Nicholas Nip has broken the US Chess Federation's record for the youngest master at the tender age of 9 years and 11 months, shattering the previous record of 10 years and 79 days held by Hikaru Nakamura. His new rating on the MSA website stands at 2207. Nicholas earned the final 20 rating points on March 5 in a G/60 quad tournament at the Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco, defeating FM Ron Cusi (2339) in the climactic game.
The youngest master record is considered one of the most hallowed marks of the USCF. Future World Champion Bobby Fischer was considered a prodigy when he became a master at the age of 13. The rise of computers and prominence of scholastic chess has pushed this record younger and younger. In 1995, two young rivals from the Bay Area earned the master rank before their 11th birthdays. Jordy Mont-Reynaud did it in 10 years and 209 days and then, merely a few months later, Vinay Bhat shaved yet another 33 days off the record. Future Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura lowered the mark almost another 100 days in 1998, a record that nobody has come close to touching until today.
Much of the credit for Nicholas' rapid improvement from a talented yet inexperienced first grader in 2005 to National Master goes to his supportive parents who travelled with him and coaches Liina Vark and Eric Hicks of Academic Chess. The teachers identified his potential in kindergarten and developed it with tender nurturing care over the years. Hicks has told me several times over the years that one reason Nicholas improved quickly is his ability and desire to study on his own, often with the help of a computer. Certainly those of us who have witnessed his meteoric rise first hand can attest to Nicholas' love for the game of chess. He would always be eager to hang around chess players and he quickly became a favorite of many older children at the Mechanics' Institute.
What does the future hold for Nicholas? The fact that he has already defeated nine (9!) different established masters, including this writer, at slow tournament time controls bodes very well. He also has a solid FIDE rating of 2143 which will surely increase over time. Perhaps it is the pedigree of former youngest masters that offers the most hope for the future for young Nicholas. Here's wishing you all the best!
(Photo of Nicholas giving a simul at the 2007 CalChess Scholastics from ChessDryad.)