Sunday, September 28

Medal Hopes in Durban

Flags of the 87 countries hang from ceiling.
After ten days of intense competition, the World Youth Chess Championships in South Africa are drawing to a close.  For the American delegation, the hunt for medals reaches a climax, with 7 players ranked in the top 4 for their section and an amazing 20 in the top 11 spots on tiebreaks.  Many of these children could claim a medal simply by winning the last two rounds.  Round 10 is underway as I write these sentences and Round 11 begins at 1:00 PDT on Monday morning.

The best medal chances for Team USA lie in the following sections:
  • Girls-U12: Jennifer and Akshita are clear 1st + 2nd and decide gold among themselves.
  • Boys-U12: David is tied for 1st, Praveen is 3rd, and Rayan + Aravind are tied for 4th.
  • Girls-U8: Rianne is tied for 3rd with Aksithi and Rochelle just 0.5 behind.
  • Boys-U10: Aydin is tied for 3rd while Andrew lurks 0.5 back.
  • Boys-U8: No Americans are in top 6, but somehow 6 squeezed into the top 14.

How many medals will Team USA collect?  Coach Ben Finegold predicted five medals at the start of the tournament.  Will he be right?  Stay tuned!

The CalChess kids have performed well too, with five scoring 6.0 or 6.5.  Three have realistic medal hopes if they can win the final two games: Rayan (B12), Aksithi (G8) and Andrew (B10).  Ashritha (G12) and Vignesh (B12) should finish in the top 10 with 1.5 out of the last two games.  Good luck!!

Sunday late night update: The Sunday round proved tragic for many of the American players.  Sigh!  The best chances remain in the Boys and Girls U12 sections.  At least there will be one medal -- Jennifer Yu (G12) clinched gold!  The CalChess medal hopes rest on the shoulders of Rayan (B12) and Aksithi (G8), while Vignesh can finish top 5 with a win.  Round 11 begins at 10:00am in Durban -- 1:00am in California.  Go U-S-A!! 

Team USA -- Average Score: 5.4 out of 9 (60%).
Team USA -- Average Score: 5.8 out of 10 (59%).

  • Nathaniel Shuman 6.0 (7th place) Drew Round 11 - Final 15th place
  • Rohun Trakru 6.0 (8th place) Won Round 11 - Final 10th place
  • Jason Yu 6.0 (9th place) Won Round 11 - Final 11th place
  • Rithik Polavaram 6.0 (11th place) Won Round 10 - Final 9th place
  • Arthur Guo 5.5 (12th place) Won Round 10 + Drew Round 11 - Final 8th place
  • Pranav Prem 5.5 (14th place) Won Round 10 - Final 14th place

  • Rianne Ke 6.5 (4th place) - Final 14th place
  • Aksithi Eswaran 6.0 (CalChess) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 5th place
  • Rochelle Wu 6.0 (11th place) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 6th place

  • Aydin Turgut 7.0 (4th place) - Final 14th place
  • Andrew Hong 6.5 (9th place) (CalChess) Won Round 11 - Final 10th place
  • Maximillian Lu 5.5 Won Round 11 - Final 25th place
  • Christopher Shen 5.5 Won Round 11 - Final 22nd place

  • Martha Samadashvili 6.0 (11th place) Won Round 10 - Final 8th place
  • Natassja Matus 5.5 Won Round 10 + Drew Round 11 - Final 10th place
  • Evelyn Zhu 5.5 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 6th place

  • David Peng 7.5 (2nd place) Drew Round 10 - Final 5th place
  • Praveen Balakrishnan 7.0 (3rd place) Drew Round 11 - Final 12th place
  • Rayan Taghizadeh 6.5 (CalChess) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - BRONZE MEDAL
  • Aravind Kumar 6.5 (6th place) - Final 25th place
  • Awonder Liang 6.0 (14th place) Drew Round 10 - Final 24th place
  • David Brodsky 5.5
  • Marcus Miyasaka 5.5
  • Hans Niemann 5.0 (CalChess) Won Round 11 - Final 40th place

  • Jennifer Yu 8.0 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - GOLD MEDAL
  • Akshita Gorti 7.0 (clear 2nd) - Final 12th place
  • Camille Kao 5.5
  • Ramitha Ravishankar 5.5 
  • Chenyi Zhao 4.5 (CalChess) Won Round 10 - Final 34th place

  • Vignesh Panchanatham 6.0 (CalChess) Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 5th place
  • Angel Hernandez-Camen 5.5 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 10th place
  • Bryce Tiglon 5.5 Won Rounds 10 and 11 - Final 11th place

  • Ashritha Eswaran 6.0 (CalChess) Drew Round 10 + Won Round 11 - Final 7th place
  • Priya Trakru 5.0 Drew Round 11
  • Tianhui Jie 5.0 Won Round 10

  • Kapil Chandran 6.5 (6th place) - Final 14th place
  • Edward Song 5.5 Drew Round 10 - Final 19th place

  • Apurva Virkud 6.0 (10th place) - Final 17th place
  • Agata Bykovtsev 6.0 (14th place) - Final 19th place

  • Atulya Shetty 6.0 (10th place) - Final 27th place

  • Jessica Regam 5.5 (15th place) - Final 28th place

Saturday, September 27

Mechanics Fix Sharks for Dinner

The US Chess League franchise from San Francisco showed its strong potential during weeks 4 and 5, first earning a hard-fought tie against the consensus favorites Dallas Destiny (4.5 MP, 15.0 GP), and then crushing the struggling Miami Sharks (1.5 MP, 7.0 GP).  The Mechanics (3.0 MP, 10.5 GP) moved above .500 midway through the season, and into third place in the competitive Western Division.  In each match, Daniel Naroditsky calmly kept board 1 under control while Siddharth Banik took care of business on board 4.  Incredibly, Siddharth improved his nearly flawless league record to 8.5-0.5!  Team veteran Andy Lee held a critical draw versus Dallas, while teenagers Yian Liou and Cameron Wheeler brought home full points in the rout of Miami.  Not intimidated by his Grandmaster opponent, Yian seized the center and eventually ensnared a knight on the seventh rank (see game above). 

The Mechanics return to action on Tuesday night against the Arizona Scorpions (2.5 MP, 9.5 GP) in a pivotal battle for third place in the West.  Games start at 9:00pm on ICCGood luck!

Friday, September 26

New Kid on the Block: GM Parimarjan Negi

The Bay Area has landed a new chess prodigy!  Indeed, this kid earned the Grandmaster title at the tender age of 13 years, 4 months and 22 days. He stands today as the second youngest GM in history, beating Magnus Carlsen by less than a week and the Chinese phenom Wei Yi by four months.  (Only Sergey Karjakin was younger.)  Last month, the grown-up prodigy led his native India to a surprising bronze medal at the Chess Olympiad in Norway.  Playing board 1, he scored 6.5 out of 10 against some of the best players in the world, drawing with Levon Aronian and losing just once to Fabiano Caruana.  This week, he resumes his studies away from the chess board, as a freshman at Stanford University.

Who is it?  Meet GM Parimarjan Negi, rated 2750 USCF and 2669 FIDE (#79 in the world).  Click here for his personal websiteNew In Chess magazine interviewed Negi for the latest issue, and Chessbase website reprinted the single page article here (with permission).  Check out the latest chess player at the Farm!

GM Negi is registered as the top seed at the National G/60 and G/30 Championships this weekend in Santa Clara.  Can anyone stop him?  

The game below, a crushing win against the Berlin defense at the recent Olympiad, was cited by Negi as his "best game."  In the final position, White threatens to sacrifice his Queen on h7 for a simple checkmate with two rooks.

Wednesday, September 24

Cal Kids Strong in South Africa

Inside the Playing Hall

After a very hectic 6 rounds over 4 days, today is the rest day at the World Youth Champs in Durban.  Some participants even took advantage the opportunity for a real African safari!  The chess tournament resumes tomorrow with the leisurely pace of one round per day through Monday.  Follow the top 10 boards in each section LIVE at the official website starting at 7:00am PDT.

Aksithi Eswaran
Team USA continues to score well at 62% overall.  Two girls have staked a 1/2 point lead in their respective sections, and a third player finds himself in a tie for first.  Three more guys share second place at the midpoint of the event.  Congratulations to Aksithi (G8), Jennifer (G12), Rayan (B12), Rohum (B8), Andrew (B10) and Christopher (B16)!  By my count, 14 juniors occupy the Top 10 in their section, and nearly half (34 of 70) currently have a score of 4.0 or more.  Of course, a lot can happen over the final 5 rounds.

The 7 CalChess representatives have contributed well to the statistics espoused in the previous paragraph.  Aksithi Eswaran leads Girls-U8 outright while her older sister Ashritha led Girls-U14 before a setback in round 6.  Andrew Hong and Rayan Taghizadeh carry the standard for the guys, both with 5.0 in Boys-U10 and Boy-U12, respectively.  Vignesh Panchanatham stands at 4.0, ready to continue his winning ways after two defeats earlier. Check out his daily blog reports!

Team USA -- Average Score: 3.7 out of 6 (62%).

  • Rohun Trakru 5.0 (tied for 2nd)
  • Jason Yu 4.5
  • Pranav Prem 4.5

  • Aksithi Eswaran 5.5 (clear 1st) (CalChess)
  • Rianne Ke 4.0 - won Round 7

  • Andrew Hong 5.0 (tied for 2nd) (CalChess)
  • Aydin Turgut 4.5 - drew Round 7
  • Maximillian Lu 4.5

  • Natassja Matus 4.5
  • Evelyn Zhu 4.5
  • Martha Samadashvili 4.5

Rayan Taghizadeh
  • Rayan Taghizadeh 5.0 (tied for 1st) (CalChess) - drew Round 7
  • David Peng 4.5 - won Round 7
  • Aravind Kumar 4.5 - won Round 7

  • Jennifer Yu 5.5 (clear 1st) - drew Round 7
  • Akshita Gorti 4.0 - won Round 7

  • Vignesh Panchanatham 4.0 (CalChess) - won Round 7
  • Angel Hernandez-Camen 4.0

  • Ashritha Eswaran 4.5 (CalChess)

  • Christopher Wu 5.0 (tied for 2nd)
  • Kapil Chandran 4.0

  • Agata Bykovtsev 4.0 - won Round 7
  • Apurva Virkud 4.0 - won Round 7

  • Atulya Shetty 4.0 

  • Jessica Regam 3.5 - won Round 7

Sunday, September 21

Team USA at World Youth - Top Scores

Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Hotel in Durban (Photo: Franc Guadalupe)

Team USA started off on a roll at the World Youth Champs in South Africa, scoring a collective 75% in the first round.  Four players won the first 3 games, and 13 scored the very respectable 2.5.  Moreover, 49 of the 70 American representatives (70%) claim a plus score at this early stage.  Special recognition goes to Aydin Turgut (B10), Awonder Liang (B12), Jennifer Yu (G12) and Vignesh Panchanatham (B14) for beginning with a perfect 3-0.  Of course, it is a long tournament (11 rounds) and the competition is fierce (ratings often mean nothing).

LIVE Games available at official website!

Team USA -- Average Score: 1.9 out of 3 (64%).

  • Jason Yu 2.5
  • 9 tied with 2.0

  • Aksithi Eswaran 2.5 (CalChess)
  • Rochelle Wu 2.0

  • Aydin Turgut 3.0
  • Andrew Hong 2.5
  • Wesley Wang 2.5
  • Christopher Shen 2.5 
  • Cole Frutos 2.5
  • 2 tied with 2.0

  • Martha Samadashvili 2.5
  • 6 tied with 2.0

  • Awonder Liang 3.0
  • David Brodsky 2.5
  • 6 tied with 2.0

  • Jennifer Yu 3.0
  • Akshita Gorti 2.5
  • Ramitha Ravishankar 2.0

  • Vignesh Panchanatham 3.0 (CalChess)
  • Craig Hilby 2.0
  • Angel Hernandez-Camen 2.0

  • Ashritha Eswaran 2.5 (CalChess)
  • Priya Trakru 2.5

  • Kapil Chandran 2.0
  • Christopher Wu 2.0

  • Agata Bykovtsev 2.5
  • Apurva Virkud 2.5
  • Shaileja Jain 2.0

  • Atulya Shetty 2.0 

  • Jessica Regam 2.0

Note: Due to my travel schedule, I will not be able to update this blog until midweek.

Saturday, September 20

World Youth Begins in Durban

Vignesh and Rayan at the venue.
Hans strolls on the sand.

The 2014 World Youth Chess Championships kicked off today in Durban, South Africa.  Among approximately 950 players from 88 countries are 70 Americans, including 7 residing in Northern California.  The overall turnout is half of last year in United Arab Emirates, and Team USA shrunk from a record 94 participants.  No doubt, the tournament dates contributed to the lower turnout, especially compared to last year's event over the Winter Holidays.  Follow the results of Team USA at a glance using the Chess-Results website.

Life's a Beach in Durban.
The first impressions have been positive.  In a preview at Chess Life Online, GM coach Ben Finegold spoke of a great hotel with a plentiful buffet, immediately addressing one of the shortcomings last year.  In his chess chronicles, Bay Area NM Vignesh Panchanatham lauds the organization and good playing conditions.  The children will no doubt enjoy the adjacent beach, while adults can relax in the mild spring breezes off the Indian Ocean.

Of course, the primary focus is chess.  The schedule features 11 rounds through September 29, with double rounds tomorrow and on Tuesday, plus a rest day on Wednesday.  Most rounds begin at 16:00 local time, which converts to 7:00 in the morning PDT (rounds 2, 5 and 11 begin at 10:00 local).  Hopefully there will be live coverage of some of the top boards at the official website.

Three of the seven Northern California representatives already earned the USCF title of National Master, a tribute to their skill and experience competing against adults and juniors alike.  I expect them to fare well even against higher rated opposition.

Bay Area Delegation -- Scores after Round 3
  • WCM Aksithi Eswaran (G8) 2.5 !
  • Andrew Hong (B10) 2.5 !
  • NM Rayan Taghizedah (B12) 2.0 
  • Hans Niemann (B12) 2.0
  • Chenyi Zhao (G12) 1.0
  • NM Vignesh Panchanatham (B14) 3.0 !!!
  • NM Ashritha Eswaran (G14) 2.5 - drew with #1 seed from Russia!

Extra: Check out this fun attack and checkmate by Rayan at US Chess!

Team USA maintains high hopes of earning several medals once again.  Arthur Guo (B8) and FM Awonder Liang (B12) are rated highest in their respective sections.  Alas, they're hardly the only contenders.  In particular, watch the Boys Under 12 section with seven Americans seeded in the top 20, including Rayan and Hans from the Bay Area.  Among the young ladies, the Girls Under 12 appears most promising, with Jennifer Yu and Akshita Gorti both ranked in the top 4 of the section.  Good luck to all!  Go U-S-A!!

(Photos have been shamelessly borrowed from the Facebook pages of player parents.  Credit to Siva Panchanatham, Kaimi Niemann and Ramalingam Eswaran.)

Friday, September 19

CalChess Young Masters

Kesav Viswanadha calculates.
Michael Wang concentrates.

The Bay Area has built the reputation for supporting the growth of  talented young chess stars.  Over a few short years, many of these juniors improve to Expert, Master and Beyond!  Incredibly, 11 now hold a USCF rating above 2200 on the October supplement.  Another 5 earned their National Master certificate previously, but have since dropped a few points.  That's a total of 16 CalChess young masters!  

To put these numbers in perspective, consider that zero masters played at the CalChess Scholastics in 2003, while 2006 was the first year to see more than two masters participate.

Top CalChess Juniors (rated above 2150 on October supplement)
  1. IM-elect Yian Liou (age 17) 2502 USCF rating
  2. FM Kesav Viswanadha (15) 2429
  3. FM Cameron Wheeler (14) 2382
  4. Josiah Stearman smiles on his birthday.
  5. NM Vignesh Panchanatham (14) 2356
  6. NM Colin Chow (14) 2282
  7. NM Paul Richter (16) 2271
  8. NM Michael Wang (12) 2240
  9. NM Allan Beilin (15) 2221
  10. NM Siddharth Banik (14) 2215
  11. NM Rayan Taghizadeh (12) 2212
  12. FM Tanuj Vasudeva (13) 2209
  13. nm Josiah Stearman (11) 2185
  14. Teemu Virtanen (15) 2184
  15. Neel Apte (16) 2180
  16. nm Jack Zhu (15) 2174
  17. Ladia Jirasek (14) 2174
  18. Pranav Nagarajan (14) 2172
  19. nm Ashritha Eswaran (13) 2171
  20. nm Daniel Liu (16) 2165
  21. nm Udit Iyengar (14) 2165
  22. Jerome Sun (17) 2165
  23. Hunter Klotz-burwell (16) 2164
  24. Joshua Cao (17) 2164
  25. Kevin Moy (14) 2155
* nm = NM but currently rated under 2200

The top two players on this list both have a trio of IM norms to their credit.  Yian also achieved the required 2400 FIDE rating, while Kesav must pick up another 18 FIDE points.  We should have two new International Masters among our midst soon.

Watch out for Josiah!  The young lad spent the last month of summer on a quest for 2200.  He reached his goal in San Diego, peaking at 2215 before slipping back down.  Officially, Josiah gained 133 rating points in one month, from the August rating list to September (2066 to 2199)! 

Who will be next to make master?  Certainly anyone rated above 2150 could crack 2200 after one or two good weekends.  In addition, a pair of even younger stars, Hans Niemann (11) and Andrew Hong (9), already sport competitive ratings above 2100.

Wednesday, September 17

Blitz Tourney on Sunday at Mechanics!

Neil Falconer -
Update: At least three GMs expect to play: Daniel Naroditsky, Patrick Wolff and James Tarjan!

Five months after his passing, the Mechanics' Institute will honor trustee, patron and chess enthusiast Neil Falconer with a Sunday afternoon blitz tournament.  Mr. Falconer's dedication to the royal game spanned 75 years, from days as a high school student to sponsorship of the generous Falconer Award every year since 1999.  He remained a strong class A player even into his 80s, and challenged some of my top students.  I spoke with him several times, during the CalChess legal crisis in 2004-05 and informally at the chess club.  Unfortunately, we never crossed swords over the board.  Please read this tribute to one of the great gentlemen of Northern California chess.

The Falconer Blitz Tournament follows a similar format to the annual Ray Schutt Memorial, which has become the largest and most prestigious blitz event in the Bay Area.  Given Mr. Falconer's popularity, I expect many experts and masters to attend, including a few titled players.  Come on down for a fun afternoon of chess in the City!  

Neil Falconer Blitz Tournament 
Sunday, September 21
Location: 57 Post Street, San Francisco (Montgomery BART)
FORMAT: Five double-round Swiss

TIME CONTROL: G/5 + inc/2
(bring your digital clock)

ENTRY FEE: $10 (free for GM/IM)
This tournament is UNRATED. (Membership in USCF not required)

PRIZES: $750 total (guaranteed)
1st place: $300
2nd place: $200
3rd place: $100
4th place: $75
5th place: $50
6th place: $25

Every player takes home a book from Mr. Falconer's library!

REGISTRATION: 1 to 1:45 pm on-site only.  There will be no registration in advance.  The tournament starts at 2 pm and lasts until about 5 pm. Prize fund guaranteed by GM Patrick Wolff.

Note from Fpawn: Normally, I would jump to attend this event, especially since I knew Neil.  However, the date presents an unavoidable conflicts with other plans.  I'll be there in spirit.

Saturday, September 13

Round 3 - Mechanics Blow Thru Nor'easters

Cameron Wheeler
After a disappointing second round, the San Francisco Mechanics (1.5 MP, 5.0 GP) cranked out the first victory of 2014 against the struggling New England Nor'easters (0.0 MP, 4.5 GP).  On top board, Daniel Naroditsky won a complex time scramble against fellow Grandmaster Alexander Ivanov.  Playing black for the second week in a row, Jesse Kraai maintained sufficient activity to draw a rook endgame.  That left matters in the hands of 14-year old Cameron Wheeler, who needed 105 moves to convert an endgame up the exchange.  Unfortunately, the 11-year old playing Board 4, Hans Niemann, suffered a painful lesson at the hands of an experienced master.  Final score: 2.5-1.5 in favor of the local US Chess League junkies!

Next Tuesday night, the home team faces the Western Division leading Dallas Destiny (3.0 MP, 10.0 GP), who feature reigning MVP, 13-year old Jeffery Xiong on board 2!  Watch the games live on ICC beginning at 5:30pm Pacific.