Saturday, January 4

Big Names at SF International

GM Wei Yi
GM Ipatov

The start of a new calendar year brings fresh opportunities for the talented young stars of the Bay Area chess community.  The San Francisco International brings foreign titled players to Santa Clara for the kind of tournament more often seen in Europe than in America.  Over 70 competitors representing 15 different countries will cross swords over seven days.  Many aspire to earn one of the precious norms required for the highest titles in chess: Grandmaster and International Master.

Leading the field are 14 Grandmasters, 20 International Masters and 4 ladies holding the corresponding women's titles.  The five top seeds, rated over 2600 FIDE, include 2012 World Junior Champion Alexander Ipatov of Turkey, the current youngest Grandmaster on the planet, 14 year old Wei Yi of China, and the Berkeley Chess School talent Sam Shankland.  Sam won the 2012 edition of this event.

The one, the only, GM Shanky
Among the leading norm contenders are IM Wang Chen of China and IM Joshua Ruiz of Colombia, both strong finishers at the North American Open last week in Las Vegas.  Certainly don't count out the American juniors participating, including seven masters under age 18 representing the Bay Area.  Youth will be served!

This event would not be possible without the organizational genius of Berkeley Mathematics Professor Arun Sharma and Technology Guru Salman Azhar, founder of Bay Area Chess.  Why else would so many young Grandmasters from Turkey, China, Canada and Hungary mysteriously wander to Silicon Valley for chess?

For those readers wondering where I am?  I'm at home wishing I could play.  Alas, the week-long schedule proves too much for me and my longstanding health problems.  Instead, I will prepare myself for the Golden State Open in Concord, just two weeks away.  Yes, I registered already.

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