Tuesday, July 30

USA 6th at World U16 Olympiad

Team USA-2 from left to right: Arthur, Chris, Yian, Michael, Kevin and Mr. Shen.
After ten rounds over eight days, the World Youth Chess Olympiad in Chongqing, China ended with a Closing Ceremony on Monday.  As expected, the race for gold came down to the top two seeds.  Russia and India, both featuring lineups rated over 2400, scored eight wins each.  The difference came in round 6, when the scholastic chess superpowers squared off in a match that saw three tense draws and only one victory, by India's third board.  The #2 rated Indians faced 8 of the top 10 teams, impressively beating 6 and splitting with #3 Hungary and #7 Turkey.  The higher rated Russians still could have shared top honors; alas, they halved a match with the upstart China-2 team right after the rest day.

Final Team Standings
  1. #2 India (18 MP, 30.5 GP)
  2. #1 Russia (17 MP, 30.0 GP)
  3. #7 Turkey (15 MP, 26.0 GP)
  4. #3 Hungary (15 MP, 25.0 GP)
  5. #4 China-1 (14 MP, 29.0 GP)
  6. #6 USA-2 (14 MP, 26.0 GP)
  7. #16 SCWY School (14 MP, 24.5 GP)
  8. #8 Iran (14 MP, 23.0 GP)
No doubt the host Chinese are disappointed not to have earned a team medal.  Indeed, three Chinese squads were among the top 5 going into round 9, after China-1 crushed #5 Australia by 4-0 and China-2 nicked the Russians 2-2.  And as a pleasant surprise, SCWY School checkmated the Czech Republic.  However, all three local teams lost in round 9, shattering their medal dreams.  Nonetheless, the future appears bright for the talented students at the elite Chinese chess academies.

SM Kevin Wang
SM Chris Gu
The American teams also hoped for better results.  To their credit, the official team USA-2 managed to claw back to respectability with a share of 5th place.  They faced only two higher rated squads, halving the match against #3 Hungary and subsequently losing a showdown with #1 Russia by the narrowest margin.  The low point came following the rest day, when the Americans lost to #10 Kazakhstan and, a few hours later, tied with the overachieving students of SDQD School.  Each member of USA-2 tasted defeat at least once, some due to an embarrassing blunder or with a match hanging in balance.  Board 3 Kevin Wang (78% record) and alternate Chris Gu (81% record) posted the best results, both scoring six wins.  Kudos to Chris for earning 3rd board prize among eligible alternates!

The extra team USA-1 struggled throughout the event, especially against the underrated local schools.  They finished above 50% with 11 MP, good for 25th place out of 72 teams.

Website Links

Sunday, July 28

Denker, Barber and Girls Invitationals

Hunter Klotz-burwell
NM Vignesh Panchanatham
The 114th US Open kicked off this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin.  Only ten participants have signed up from Northern California, a somewhat smaller number than past years.

Three invitational side events will attract more local interest.  The prestigious Denker Tournament of High School Champions operates as a competition between the state scholastic champions of all 50 states.  Click for a historical perspective.  The field seems especially strong this year, with 11 players rated over 2300 USCF!  The Barber Invitational extends the same experience to the top K-8 players in each state.  Here the competition also promises to be fierce, with 8 masters in attendance.  Finally, the National Girls Invitational offers the same format to one girl from each state.

The official CalChess representatives are: Hunter Klotz-burwell in Denker, NM Vignesh Panchanatham in Barber, and Audrey Zhao for the Girls.  Each qualified at state scholastic championship events earlier this year.  Best of luck to all three!

NEWS FLASH!  Vignesh Panchanatham tied for first in the Barber Invitational!  He scored 5.0 out of 6, including 2.5 in 3 games against fellow masters.  Bravo!

Apparently the Texas Chess Association has the only website with live games.  Unfortunately, they can only broadcast eight boards total.

Dewain Barber
FINAL Results (after round 6)
  • Hunter = 3.0 and tied for 20th in Denker -- tough pairings: 0.5/3 against 2300 average masters
  • Vignesh = 5.0 and CO-CHAMPION in Barber -- 4-way tie for 1st and 2.5/3 versus masters
  • Audrey = 3.5 and tied for 9th in Girls

Many thanks to Dewain Barber of Southern California for the required inspiration and perspiration to bring these special events to fruition each year. 

Saturday, July 27

Final Rounds of Chongqing Olympiad

Team USA-2 prepares before round.  From left to right:
Arthur, Michael (standing), Yian, Kevin and Chris.

Well ... that did not go as planned.  After back-to-back disappointments today, the official team USA-2 finds itself eliminated from medal contention at the World Youth Chess Olympiad.  In the morning, the Americans lost 1.5-2.5 to Kazakhstan, despite an upset win by Kevin Wang against their previously undefeated board 2.  Unfortunately, the afternoon round proved not much better.  Only Yian Liou scored the full point as the team halved the match against another talented Chinese school.  With two rounds remaining, USA-2 fell to 14th place and 3 Match Points out of the medals.

Let's ask Yian what those characters mean.
USA-2 (Official Team)
(click for full results)

14th place with 10 MP, 20.5 GP
  1. Defeated Indonesia by 2.5-1.5
  2. Lost to Kazakhstan 1.5-2.5
  3. Split with BJHD School (China) 2:2
  4. Paired against SDQD School (China) 
Check out the great photos of USA-2 players in the round 8 album at the official website.

The tournament has gone even worse for the lower rated USA-1 team.   After sweeping the weak Taiwan delegation, they conceded a third match to the local schools by the frustratingly tight score of 1.5-2.5.  No doubt that some Chinese chess academies have developed strong and underrated players, but the masters from Texas are no slouches themselves with an average USCF rating of 2300!  USA-1 gets another chance against a local school on Sunday.
USA-1 (Extra Team)
(click for full results)

43rd place with 7 MP, 16.5 GP
  1. Lost to CQFLHY School (China) 1.5-2.5
  2. Defeated Taiwan by 4-0
  3. Lost to CQLBNS School (China) 1.5-2.5
  4. Paired against CQFLPE School (China)

Free Week at ICC

The Internet Chess Club has announced a FREE WEEK from July 27 through August 2.  To play, simply register and download the interface.  No need to pay until next weekend.  No obligation.  Come one, come all, and see what you are missing!

This free week entitles you to watch daily live coverage of the Dortmund tournament featuring former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, newest to crack 2800 Fabiano Caruana, top ranked Chinese Wang Hao and others.  Listen to commentary by Grandmasters Benjamin, Yermolinsky and Christiansen on ChessFM.   Games begin daily at 6:00am PDT (except the rest day on Wednesday).

Friday, July 26

Photo Essay: USA vs Russia

Board 1: IM Artemiev 1-0 FM Michael Bodek
Board 2: FM Yian Liou 1/2 IM Oparin

Board 4: FM Arthur Shen 1/2 IM Zenzera
Board 3: FM Alekseenko 1-0 SM Kevin Wang

Photos courtesy of Chiiwen Liou.

Chess in the Local Newspapers

The tension in the room is high, and not a move is being made. Players sit across from each other, their brows furrowed as they ponder their next step. Digital clocks count down the remaining time in the game. A few curious onlookers and players roam from game to game, analyzing strategies.

Welcome to the world of competitive chess.

Last weekend saw Bay Area Chess, an organization that provides weekly chess tournaments and camps, host the People's Tournament. The three-day event in Santa Clara drew 150 adult competitors and nearly 100 youth. ... The tournament afforded the younger players both practice and a view of the adult and advanced competitors.

Click to read feature story. (July 26, 2013)

Modesto kids went pawn to pawn against some the top youth chess players in the nation this summer — and lost. But while the Bret Harte Chess Club left that first tournament without trophies, parents said, what they brought back was worth far more: confidence, skill and persistence.

A fifth-place trophy earned this weekend stands tall in the school library where they practice.

Click for entire article. (July 24, 2013)
Read an editorial commending chess teachers.

Thursday, July 25

Halftime Report for Youth Olympiad

USA-2 on left versus Hungary. From front to back:
Chris, Arthur, Yian and Michael (not visible).

Teams from 26 countries arrived in Chongqing, China to compete in the World Youth Chess Olympiad.  Ten American juniors came to represent the nation on two separate teams.  The official team USA-2 scored 11 out of 12 points in the first three rounds, vanquishing opponents from Singapore and two Chinese schools. USA-2 split round 4 against #3 seed Hungary on the strength of a win by Chris Gu on board 4.

This result set up a showdown versus top rated Russia on Thursday morning. Although Arthur Shen won and Yian Liou drew, the Russians proved simply too strong with the White pieces on boards 1 and 3. After this setback, the team regrouped quickly to pull out an important match victory in the afternoon round against Indonesia.

Board 2 FM Yian Liou
Board 1 FM Michael Bodek
Heading into Friday's rest day, USA-2 stands in 7th place with 9 Match Points (2 per win) and 17 Game Points, only one MP out of 2nd. India defeated Russia in round 6 to take the lead at 11 MP. Four rounds remain, including another double round on Saturday. The tournament concludes on Monday (Sunday evening in California).

Team Standings (after Round 6)
  • 11 MP - India
  • 10 MP - Russia, China-2, Hungary and Iran
  • 9 MP - China-1, USA-2, Australia-1, Turkey and Kazakhstan

Unfortunately, the lower rated USA-1 team has fallen on tough times, losing first to #2 seed India and subsequently to two of the Chinese schools.  These scholastic programs represent the future of Chinese chess, which developed many talented young Grandmasters over the years--including 7 of the current Top 100 in the World, all under age 30!

Photos courtesy of Chiiwen Liou.

Tuesday, July 23

Youth Olympiad Kicks Off

USA-2 on left versus Singapore.  From front to back:
Chris Gu, Arthur Shen, Kevin Wang and Yian Liou.

The World Youth Chess Olympiad kicked off this week in Chongqing, China.  A total of 72 teams have entered the championship, representing mainland China and 25 other countriesTen American juniors made the trip, competing as two separate teams.

To date, three rounds are in the books.  The top teams will begin to clash in round 4 tonight, including the showdown between the #1 seed Russia and the home team and #4 seed China-1.  And our boys, #6 seed USA-2, face #3 seed Hungary.

Update on Wednesday morning: USA-2 drew Hungary 2:2 on the strength of a board 4 win by Christopher Gu.  The Americans are paired versus top rated Russia for round 5.  Watch it LIVE at 6pm PDT tonight! 

Update late on Wednesday evening: USA-2 lost a close fight to Russia by 1.5-2.5.  Next up is Indonesia at 12:30am PDT on Thursday early morning!  Then, after playing six rounds in four days, the players earned a rest day on Friday.

USA-2 at Opening Ceremony
USA-2 (Official Team)
(click for full results)

7th place with 9 MP, 17 GP
  1. Defeated CQFLHY School (China) by 4-0
  2. Defeated Singapore by 3.5-0.5
  3. Defeated BJJM Club (China) by 3.5-0.5
  4. Split with #3 seed Hungary 2:2
  5. Lost to #1 seed Russia 1.5-2.5 
  6. Defeated Indonesia by 2.5-1.5
  7. Paired against Kazakhstan on Saturday
USA-1 (Extra Team)
(click for full results)

49th place with 5 MP, 11 GP
  1. Defeated Hong Kong by 3-1
  2. Defeated SouthAfrica-3 by 3-1
  3. Lost to #2 seed India by 0-4
  4. Lost to CDSD School (China) by 1.5-2.5
  5. Split with QD School (China) 2:2
  6. Lost to CQFLHY School (China) 1.5-2.5
  7. Paired against Taiwan on Saturday
Photos courtesy of Chiiwen Liou.

Opening Ceremony
Young Dancers

Thursday, July 18

Team USA at World Youth Olympiad in China

Yangtze River gorge
Chongqing lies in south-central China.

Two teams will represent the USA next week at the World Youth Chess Olympiad (under 16) in Chongqing, China. The host city lies on the mighty Yangtze River, more than 900 miles distant from eastern metropolises Beijing and Shanghai.  The players will quickly become accustomed used to hot & humid weather (made worse by pollution) and traditional Szechuan cuisine (spicy).

For full results of each round, go to Chess-Results.

The stronger American squad (paradoxically called USA-2) comprises of four masters from the Northeast and one from the Bay Area.  All five players are rated above 2400 USCF and they have combined for eight IM norms.  Indeed, the three lower rated members each scored a norm at World Open earlier this month! 

USA-2 (Official Team)
  • FM Michael Bodek (2386 FIDE rating, age 15, state NY)
  • FM Yian Liou (2381, 16, CA-N)
  • SM Kevin Wang (2297, 15, MD)
  • FM Arthur Shen (2286, 16, NJ)
  • SM Chris Gu (2264, 14, RI)
  • Averages: 2323 FIDE, 2455 USCF, age 15

The other American team is mostly younger and dominated by players from the state of Texas. 

USA-1 (Extra Team)
  • FM Jeffery Xiong (2369, 12, TX)
  • NM Jarod Pamatmat (2172, 16, TX)
  • FM Tommy He (2128, 13, TX)
  • Joshua Sheng (1995, 12, CA-S)
  • Bovey Liu (2000, 11, TX)
  • Averages: 2133 FIDE, 2303 USCF, age 13

Just like the Chess Olympiad for Grandmasters, country teams consist of four boards plus an alternate.  All participants have birthdays in 1997 or later.  Some countries, including the USA, entered multiple teams.  There are 72 teams from 27 different countries have registered.  About 40 teams represent different schools or clubs from China.  Eight countries feature competitive master level lineups.

Top 10 Teams (by average rating of top 4 players)
  1. Russia (2480) - 3 IMs including Young Stars champ Vladislav Artemiev (2554)
  2. India (2426) - 3 IMs
  3. Hungary (2370) - 5 FMs
  4. China-1 (2345) - led by current youngest Grandmaster in World Wei Yi (2557)
  5. Australia (2340) - 2 IMs including Australian Open champ Bobby Cheng (2438)
  6. USA-2 (2338)
  7. Turkey (2305) - 2 IMs
  8. Iran (2271) - 3 FMs and a WIM
  9. USA-1 (2167)  
  10. China-2 (2133)

The Youth Olympiad commences on Monday, July 22, and continues through Monday, July 29.  The schedule shows 10 rounds over 7 days, with a free day planned on Friday the 26th.  Games will be played at 9:00am and 3:30pm China time, which translates to 6:00pm (on the previous day!) and 12:30am Pacific time.  That means round 2 on Tuesday morning is actually on Monday evening in California time zone.

Watch the official website for pairings, results and perhaps even live games.  I hope to provide daily updates on my chess blog and Twitter account.

Wednesday, July 17

Daniel Naroditsky Earns GM Title


For the young chess wizard Daniel Naroditsky, the journey to the Grandmaster title reads much like an epic poem by Homer.  Sharing a birthday with the great Mikhail Tal, the precocious Danya seemed destined to reach the highest level of international chess. His passport quickly filled with stamps from tournaments all around the world:  Ecuador, France, Georgia (the country) and Vietnam to name a few.

Learning from the champ himself: Garry Kasparov
My first recollection of the short Russian-American boy who needed a booster chair just to see the board dates back to the 2005 Far West Open in Reno.  Only 9 years old, Daniel dominated the B section with 5.5 out of 6, yielding a draw to my close friend, who finished in second place.  He captured the CalChess High School Championship at age 11, holding a draw against top seed and future GM Sam Shankland in the final round.  For an encore, he took on the World, winning the 2007 World Youth U12 in Turkey.  The climax saw Danya victorious as black against another future GM, with his California fans watching online in the middle of the night.

Daniel with fellow master Steven Zierk,
co-champs at 2008 CalChess Scholastics
As Daniel became more skilled, his aspirations shifted to international tournaments and norms.  He earned the titles of USCF National Master and FIDE Master during the final months of 2007.  The next giant leap came at the 2009 Western Chess Congress in Concord, where he finished clear first ahead of an octet of International Masters.  Not just a tournament player, Daniel undertook the monumental task of writing and editing a book on Mastering Positional Chess (published in March 2010).  The youngest chess author in the World finally scored three IM norms from July 2010 to January 2011, securing the coveted title on home turf at the 2011 Berkeley International.

The Grandmaster title would take another 2.5 years.  Danya quickly picked up the first GM norm at the 2011 Villa de Benasque Open in Spain, maintaining an undefeated record against six hungry Grandmasters, including three of the top five seeds.  However, the second GM norm proved more elusive.  Although most teenagers rest their tired brains during Spring Break, the energetic young master flew across country to share top honors at the 2013 Philadelphia Open, a feat worthy of another norm.  Three months later, Danya tempted fate at the 2013 Villa de Benasque Open, hoping for lightning to strike twice.  Thanks to another undefeated performance versus Grandmasters, it did!  Watch how the youthful author of Mastering Complex Endgames (published in January 2013) converts a middlegame edge into a winning minor piece endgame.

Congratulations to GM-elect Daniel Naroditsky!  As a friend, former coach and fan of the royal game, it has been an honor watching this young star shine over the years.  Indeed, his love for chess radiates warmly into anyone in his company for even a short while.  Here's wishing all the best for the remainder of the summer and a final year of high school!

Make sure to check out Daniel's personal website at http://danielnaroditskychess.com

For most enthusiastic chess players, winning the US Junior Invitational and subsequently completing the final GM norm would suffice for a successful summer of chess.  Not Daniel!  He started another tournament in Spain, the Cuitat de Balaguer Open, and already won the first three rounds.  And before returning to the Bay Area, the frequent flyer travels to Riga, the capital of Latvia, for one more event.  Gooood luck!

Tuesday, July 16

Local Stars on USCF Top 100 U21

Garry Kasparov presents first place trophy to Ashritha Eswaran!
Photo from GM Dejan Bojkov's blog
The vibrant San Francisco Bay Area chess community continues to cultivate the talents of its youth, as witnessed by reviewing the USCF Top 100 lists (which now come out monthly).  Take the Under 21 list for example: 9 boys and 6 girls ranked among the country's best juniors.

Top 100 U21 - July 2013
  • #5 GM-elect Daniel Naroditsky (age 17) rated 2558 USCF
  • #12 FM Yian Liou (16) 2469
  • #13 SM Greg Young (18) 2467
  • #15 IM-elect Sam Sevian (12) 2464
  • #52 NM Hayk Manvelyan (19) 2311
  • #55 FM Cameron Wheeler (12) 2306
  • #84 NM Vignesh Panchanatham (13) 2254
  • #85 NM Kesav Viswanadha (13) 2253
  • #86 NM Colin Chow (13) 2252

The top local stars have been hard at work this summer.  High school senior Daniel Naroditsky earned his final Grandmaster norm last week at the Villa de Benasque Open in Spain.  Congratulations to the GM-elect!  After narrowly missing two consecutive chances for his final IM norm in Washington DC, high school junior Yian Liou will represent the USA next week at the World Youth (U16) Olympiad in Chongqing (China).  Readers may still remember that Daniel, Yian and 12-year old IM-elect Sam Sevian all participated in the US Junior Closed last month in Saint Louis, where Danya finished clear first and the precocious Sam shared second. 

At the lower end of the U21 list, the next generation of Bay Area stars has begun making their mark.  Not yet a teenager, FM Cameron Wheeler already won the CalChess High School Championship to go along with his silver medal from World Youth U-12 last year.  But Cameron faces stiff competition from a trio of National Masters just one year older.  Indeed, Colin Chow of Sacramento shared 2nd at World Open U2400 and will be officially rated over 2300 next month.

Top 100 Girls U21 - July 2013
  • #8 Ashritha Eswaran (age 12) rated 2121 USCF
  • #37 Taylor Mccreary (16) 1937
  • #54 Alekhya Nandula (17) 1845
  • #67 Joanna Liu (11) 1790
  • #75 Audrey Zhao (15) 1764
  • #89 Samyukta Bhat (18) 1721

Not to be outdone by the boys, the top two local girls have made strides over the past six months.  Ashritha Eswaran won All Girls Nationals U14 and gained an incredible 187 points between the January and July rating lists!  She hasn't slowed down yet, and is unofficially rated 2163 after World Open U2200, narrowly outside the Top 20 Women in the country (including adults).  Although rated lower, 16-year old Taylor Mccreary has made waves too, going undefeated against stiff opposition at the aforementioned CalChess High School Championship.

Friday, July 12

To Blitz, Or Not To Blitz

Conventional wisdom states that speed chess interferes with serious tournament games because the blitz player relies on intuition and shallow calculation.  Indeed, there is precious little time to calculate a deep variation or thoroughly evaluate multiple candidate moves.  At a slower time control, such shallow thinking opens the door for a patient opponent to discover a subtle refutation.

Regardless of how "bad" these fast and furious games may be, the benefits must not be ignored.  Each blitz contest counts as a live tactics exercise between you and your opponent.  Despite imperfections on both sides, most speed games inevitably boil down to who sees more tricks.  In addition, the veteran blitz player develops poise to handle time pressure at a slow tournament.  Speed chess also offers repeated opportunities to practice new openings or new middlegame strategies.  As the saying goes: practice makes perfect!   

Lastly, blitz is fun!

GM Hikaru Nakamura is one of the strongest ICC
blitz players under the username CapilanoBridge.
Without a doubt, all of my 2000+ rated chess students (past and present) love blitz and are quite proficient.  They compete among the many titled players available online and learn from their style of play.  No doubt, the correlation between blitz specialists and competitive masters remains strong.  An increase in someone's online blitz rating often precedes a boost in serious tournament performance.  

Once an improving player understands the value of wisely using the clock in slow games, the many benefits of speed chess outweigh any drawbacks.  Ideally, blitz practice should not substitute for other forms of chess study (books or software), but rather complement the overall study plan.  Steady practice leads to improvement over time.

I highly recommend participating in the 5-minute pool on ICC.  Press the "5" button to be automatically paired within a few seconds (this is different from regular 5 0 blitz).  Over the years, I have observed that G/5 is the fastest time control to play a sound game of chess without relying on mouse races all the time.  Conveniently, the ICC 5-minute ratings tend to correlate most closely to USCF ratings. 

Thursday, July 4

Reddit: 10 y/o Beats IM While Drinking 7 Up

Some readers may remember this hilarious video from the US Chess School in December 2010.  Never one to be shy, Sam Sevian, then the youngest chess master in America at just 10 years old, challenged IM Greg Shahade to a friendly blitz game.  Nobody would have predicted that, almost three years later, this video surfaces on the Top 50 rankings at reddit.comDo I see a potential sponsorship?

Be yourself. Be refreshing. Be 7 Up.

Tuesday, July 2

Disability Article in July Chess Life

Life is a beach!
Check out the July 2013 edition of Chess Life magazine for an article about disabled chess players.  The author, freelance writer Christen McCurdy, interviewed seven chess enthusiasts from around the country, each with significant physical limitations.  The bottom line: the royal game offers "A Level Playing Board" for persons who cannot compete in mainstream sports.

The story includes several lengthy quotations from yours truly, plus an annotated game and two photos.  The full page photo on page 31 shows the fpawn at the Pacific Ocean during a weekend trip to Monterey.  Great picture Dad!  The annotated game with GM Alex Yermolinsky was played at Agoura Hills in 2006.  Yermo exacted his revenge in Reno two years later, in a game that he annotated for the Sioux Falls Chess Club

If you subscribe to Chess Life magazine, then watch your mailbox this week.  If you do not, you can read the magazine online.  A current USCF membership is required.