Friday, August 26

Chess: The Road to College

(Where does this internationally certified chess nut go to college?)

The end of summer brings upon us the annual ritual of starting school. And those who managed to graduate from high school in June now begin a whole new chapter of their lives. Four of the Bay Area's elite scholastic players moved into college dorms this week. I was fortunate to have taught three of the four. They combined to win the past four state High School titles, with each victorious at least once. This post serves as a small tribute.

IM Steven Zierk definitely counts as the star of the class of 2011, both academically and based on chess results. He had many phenomenal results, but three stand out in my mind:
  1. Clear 1st in A section of 2007 People's tournament with a published rating of 1527.
  2. Beat GM Loek van Wely in 27 moves with black at 2009 Western States (Reno).
  3. Gold medal at 2010 World Youth U-18 in Greece, earning the IM title.
While chess played big role in Steven's youth, he had a broad range of interests. As I found out accompanying him at the 2008 US Open in Dallas, he loves math puzzles and devours books of different genres. An active athlete, he played and refereed soccer, earned a second degree black belt in tae kwon do and even joined the school track and field team (shot put). Of course, he also excelled at Los Gatos High School. The photo at the top of this post leaves no doubt where Steven chose to go for college: MIT.

A year ago, NM Evan Sandberg (photo at right) became my sixth student to achieve the rank of master. Yet his greatest achievement came in 2009, when he shared 1st place in the High School section at the CalChess Scholastics (with Yian Liou), thereby earning the right to play in the Denker Invitational in Indianapolis. An active member of the Mechanics' Institute chess club, Evan continued to participate in the Tuesday Night Marathon through this summer. The streak will necessarily end since Evan decided to attend Rutgers University in New Jersey.

NM Rohan Agarwal (photo at left) reached 2200 despite never being one of my students. However, I wrote a tribute to his aggressive playing style titled "The Master Gambiteer". Sadly, he didn't have time for many tournaments over the past two years at Irvington High School in Fremont. He did leave a mark by teaching the next generation at Weibel Elementary. Rohan won't need to go far for college as he decided to attend UC Berkeley.

Expert Nicholas Karas (photo at right) of Rio Americano High School in Sacramento started out with a provisional rating of 395 and then rocketed through the rating scale to a peak of 2159. Much of the teaching credit goes to his first coach--and my longtime student--NM Daniel Schwarz. Nicholas saved the best for his senior year, winning clear 1st in the High School section at the CalChess Scholastics and then attending the Denker Invitational in Orlando. He also became a Golden Bear as he began studying at UC Berkeley.

to Steven, Evan, Rohan and Nicholas! (I admit that I'm a little late.)

Each year, the most talented young chess players typically get admitted to the best universities around the state and nation. Take GM Robert Hess, America's top rated junior, as an example; he just matriculated at Yale University. Among my growing group of ex-students, there's no doubt that Berkeley has become the most popular school, with at least a half dozen: David C, Jeff Y, Kevin H, Charles S, Michael L and now Nicholas. Five of these six reached 2000 at chess, establishing a quasi benchmark for future Berkeley applicants. And I believe three guys remain at Stanford (Marvin S, Aaron G and Adam G) after the June graduation of Daniel Schwarz.

Numbers aside, however... Go Stanford! Beat Cal!


oddodddodo said...

Thanks for the great tribute to your students, Michael. Can you give us an update on your health situation? Is there any chance we will be seeing you in tournaments soon?

fpawn said...

My health is steady, which is not good news. After many tests and images, neither Stanford nor Mayo had any advice or tangible hope for improvement. I can't travel alone and can't do anything more than 4 hours long. Those who saw me at the blitz at Mechanics in May saw how limited my mobility is simply to reach across the chessboard. Whoever you are, you probably can imagine how much that depresses me.