Wednesday, May 22

Youngest Grandmasters in History

Sergey Karjakin

"Nowadays, if you're not a Grandmaster at 14, you can forget it."  -- World Champion Anand

When Vishy Anand spoke these fateful words, he referred to future contenders for the world title.  For dramatic effect, people freely cite this quote out of context.  And why not?  The number of precocious Grandmasters blossomed in the 21st century.  I still remember when Peter Leko turned heads in 1994 as the first 14 year old GM.  Thirteen have since surpassed the veteran Hungarian's old mark.

Amazingly, the record set by Sergey Karjakin more than a decade ago has not been seriously threatened.  He became the world's first preteen Grandmaster, and to date, he remains the only one!  Merely two managed to come within a year of this amazing mark.  And one of these former prodigies, Magnus Carlsen, has earned the right to challenge Anand for the world championship.  A victory in November by the Norwegian wonderboy would signal the changing of the guard to a new generation of young stars.

The 13-year old Chinese superstar Wei Yi currently holds the distinction as world's youngest Grandmaster, earning his final norm in February.  Who will be the next 13 or 14 year old GM?  Could it be an American?  And when will Karjakin's mark fall?

Progression of Youngest GM Record
  • 1958 Bobby Fischer (USA) @ 15 yr, 6 mo
  • 1991 Judit Polgar (HUN) @ 15 yr, 4 mo
  • 1994 Peter Leko (HUN) @ 14 yr, 4 mo
  • 1997 Ruslan Ponomariov (UKR) @ 14 yr, 0 mo
  • 1999 Bu Xiangzhi (CHN) @ 13 yr, 10 mo
  • 2002 Sergey Karjakin (UKR) @ 12 yr, 7 mo

All-time Youngest Grandmasters
  1. Sergey Karjakin (UKR) @ 12 yr, 7 mo
  2. Parimarjan Negi (IND) @ 13 yr, 4 mo
  3. Magnus Carlsen (NOR) @ 13 yr, 4 mo
  4. Wei Yi (CHN) @ 13 yr, 8 mo -- currently the youngest GM
    Wei Yi
  5. Bu Xiangzhi (CHN) @ 13 yr, 10 mo
  6. Richard Rapport (HUN) @ 13 yr, 11 mo
  7. Teimour Radjabov (AZE) @ 14 yr, 0 mo
  8. Ruslan Ponomariov (UKR) @ 14 yr, 0 mo
  9. Wesley So (PHI) @ 14 yr, 1 mo
  10. Etienne Bacrot (FRA) @ 14 yr, 2 mo
... and a few notable others ...
  • Hou Yifan (CHN) 14 yr, 6 mo -- youngest girl
  • Ray Robson (USA) 14 yr, 11 mo -- American record
  • Fabiano Caruana (ITA) 14 yr, 11 mo
  • Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 15 yr, 2 mo
  • Alejandro Ramirez (CRI) 15 yr, 5 mo

Tuesday, May 21

USCF Tweaks the K-factor

The US Chess Federation implemented a change in the K-factor for ratings calculations.  The multiplicative parameter K governs how quickly the ratings catch up to a rapidly improving (or deteriorating) player.  A high K opens the door for large fluctuations in ratings from one tournament to the next.  A small K represents a stable rating, which may not be accurate for someone moving up the ranks.

Statistically, the chess skill of a master varies less from day to day than that of a novice.  The rating system accounts for this trend by decreasing the K-factor as the rating increases.  This article ignores the secondary effects of the number of rounds played and bonus points.  The plot above assumes 4 rounds.  K decreases slightly for 5 or 6 rounds.

The biggest change affects USCF members rated between 1500 and 2200, who will see an increase in K of 20% or more.  Those between 1900 and 2100 can expect a 40% boost in the volatility of their rating No doubt, all of the elite juniors should welcome this news.

The second tweak targets only masters who inflate their rating at action tournaments (G/30 through G/60).  They can still play, but will no longer gain or lose as many rating points.  Indeed, master ratings should be determined by the results at serious (slow) time controls.

Thursday, May 16

Schutt Blitz Results and Photos

FM Yian Liou
IM Daniel Naroditsky
NM Daniel Schwarz

Now in its seventh year, the Ray Schutt Memorial Blitz Tournament continues to attract many of the strongest and fastest local players to the Mechanics' Institute.  The 5 double-round swiss (10 games) featured a generous $750 prize fund, augmented by free books for everyone, including multiple signed copies by Bay Area authors.  Even ten days later, the fond memories remain fresh.  Thanks to photographer Richard Shorman and webmaster Kerry Lawless for uploading more than 100 photos on ChessDryad.

6-time US Champion
GM Walter Browne

A blast from the past:
NM Mike Arne
Out of a record 63 participants, 17 were masters, including two Grandmasters and seven International Masters.  The defending champion IM Daniel Naroditsky was poised to three-peat, but he faced stiff challenges in the final two rounds from Italian IM Niccolo Ronchetti (1.5-0.5) and 3-time US Champion GM Nick deFirmian (1-1).  This allowed high school sophomore FM Yian Liou to snatch clear first place by sweeping IM Ricardo DeGuzman (2-0).

Three of my former students finished in the money: Yian, Danya and recent Stanford graduate Daniel Schwarz.  Way to go guys!  All that blitz practice pays dividends!

Final Standings
  • 9.0 FM Yian Liou
  • 8.5 GM Nick deFirmian and IM Daniel Naroditsky
  • 8.0 IM Ray Kaufman, IM Odondoo Ganbold and NM Daniel Schwarz
  • 7.5 IM Niccolo Ronchetti
  • 7.0 IM Ricardo DeGuzman and FM Andy Lee
  • 6.5 GM Walter Browne
  • 5.5 NM Michael Aigner
On the day before the blitz, the Mechanics' hosted the 13th Powell Memorial (G/45).  For the first time in four years, Yours Truly ended up victorious!  I beat master Romulo Fuentes and improving expert Aleksandr Ivanov before drawing with National K-8 champion Siddharth BanikMost importantly, I finally got off my life master floor!

The Chess Room

Sunday, May 12

A Call to Action by Lateknight

Faraday Chess Team from Chicago.  Coach Ocol stands at far left.
Chess is called the royal game.  It is a competitive endeavor, a tool to challenge ourselves to become sharp mentally.  Indeed, many articles describe the educational benefits of chess in a variety of fields, from math to psychology to business.  Quite a few successful executives around the world can skewer your pieces, according to this list published by Business Insider last year.

Marty Grund - Lateknight on ICC
Credit: Ben Finegold
The impact that exposure to chess has on a young child must not be understated.  Schools and youth groups around the country recognize chess as far more than just a game.  Books such as Game of Kings and films like Brooklyn Castle detail the life-changing impact that a teacher with a chessboard has on dozens if not hundreds of disadvantaged New York City youths.  There are more such stories in other communities around the country.

Marty Grund, better known by the username Lateknight, is an owner of the Internet Chess Club and serves as the public face of the company.  He has traveled far and near, meeting fans of the royal game from all corners of the Earth.  Last month in Nashville, Marty met Joseph Ocol from Chicago, an inner-city high school math teacher who organized a chess club as keep vulnerable teens out of gangs.  Lateknight penned the following touching article about Saint Joseph of Chicago.

After a couple of days at the event I met a short, humble appearing man by the name of Joseph Ocol, a math teacher from John Marshall Metropolitan High School located in Garfield Park on the West side of Chicago. This is a neighborhood where gangs thrive and murders happen all too often.

Joseph and I took a walk and I listened to him describe how several years previous he began teaching high school students chess after school from 3 to 6 PM, the most vulnerable time of the day for children loose on the streets. When Joseph began the afterschool curriculum, he knew that hosting these children after school would lessen the chance that they would be involved with the morbid side of activities that take place during these hours.

Out of his own pocket, Joseph had to purchase chess equipment and even food, so the kids wouldn't be hungry, in order to make this happen. One afternoon, one of the young men didn't make to the afterschool chess class because he was murdered on the street that day. Many of these children went to school hungry on a daily basis. Some had parents or brothers in prison, mothers addicted to drugs and saw horrors that most of us never see in a lifetime. That horrible reality aside, another student took a chess board home and his mother asked what it was he was carrying. When he answered, "mom, it's a chess board", she answered "you must be smart". Hearing that comment from his mother was an epiphany for him. He said, "that's the first time anybody's ever said that to me, that I must be smart".

Please read the entire Call to Action at the ICC website.

Thursday, May 9

Kayden Troff is the 007

If you are a fan of James Bond or the royal game, this 8-minute video is a must-watch! 

IM Kayden Troff, the World U14 gold medalist who turned 15 three days ago, stars as Britain's top spy in the production by the intrepid youth music group TLC Trio.  The live chess game reenacts Garry Kasparov's Immortal Game, played against Veselin Topalov at the Wijk aan Zee tournament in 1999.  Most of my private students will find this double rook sacrifice familiar.

Rated PG-13 for mild violence and blood.

Print Your Own Scoresheets

Perhaps uou don't want to pay between $3 to $8 for a notation booklet to record your tournament games?  Or you simply want to record a friendly practice game.  No scoresheet?  No problem!

Print out free notation sheets from these PDF files.  Choose from a large scoresheet (8.5x11 page) or four small scoresheets all on the same page.  For the latter, you may wish to cut or fold twice the printouts. 

I added these links to the Cool Chess Websites section in the right sidebar.

Friday, May 3

2013 US Championship Begins

The most prestigious annual event in America kicks off on Friday.  The US Championship brings 24 of the best chess players in the country to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for a 9-round swiss.  The winner earns $30,000 and five players punch their ticket to the FIDE World Cup in August.  Does that sound exciting?  You betcha!  Make sure to watch live video coverage starting at 11am PDT daily through May 12th (except the rest day on Wednesday).

Gata Kamsky
The heavy favorites are the top three seeds: Grandmasters Gata Kamsky, Timur Gareev and Alexander Onischuk.  Each spent a different way preparing for this important event.  Kamsky (age 38) participated in the elite FIDE Grand Prix in Switzerland until Tuesday.  He somehow beat Sergey Karjakin (2786) from the black side of a sharp a6 Slav in the penultimate round to finish at 50%. On the other hand, the energetic Timur Gareev (age 25) took on a superhuman challenge: taking on St. Louis club members in a 33 board BLINDFOLD simul!! 
Timur Gareev
Over 10 hours, he beat 29 opponents, drew with 4 and lost none, all the while seated and wearing a heavy black blindfold!!  By comparison, the third seed Onischuk (age 37) took it easy, studying in his office at Texas Tech University and giving this interview. Regretfully, the country's higher rated player and defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura chose to skip this year's event to challenge Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand and many other Top 10 Grandmasters at the spectacular Norway Chess event beginning on Monday.

Northern California chess fans will want to cheer for two local players.  GM Sam Shankland (age 21) grew up in Orinda and learned the moves at the Berkeley Chess School.  The other, IM-elect Sam Sevian, is the tournament's youngest (age 12) and lowest rated (2467 USCF) invitee, although he made quite a name for himself by winning the World Youth U12 last fall.  Good luck to Sam and Sam!

Participants in 2013 US Championship
Ranked by May FIDE Rating
  1. GM Gata Kamsky 2741 Seeded (by USCF Rating)
  2. GM Timur Gareev 2674 Seeded
  3. Alex Onischuk
  4. GM Alex Onischuk 2666 Seeded
  5. GM Ray Robson 2620 Seeded
  6. GM Varuzhan Akobian 2616 Seeded -- CA/S
  7. GM Sam Shankland 2612 Seeded -- CA/N
  8. GM Robert Hess 2595 Seeded
  9. GM Gregory Kaidanov 2593 Seeded
  10. GM Larry Christiansen 2579 Seeded
  11. GM Yury Shulman 2570 Seeded
  12. GM Alexander Stripunsky 2570 Seeded
  13. GM Alejandro Ramirez 2551 Seeded
  14. GM Alexander Shabalov 2544 Seeded
  15. GM Marc Arnold 2538 Junior Champ
  16. GM Joel Benjamin 2534 Seeded
  17. GM Aleksandr Ivanov 2529 Senior Champ
  18. GM Melikset Khachiyan 2518 Wildcard -- CA/S
  19. GM Conrad Holt 2513 Wildcard
  20. GM Ben Finegold 2505 Wildcard
  21. FM Jorge Sammour-Hasbun 2463 Seeded
  22. IM-e Yaacov Norowitz 2451 Seeded
  23. FM John Bryant 2442 US Open Winner -- CA/S
  24. IM Kayden Troff  2421 Wildcard
  25. IM-e Sam Sevian 2371 Wildcard -- CA/N
Ten of the country's top female players compete in the concurrent US Women's Championship, vying for a first place prize of $18,000 in a Round-Robin format.  The two overwhelming favorites are IM Irina Krush (2470 FIDE) and IM Anna Zatonskih (2466 FIDE).  Between them, they have captured the past seven titles (4-3 edge to Zatonskih, but Krush won last year).

Thursday, May 2

World Top 20 List

List includes Grand Prix but not Alekhine Memorial.  
Check out updated Live Ratings.
  1. Magnus Carlsen (NOR) 2868 (age 22)
  2. Levon Aronian (ARM) 2813 (30)
  3. Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) 2811 (37)
  4. Veselin Topalov
  5. Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2793 (38)
  6. Viswanathan Anand (IND) 2783 (43)
  7. Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 2779 (29)
  8. Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2775 (25)
  9. Fabiano Caruana (ITA) 2774 (20)
  10. Peter Svidler (RUS) 2769 (36)
  11. Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2767 (23)
  12. Alexander Morozevich (RUS) 2760 (35)
  13. Vassily Ivanchuk (UKR) 2755 (44)
  14. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) 2753 (28)
  15. Teimour Radjabov (AZE) 2745 (26)
  16. Boris Gelfand (ISR) 2744 (44)
  17. Wang Hao (CHN) 2743 (23)
  18. Ruslan Ponomariov (UKR) 2742 (29)
  19. Gata Kamsky (USA) 2741 (38)
  20. Peter Leko (HUN) 2737 (33)
  21. Anish Giri (NED) 2734 (18)

Cool Statistics and Comparison to May 2012

Anish Giri
Rating of Player 20 = 2734 (+6 in Last Year)
Avg Rating of Top 20 = 2769 (+4.7)
Avg Age of Top 20 = 31 (+0.3)

Youngest in Top 20 = Giri (18), Caruana (20), Carlsen (22)
Oldest in Top 20 = Gelfand (44), Ivanchuk (44), Anand (43)

Countries Most Represented = Russia (5), USA (2), Azerbaijan (2), Ukraine (2)

Biggest Gain in Last Year = Topalov (+41), Giri (+41), Carlsen (+33)
Biggest Loss in Last Year = Radjabov (-39), Karjakin (-12), Aronian (-12)

Wednesday, May 1

38th CalChess Scholastics Winners

Main playing hall at the Santa Clara Convention Center.  Photos by Azleena Azhar.
Around 1000 Bay Area youngsters descended on the Santa Clara Convention Center for the 38th annual CalChess State Scholastic Championships.  Participants ranged from novices attending their first serious chess tournament to a co-champion of the World Youth U12.  Many wide-eyed kids were accompanied by equally bewildered parents.  This turnout proves that scholastic chess still thrives in California!

K-12 Champ FM Cameron Wheeler
Twenty juniors rated 2000+ entered the FIDE-rated High School Championship, which this year seemed more like a local Open section (except without IM DeGuzman).  Indeed, one-third of the players, including the three masters at the top, had not yet begun high school.  Paradoxically, only three high school students sat at the first half-dozen boards in the last round.  And surprising few, the 2291-rated 7th grader FM Cameron Wheeler from Cupertino swept the field.  No doubt he faced a stiffer challenge at the World Youth U12 in Slovenia last year.  The next two in the final standings were his friends Kesav Viswanadha and Vignesh Panchanatham, both also in Middle School, and National Masters too.

Only a pair of High School students went undefeated (each yielded two draws) in the 5-round tournament: sophomore Taylor McCreary of San Luis Obispo and freshman Hunter Klotz-burwell of Palo Alto.  Taylor, underrated at 1872, earned respect and rating by beating 1960 and 2050 plus drawing with two even higher experts. However, she technically lives in Southern California, and consequently Hunter, rated 2083, qualified for the prestigious Denker Tournament of High School Champions in Wisconsin this summer.  Fair travels and good luck!
Denker rep Hunter Klotz-burwell
Bravo to all of the winners!  The following State Champions were crowned.  Click here for full Individual Results and Team Results, including the 11 Junior Varsity, Booster and Rookie sections.  Trivia: A whopping 109 children turned out to play in the 1-3 Rookie (unrated) division, the largest of the weekend.  Can you say Scholar's Mate?

K-12 Championship
  • Champion: FM Cameron Wheeler with 5-0
  • Runners-up: NM Kesav Viswanadha, NM Vignesh Panchanatham, Taylor McCreary, Siddharth Banik, Allan Beilin and Hunter Klotz-burwell all with 4-1
  • Denker Qualifier: Hunter Klotz-burwell
  • Top Team: Kennedy Middle (Cameron, Kesav, etc)
6-8 Championship
  • Champion: Steven Li with 5.5-0.5
  • Runner-up: Anirudh Seela with 5-1
  • Top Team: Hopkins Junior High (all MSJE graduates)
4-6 Championship
  • Champions: Bryce Wong, Seaver Dahlgren and Daniel Hwan all with 5-1
  • Top Team: Mission San Jose Elementary
4-5 Championship
  • Champion: Dante Peterson with 5.5-0.5
  • Runners-up: Pranav Senthilkumar, David Pan, Daniel Mendelevitch and Amir Dhami all with 5-1
  • Top Team: Mission San Jose Elementary
1-3 Championship
  • Champion: Callaghan McCarty-snead with 5.5-0.5
  • Runner-up: Robert Reyes with 5-1
  • Top Team: Mission San Jose Elementary
  • Champion: William Chui with 5-0
  • Runners-up: Samit Pattanayak and Arnav Lingannagari with 4.5-0.5

MSJE K-6 Champions with Coach Joe Lonsdale

MSJE K-3 Champions
Seemingly every year, Mission San Jose Elementary earns praise from this blog.  What have they done this spring?  Three weeks ago, they won SuperNationals K-6 and finished Top 5 in two other sections.  Then last weekend, the Giants of chess crushed the local competition, taking on all those who dared and easily winning all three CalChess Elementary team championships, two Junior Varsity divisions, and one Booster.  Coach Joe Lonsdale, his experienced staff, and private coaches (e.g. Ted Castro, Chris Torres, Wei Liu and the veteran magician Richard Shorman) have molded quite a dynasty over the years!  Frankly, I am always amazed how they can teach a 6 or 7 year old how the pieces move in September, by April they are rated 600 and by the second year they have crossed 1000. Well done!!

The influence of MSJE extends far beyond 6th grade.  The CalChess Middle School champion team at Hopkins Junior High consists of alumni of this great chess program.  And by the time they reach High School, the former students return to teach the youngsters, sharing their wisdom from over the years.  However, even the dominance of MSJE has limits.  In the K-12 Open, the all-star lineup of Kennedy Middle, featuring two masters and two experts, predictably steamrolled the field.  Veni! Vidi! Vici!
A special thank you goes to Organizer Salman Azhar of for putting in literally hundreds of hours to prepare for the CalChess Scholastics.  Nothing ever goes off perfectly, but by many accounts, the 2013 edition proceeded quite smoothly.  Of course, a lot of credit goes to Chief Tournament Director and NTD Tom Langland (also CalChess President), his computer guru NTD John McCumiskey, plus the entire staff of directors and volunteers.  All I can say personally, is that I wish I could have been there. :-)

CalChess Bear