(From left to right: Aamir Azhar, Suraj Nair and Michael Meng. Photos of Aamir and Michael by Dr. Alan Kirshner of CalNorth Youth Chess.)
Here's a somewhat belated recognition to my three students who played at the CalChess Grade Level Championships in Stockton on December 6-7. A total of 342 intrepid young players arrived at the University of the Pacific to compete for the title of state champion in one of 11 sections ranging from Kindergarten to High School. Perhaps the competition was lighter than the CalChess Scholastics in the spring because none of the local 1800+ rated players attended, but don't tell that to those who worked hard for their trophies.
Two of my students took home 1st place trophies and a third got 4th place. Congrats to 7th grade champion Aamir Azhar and 9th grade champion Suraj Nair! Honorable mention goes to Michael Meng for finishing just half a point behind the winners in the tough 6th grade section.
- Aamir (1650) improved recently by consistently beating opponents that he was supposed to beat, something that he did quite well in Stockton. He stumbled only against co-champ Thomas Gonda, but later Aamir won the blitz playoff for the bigger trophy. Check out Aamir's strong attack against the Chigorin defense.
- Suraj (1499) left no doubt who was the man to beat in 9th grade by blasting his way to a perfect 6-0 score. He crushed the top seed (1713) with a thematic Bxh7+ sacrifice, much like the spectacular Pruess-Kraai game in the previous post. Suraj took care of business in his other games to finish two points ahead of the field.
- Michael (1274) was rated well below the top players in 6th grade, but that was not reason to be intimidated. He finished with 4.5 out of 6 and barely missed out on a chance to tie for 1st with a last round draw.