(Left: Fpawn holds the trophy and 1st place check. Right: Masters Koepcke and Lazetich battle on top board in the final round.)
The annual Sacramento Chess Championship on 4th of July weekend provides a leisurely opportunity to push pawns on a holiday weekend. Even the mild weather was enjoyable this year! The 72 player attendance was down nearly 20% from last year, but that did not decrease the competition in the top section. I was paired with three veteran masters and three talented youngsters who all may be over 2200 by next summer. At the end of three days, I finished at 5.0 out of 6 for undisputed 1st place. NM Zoran Lazetich, NM Richard Koepcke and 11 year old Kyle Shin (rated only 1956 officially) shared 2nd at 4.5, with Kyle earning the top prize for players under 2200.
As a scholastic coach, I focus attention on the many up and coming local juniors. Two earned 2250+ performances in their quests to become masters themselves! 12 year old Yian Liou (first photo at left) started out hot with a perfect score after three rounds, beating FM Kenan Zildzic. However, he lost twice to finish with a modest rating gain, leaving him 39 points short of his goal of 2200. Not to be outdone, 11 year old Kyle Shin (second photo at left) picked up the slack. After losing badly in the first round, he recovered to win four straight games, including a pivotal victory against Yian. Kyle was even tied for the lead going into the final round, but only was able to draw. With an impressive 2273 performance rating, Kyle gained 48 rating points to 2045, and he may be near 2100 when the ongoing Tuesday Night Marathon is rated next week!
Several other youngsters gained both experience and rating points in the Master/Expert section. Honorable mention goes to Roland Zhu (3.0 points, +14 rating) and 8 year old Tanuj Vasudeva (2.5 points, +26 rating). Kudos to everyone who fought hard!
On a personal note, I must mention how difficult it is to play a serious game against your own students. On one hand, I want the kids to do well and improve; on the other hand, I really hate to lose or even draw! Making matters worse, the kids know my favorite openings, forcing me to improvise. This led to disaster in round 2, when Yian beat me after a stupid blunder--I hung an undefended knight on c6 to a simple fork with Qd5 check. I reentered into the 2-day schedule and was determined to atone for my mistake; unfortunately for Kyle, he was first in line to play an angry fpawn. The fresh start worked out well for me, and luckily Kyle was able to bounce back from the loss.
The 48 player Reserve (under 2000) section saw stiff competition between the A players and the up-and-coming adult B players. With the elite juniors all playing up in the Master/Expert section, this was the opportunity for Sacramento resident Robert Russo (see photo at right) to dominate. By scoring 5.5 out of 6, Robert certainly earned his promotion to A player! Mathew Benson (rated only 1646 going in) and Michael Da-Cruz shared second place at 5.0. Amazingly, the only junior to win money in the Reserve section was Ted Xiao at 4.0--who won the "top junior" prize.
behind the camera. After I won the final round in Sacramento, the tournament organizer John McCumiskey and some others insisted that I pose for the candid camera. Thanks to parent Jung Shin for taking the photo at the top of this article.