that includes starting the rounds on time and keeping distractions out of the room. Please be mindful of their requests and assist their efforts. Thank you!"

Thank YOU Tom! I could not have said it any better.

Saturday, November 8

2014 World Chess Championship

Anand begins Game 1 with the white pieces. Credit: Chessbase.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen (NOR) vs Challenger Viswanathan Anand (IND).



G1 G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7 G8 G9 G10 G11 G12 Total
Carlsen = 1 0 = = 1 = = = = 1 x 6.5
Anand = 0 1 = = 0 = = = = 0 x 4.5


Format = 12 Game Match, first to 6.5 wins.
Schedule = Games on Nov 8 - 25. Rest on every 3rd day. If needed, tiebreaker on Nov 27.
Play begins at 3:00pm Moscow time, 7:00am New York time, 4:00am California time.
Time Control = 40/120, 20/60, G/15 with a 30 second increment after move 60.

Game by Game Log
  1. White = Anand. Exchange Gruenfeld opening. Anand held a small middlegame advantage, but then Carlsen began pressing in even endgame. Drawn in 48 moves.
  2. White = Carlsen. Ruy Lopez, Anti Berlin Wall 4.d3. Carlsen loaded Alekhine's Gun on move 28. Under pressure, Anand blundered on move 34 and immediately lost!   
  3. White = Anand. Classical Queen's Gambit Declined. Carlsen challenged Anand in a theoretical line, allowing a protected passer on c7.  Anand won prosaically in 34 moves.
  4. White = Carlsen. Sicilian with 3.g3. A quiet opening gave Carlsen a small advantage, but Anand defended well in a Queen endgame. Drawn in 47 moves.  
  5. White = Anand. Queen's Indian with 4.g3. Anand obtained superior development, but this edge evaporated with careful defense. Drawn in 39 moves.
  6. White = Carlsen. Kan Sicilian, Maroczy bind. Despite a horrible double blunder on move 26 when Anand could have won, Carlsen scored in 38 moves using his strong bishop pair.  
  7. White = Carlsen. Ruy Lopez, Berlin Wall 9... Ke8. Theory for 24 moves. Anand sacrificed a piece to draw an endgame with all pawns on Queenside. R+N vs R drawn in 122 moves
  8. White = Anand. Classical Queen's Gambit Declined. Playing swiftly all game, Carlsen equalized without much difficulty. Drawn in 41 moves.
  9. White = Carlsen. Ruy Lopez, Berlin Wall 9... Ke8. Surprisingly, drawn by repetition in just 20 moves. Carlsen retains the lead, but Anand plays white in 2 of last 3 games.
  10. White = Anand. Russian variation of Gruenfeld. Anand played an interesting line using the bishop pair, but gave up his advantage on move 28. Drawn in 32 moves
  11. White = Carlsen. Ruy Lopez, Berlin Wall 9... Bd7. Anand obtained good position after 23... b5, but overpressed with 26... Rdb8 and 27... Rb4. Carlsen clinched in 45 moves.
  12. Not necessary

Monday, November 3

Preview of Carlsen vs Anand II

Carlsen and Anand before Game 1 of 2013 match. Credit: A. Karlovich

Exactly one year ago, the chess world became captivated by a Battle for the Ages in Chennai, India.  A young lad from Norway, just 22 years old, dared to challenge the reigning champion, a veteran with two decades of experience among the chess elite.  Alas, the champion capitulated on home turf, scoring nary a victory in a result as shocking as the meteoric rating gains already achieved by the Norwegian.  Meet Magnus Carlsen, the 16th World Champion.

Magnus Carlsen - the World Champion!
Credit: chesshouse.com
Much changed over the past year.  Carlsen earned a record rating of 2882 in May, but his recent results have proven modest by his lofty standards.  Indeed, he awkwardly found himself looking up to a peer!  Not only did Fabiano Caruana exceed the performance of the World #1, but he inched within 24 points of the top ratingDoes Carlsen hear the increasingly loud steps of his pursuers?  

On the other hand, the 15th World Champion Vishy Anand recovered from a slump in 2012-13 to gain 20 rating points this year.  Most importantly, he dominated the Candidates Tournament in April to become the official challenger.  In better form and no longer feeling pressure to defend the world title at home, the Tiger from Madras can compete with renewed vigor!

Artist rendering of venue in Sochi 2014.
While accounts of the first Carlsen vs Anand match describe a lopsided victory achieved through endurance and endgame technique, the storyline could have been very different had Anand seized opportunities in the first three games.  The veteran equalized easily with black in Game 1, and then found himself with the advantage in both Games 2 and 3.  The materialistic 29... Bxb2 in Game 3 should have been sufficient to take an early lead.  Alas, Anand was too timid, under too much pressure, and too respectful of his opponent.  Consecutive defeats in Game 5 and Game 6 sealed the Indian champion's fate.

The Rematch kicks off this Saturday, November 8, on neutral ground in Sochi, Russia.  The first to score 6.5 wins; there will be a rapidplay tiebreaker in case of a tie after 12 games.  The venue is the ultra modern Media Center of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and the organizers promise live coverage comparable to the recent Sinquefield Cup and Tromsø Olympiad.  Rounds begin at 3pm Moscow time, which converts to 4am in San Francisco.  Wake up to watch the critical 3rd and 4th hours of play while enjoying breakfast!         
Official website = http://www.sochi2014.fide.com/

Who will win the Rematch in SochiPlease vote in the unscientific poll at the upper right side of this blog.  Select the victor as well as the margin of victory.

Sunday, September 28

Medal Hopes in Durban

Flags of the 87 countries hang from ceiling.
After ten days of intense competition, the World Youth Chess Championships in South Africa are drawing to a close.  For the American delegation, the hunt for medals reaches a climax, with 7 players ranked in the top 4 for their section and an amazing 20 in the top 11 spots on tiebreaks.  Many of these children could claim a medal simply by winning the last two rounds.  Round 10 is underway as I write these sentences and Round 11 begins at 1:00 PDT on Monday morning.

The best medal chances for Team USA lie in the following sections:
  • Girls-U12: Jennifer and Akshita are clear 1st + 2nd and decide gold among themselves.
  • Boys-U12: David is tied for 1st, Praveen is 3rd, and Rayan + Aravind are tied for 4th.
  • Girls-U8: Rianne is tied for 3rd with Aksithi and Rochelle just 0.5 behind.
  • Boys-U10: Aydin is tied for 3rd while Andrew lurks 0.5 back.
  • Boys-U8: No Americans are in top 6, but somehow 6 squeezed into the top 14.

How many medals will Team USA collect?  Coach Ben Finegold predicted five medals at the start of the tournament.  Will he be right?  Stay tuned!

The CalChess kids have performed well too, with five scoring 6.0 or 6.5.  Three have realistic medal hopes if they can win the final two games: Rayan (B12), Aksithi (G8) and Andrew (B10).  Ashritha (G12) and Vignesh (B12) should finish in the top 10 with 1.5 out of the last two games.  Good luck!!

Sunday late night update: The Sunday round proved tragic for many of the American players.  Sigh!  The best chances remain in the Boys and Girls U12 sections.  At least there will be one medal -- Jennifer Yu (G12) clinched gold!  The CalChess medal hopes rest on the shoulders of Rayan (B12) and Aksithi (G8), while Vignesh can finish top 5 with a win.  Round 11 begins at 10:00am in Durban -- 1:00am in California.  Go U-S-A!! 


Team USA -- Average Score: 5.4 out of 9 (60%).
Team USA -- Average Score: 5.8 out of 10 (59%).


Boys-U8
  • Nathaniel Shuman 6.0 (7th place) Drew Round 11 - Final 15th place
  • Rohun Trakru 6.0 (8th place) Won Round 11 - Final 10th place
  • Jason Yu 6.0 (9th place) Won Round 11 - Final 11th place
  • Rithik Polavaram 6.0 (11th place) Won Round 10 - Final 9th place
  • Arthur Guo 5.5 (12th place) Won Round 10 + Drew Round 11 - Final 8th place
  • Pranav Prem 5.5 (14th place) Won Round 10 - Final 14th place

Girls-U8
  • Rianne Ke 6.5 (4th place) - Final 14th place
  • Aksithi Eswaran 6.0 (CalChess) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 5th place
  • Rochelle Wu 6.0 (11th place) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 6th place

Boys-U10
  • Aydin Turgut 7.0 (4th place) - Final 14th place
  • Andrew Hong 6.5 (9th place) (CalChess) Won Round 11 - Final 10th place
  • Maximillian Lu 5.5 Won Round 11 - Final 25th place
  • Christopher Shen 5.5 Won Round 11 - Final 22nd place

Girls-U10
  • Martha Samadashvili 6.0 (11th place) Won Round 10 - Final 8th place
  • Natassja Matus 5.5 Won Round 10 + Drew Round 11 - Final 10th place
  • Evelyn Zhu 5.5 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 6th place

Boys-U12
  • David Peng 7.5 (2nd place) Drew Round 10 - Final 5th place
  • Praveen Balakrishnan 7.0 (3rd place) Drew Round 11 - Final 12th place
  • Rayan Taghizadeh 6.5 (CalChess) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - BRONZE MEDAL
  • Aravind Kumar 6.5 (6th place) - Final 25th place
  • Awonder Liang 6.0 (14th place) Drew Round 10 - Final 24th place
  • David Brodsky 5.5
  • Marcus Miyasaka 5.5
  • Hans Niemann 5.0 (CalChess) Won Round 11 - Final 40th place

Girls-U12
  • Jennifer Yu 8.0 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - GOLD MEDAL
  • Akshita Gorti 7.0 (clear 2nd) - Final 12th place
  • Camille Kao 5.5
  • Ramitha Ravishankar 5.5 
  • Chenyi Zhao 4.5 (CalChess) Won Round 10 - Final 34th place

Boys-U14
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 6.0 (CalChess) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 5th place
  • Angel Hernandez-Camen 5.5 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 10th place
  • Bryce Tiglon 5.5 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 11th place

Girls-U14
  • Ashritha Eswaran 6.0 (CalChess) Drew Round 10 + Won Round 11 - Final 7th place
  • Priya Trakru 5.0 Drew Round 11
  • Tianhui Jie 5.0 Won Round 10

Boys-U16
  • Kapil Chandran 6.5 (6th place) - Final 14th place
  • Edward Song 5.5 Drew Round 10 - Final 19th place

Girls-U16
  • Apurva Virkud 6.0 (10th place) - Final 17th place
  • Agata Bykovtsev 6.0 (14th place) - Final 19th place

Boys-U18
  • Atulya Shetty 6.0 (10th place) - Final 27th place

Girls-U18
  • Jessica Regam 5.5 (15th place) - Final 28th place

Saturday, September 27

Mechanics Fix Sharks for Dinner


The US Chess League franchise from San Francisco showed its strong potential during weeks 4 and 5, first earning a hard-fought tie against the consensus favorites Dallas Destiny (4.5 MP, 15.0 GP), and then crushing the struggling Miami Sharks (1.5 MP, 7.0 GP).  The Mechanics (3.0 MP, 10.5 GP) moved above .500 midway through the season, and into third place in the competitive Western Division.  In each match, Daniel Naroditsky calmly kept board 1 under control while Siddharth Banik took care of business on board 4.  Incredibly, Siddharth improved his nearly flawless league record to 8.5-0.5!  Team veteran Andy Lee held a critical draw versus Dallas, while teenagers Yian Liou and Cameron Wheeler brought home full points in the rout of Miami.  Not intimidated by his Grandmaster opponent, Yian seized the center and eventually ensnared a knight on the seventh rank (see game above). 

The Mechanics return to action on Tuesday night against the Arizona Scorpions (2.5 MP, 9.5 GP) in a pivotal battle for third place in the West.  Games start at 9:00pm on ICCGood luck!

Friday, September 26

New Kid on the Block: GM Parimarjan Negi

The Bay Area has landed a new chess prodigy!  Indeed, this kid earned the Grandmaster title at the tender age of 13 years, 4 months and 22 days. He stands today as the second youngest GM in history, beating Magnus Carlsen by less than a week and the Chinese phenom Wei Yi by four months.  (Only Sergey Karjakin was younger.)  Last month, the grown-up prodigy led his native India to a surprising bronze medal at the Chess Olympiad in Norway.  Playing board 1, he scored 6.5 out of 10 against some of the best players in the world, drawing with Levon Aronian and losing just once to Fabiano Caruana.  This week, he resumes his studies away from the chess board, as a freshman at Stanford University.

Who is it?  Meet GM Parimarjan Negi, rated 2750 USCF and 2669 FIDE (#79 in the world).  Click here for his personal websiteNew In Chess magazine interviewed Negi for the latest issue, and Chessbase website reprinted the single page article here (with permission).  Check out the latest chess player at the Farm!

GM Negi is registered as the top seed at the National G/60 and G/30 Championships this weekend in Santa Clara.  Can anyone stop him?  

The game below, a crushing win against the Berlin defense at the recent Olympiad, was cited by Negi as his "best game."  In the final position, White threatens to sacrifice his Queen on h7 for a simple checkmate with two rooks.

Wednesday, September 24

Cal Kids Strong in South Africa

Inside the Playing Hall


After a very hectic 6 rounds over 4 days, today is the rest day at the World Youth Champs in Durban.  Some participants even took advantage the opportunity for a real African safari!  The chess tournament resumes tomorrow with the leisurely pace of one round per day through Monday.  Follow the top 10 boards in each section LIVE at the official website starting at 7:00am PDT.

Aksithi Eswaran
Team USA continues to score well at 62% overall.  Two girls have staked a 1/2 point lead in their respective sections, and a third player finds himself in a tie for first.  Three more guys share second place at the midpoint of the event.  Congratulations to Aksithi (G8), Jennifer (G12), Rayan (B12), Rohum (B8), Andrew (B10) and Christopher (B16)!  By my count, 14 juniors occupy the Top 10 in their section, and nearly half (34 of 70) currently have a score of 4.0 or more.  Of course, a lot can happen over the final 5 rounds.

The 7 CalChess representatives have contributed well to the statistics espoused in the previous paragraph.  Aksithi Eswaran leads Girls-U8 outright while her older sister Ashritha led Girls-U14 before a setback in round 6.  Andrew Hong and Rayan Taghizadeh carry the standard for the guys, both with 5.0 in Boys-U10 and Boy-U12, respectively.  Vignesh Panchanatham stands at 4.0, ready to continue his winning ways after two defeats earlier. Check out his daily blog reports!

Team USA -- Average Score: 3.7 out of 6 (62%).

Boys-U8
  • Rohun Trakru 5.0 (tied for 2nd)
  • Jason Yu 4.5
  • Pranav Prem 4.5

Girls-U8
  • Aksithi Eswaran 5.5 (clear 1st) (CalChess)
  • Rianne Ke 4.0 - won Round 7

Boys-U10
  • Andrew Hong 5.0 (tied for 2nd) (CalChess)
  • Aydin Turgut 4.5 - drew Round 7
  • Maximillian Lu 4.5

Girls-U10
  • Natassja Matus 4.5
  • Evelyn Zhu 4.5
  • Martha Samadashvili 4.5

Boys-U12
Rayan Taghizadeh
  • Rayan Taghizadeh 5.0 (tied for 1st) (CalChess) - drew Round 7
  • David Peng 4.5 - won Round 7
  • Aravind Kumar 4.5 - won Round 7

Girls-U12
  • Jennifer Yu 5.5 (clear 1st) - drew Round 7
  • Akshita Gorti 4.0 - won Round 7

Boys-U14
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 4.0 (CalChess) - won Round 7
  • Angel Hernandez-Camen 4.0

Girls-U14
  • Ashritha Eswaran 4.5 (CalChess)

Boys-U16
  • Christopher Wu 5.0 (tied for 2nd)
  • Kapil Chandran 4.0

Girls-U16
  • Agata Bykovtsev 4.0 - won Round 7
  • Apurva Virkud 4.0 - won Round 7

Boys-U18
  • Atulya Shetty 4.0 

Girls-U18
  • Jessica Regam 3.5 - won Round 7

Sunday, September 21

Team USA at World Youth - Top Scores

Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Hotel in Durban (Photo: Franc Guadalupe)

Team USA started off on a roll at the World Youth Champs in South Africa, scoring a collective 75% in the first round.  Four players won the first 3 games, and 13 scored the very respectable 2.5.  Moreover, 49 of the 70 American representatives (70%) claim a plus score at this early stage.  Special recognition goes to Aydin Turgut (B10), Awonder Liang (B12), Jennifer Yu (G12) and Vignesh Panchanatham (B14) for beginning with a perfect 3-0.  Of course, it is a long tournament (11 rounds) and the competition is fierce (ratings often mean nothing).

LIVE Games available at official website!

Team USA -- Average Score: 1.9 out of 3 (64%).

Boys-U8
  • Jason Yu 2.5
  • 9 tied with 2.0

Girls-U8
  • Aksithi Eswaran 2.5 (CalChess)
  • Rochelle Wu 2.0

Boys-U10
  • Aydin Turgut 3.0
  • Andrew Hong 2.5
  • Wesley Wang 2.5
  • Christopher Shen 2.5 
  • Cole Frutos 2.5
  • 2 tied with 2.0

Girls-U10
  • Martha Samadashvili 2.5
  • 6 tied with 2.0

Boys-U12
  • Awonder Liang 3.0
  • David Brodsky 2.5
  • 6 tied with 2.0

Girls-U12
  • Jennifer Yu 3.0
  • Akshita Gorti 2.5
  • Ramitha Ravishankar 2.0

Boys-U14
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 3.0 (CalChess)
  • Craig Hilby 2.0
  • Angel Hernandez-Camen 2.0

Girls-U14
  • Ashritha Eswaran 2.5 (CalChess)
  • Priya Trakru 2.5

Boys-U16
  • Kapil Chandran 2.0
  • Christopher Wu 2.0

Girls-U16
  • Agata Bykovtsev 2.5
  • Apurva Virkud 2.5
  • Shaileja Jain 2.0

Boys-U18
  • Atulya Shetty 2.0 

Girls-U18
  • Jessica Regam 2.0

Note: Due to my travel schedule, I will not be able to update this blog until midweek.

Saturday, September 20

World Youth Begins in Durban

Vignesh and Rayan at the venue.
Hans strolls on the sand.



















The 2014 World Youth Chess Championships kicked off today in Durban, South Africa.  Among approximately 950 players from 88 countries are 70 Americans, including 7 residing in Northern California.  The overall turnout is half of last year in United Arab Emirates, and Team USA shrunk from a record 94 participants.  No doubt, the tournament dates contributed to the lower turnout, especially compared to last year's event over the Winter Holidays.  Follow the results of Team USA at a glance using the Chess-Results website.

Life's a Beach in Durban.
The first impressions have been positive.  In a preview at Chess Life Online, GM coach Ben Finegold spoke of a great hotel with a plentiful buffet, immediately addressing one of the shortcomings last year.  In his chess chronicles, Bay Area NM Vignesh Panchanatham lauds the organization and good playing conditions.  The children will no doubt enjoy the adjacent beach, while adults can relax in the mild spring breezes off the Indian Ocean.

Of course, the primary focus is chess.  The schedule features 11 rounds through September 29, with double rounds tomorrow and on Tuesday, plus a rest day on Wednesday.  Most rounds begin at 16:00 local time, which converts to 7:00 in the morning PDT (rounds 2, 5 and 11 begin at 10:00 local).  Hopefully there will be live coverage of some of the top boards at the official website.

Three of the seven Northern California representatives already earned the USCF title of National Master, a tribute to their skill and experience competing against adults and juniors alike.  I expect them to fare well even against higher rated opposition.

Bay Area Delegation -- Scores after Round 3
  • WCM Aksithi Eswaran (G8) 2.5 !
  • Andrew Hong (B10) 2.5 !
  • NM Rayan Taghizedah (B12) 2.0 
  • Hans Niemann (B12) 2.0
  • Chenyi Zhao (G12) 1.0
  • NM Vignesh Panchanatham (B14) 3.0 !!!
  • NM Ashritha Eswaran (G14) 2.5 - drew with #1 seed from Russia!

Extra: Check out this fun attack and checkmate by Rayan at US Chess!

Team USA maintains high hopes of earning several medals once again.  Arthur Guo (B8) and FM Awonder Liang (B12) are rated highest in their respective sections.  Alas, they're hardly the only contenders.  In particular, watch the Boys Under 12 section with seven Americans seeded in the top 20, including Rayan and Hans from the Bay Area.  Among the young ladies, the Girls Under 12 appears most promising, with Jennifer Yu and Akshita Gorti both ranked in the top 4 of the section.  Good luck to all!  Go U-S-A!!


(Photos have been shamelessly borrowed from the Facebook pages of player parents.  Credit to Siva Panchanatham, Kaimi Niemann and Ramalingam Eswaran.)

Friday, September 19

CalChess Young Masters

Kesav Viswanadha calculates.
Michael Wang concentrates.



















The Bay Area has built the reputation for supporting the growth of  talented young chess stars.  Over a few short years, many of these juniors improve to Expert, Master and Beyond!  Incredibly, 11 now hold a USCF rating above 2200 on the October supplement.  Another 5 earned their National Master certificate previously, but have since dropped a few points.  That's a total of 16 CalChess young masters!  

To put these numbers in perspective, consider that zero masters played at the CalChess Scholastics in 2003, while 2006 was the first year to see more than two masters participate.

Top CalChess Juniors (rated above 2150 on October supplement)
  1. IM-elect Yian Liou (age 17) 2502 USCF rating
  2. FM Kesav Viswanadha (15) 2429
  3. FM Cameron Wheeler (14) 2382
  4. Josiah Stearman smiles on his birthday.
  5. NM Vignesh Panchanatham (14) 2356
  6. NM Colin Chow (14) 2282
  7. NM Paul Richter (16) 2271
  8. NM Michael Wang (12) 2240
  9. NM Allan Beilin (15) 2221
  10. NM Siddharth Banik (14) 2215
  11. NM Rayan Taghizadeh (12) 2212
  12. FM Tanuj Vasudeva (13) 2209
  13. nm Josiah Stearman (11) 2185
  14. Teemu Virtanen (15) 2184
  15. Neel Apte (16) 2180
  16. nm Jack Zhu (15) 2174
  17. Ladia Jirasek (14) 2174
  18. Pranav Nagarajan (14) 2172
  19. nm Ashritha Eswaran (13) 2171
  20. nm Daniel Liu (16) 2165
  21. nm Udit Iyengar (14) 2165
  22. Jerome Sun (17) 2165
  23. Hunter Klotz-burwell (16) 2164
  24. Joshua Cao (17) 2164
  25. Kevin Moy (14) 2155
* nm = NM but currently rated under 2200

The top two players on this list both have a trio of IM norms to their credit.  Yian also achieved the required 2400 FIDE rating, while Kesav must pick up another 18 FIDE points.  We should have two new International Masters among our midst soon.

Watch out for Josiah!  The young lad spent the last month of summer on a quest for 2200.  He reached his goal in San Diego, peaking at 2215 before slipping back down.  Officially, Josiah gained 133 rating points in one month, from the August rating list to September (2066 to 2199)! 

Who will be next to make master?  Certainly anyone rated above 2150 could crack 2200 after one or two good weekends.  In addition, a pair of even younger stars, Hans Niemann (11) and Andrew Hong (9), already sport competitive ratings above 2100.