Monday, April 27

Ray Schutt Blitz on Sunday!

Mechanics' Institute Chess Room. Credit: ChessDryad.

Over almost a decade, the Ray Schutt Memorial has become one of the strongest and most popular blitz tournaments in the Bay Area.  The last three years saw an average of 50 players, including many masters with several Grandmasters and International Masters.  GM Daniel Naroditsky won a year ago with a perfect 10-0 score.  Earlier this year, the Brandwein blitz attracted 6 GMs plus 6 IMs.

Due to a direct conflict with the CalChess Super States, the Schutt blitz will mostly be an adult-only event this year. Come down for a fun afternoon of chess in the City!

9th Ray Schutt Memorial Blitz 
Sunday, May 3
Location: 57 Post Street, San Francisco (use Montgomery BART)
FORMAT: Six double-round Swiss (12 games total)

TIME CONTROL: G/4 + inc/2
(bring your digital clock)

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

PRIZES: $1000 total
1st place: $400
2nd place: $250
3rd place: $150
4th place: $100
5th place: $100

These prizes are guaranteed due to the generosity of the Schutt family.  Every player takes home a book prize!

REGISTRATION: On-site only from Noon to 12:45.

There will be no registration in advance.  The tournament will be held between roughly 1 and 5 PM.  Light refreshments courtesy of the Schutt family. Even if you don't play, please come and enjoy the atmosphere as we pay respect to the popular 2300 rated master.

I regret never knowing Ray. However, we did play one tournament together, and apparently sat next to each other in the first round. It was the 1998 CalChess Labor Day held in Union City.  I was rated 2124 back then and played up in Master section. Ray finished with 3.5 while I scored 2.5.   

Thursday, April 16

2015 US Champs: Nakamura and Krush

Hikaru Nakamura
Irina Krush

Grandmasters Hikatu Nakamura and Irina Krush, both top rated in the country, finished first at the 2015 US Championships in Saint Louis.  For Nakamura, it was his fourth title and the solid result left him at 2799, number 3 in the world rankings.  Undefeated and among the leaders throughout, the favorite found himself unable to separate from the competition, specifically GM Ray Robson, who took second place.  Krush captured her seventh Women's crown, tying a record dating back to the 1970s.  Her path to victory was more adventuresome and included an early defeat at the hands of second place finisher IM Nazi Paikidze.

Nakamura prowls as spectators watch. All photos from CCSCSL website.

US Championship (12 player RR)
  1. Hikaru Nakamura 8.0
  2. Ray Robson 7.5
  3. Wesley So 6.5
  4. Alexander Onischuk 6.0
  5. Sam Sevian 5.5
  6. Gata Kamsky 5.5
  7. Varuzhan Akobian 5.5
Women's Championship (12 player RR)
  1. Irina Krush 8.5
  2. Nazi Paikidze 7.5
  3. Katerina Nemcova 7.5
  4. Viktorija Ni 7.0
  5. Anna Sharevich 6.5

Outside the chess club.
The tournament did not go well for the Bay Area participants.  GM Sam Shankland ended up in eighth place, although his lone victoryn versus GM Timur Gareev earned the Best Game prize.  Unfortunately, GM Daniel Naroditsky began with a pair of losses and never recovered.

Play through the games here.  Thanks to sponsor Rex Sinquefield and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for hosting the spectacular multimedia show.

Next up in Saint Louis: a thrilling rapid and blitz exhibition between chess legends Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short on April 25-26!

Wednesday, April 1

Meet the Players at US Championship

The 2015 US Championship kicked off this afternoon at the posh Saint Louis chess club.  Over the next fortnight, twelve Grandmasters will compete for the national title, playing each competitor once.  Rounds begin daily at 11AM Pacific time and take about 4 to 5 hours (rest day on April 6).  The winner pockets $45,000 out of the $175,000 prize fund.  Even last place nets $4,000.  The superb playing conditions and generous prizes are possible through the continued sponsorship of club founders Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield

The playing field includes the top eight Americans on the current FIDE rating list, including two of the world Top 10 and six of the Top 100.  The showdowns between favorites, contenders and dark horses mark an exciting time for US chess.  I have broken down the field below, including short remarks about each of the invitees.  All ratings and rankings are FIDE.

Click for live coverage with video commentary by Grandmasters Seirawan and Ashley.

Favorites -- Guys expected to battle for the Title
  • Hikaru Nakamura (2798, world #3) A 3-time US Champion and highest rated American ever, Nakamura hopes to demonstrate his superiority over rivals new and old.  Although solidly in the older half of the field, his uncompromising style endears him to many chess fans
  • Wesley So (2788, world #8) The new kid on the block plans to build an impressive share of second at Wijk aan Zee, showing his talent to fans in America as well as his native Philippines.  Well prepared in openings, So strives to milk points from the tiniest of advantages.
Contenders -- Ready to jump if the Favorites slip

Sam Shankland
  • Gata Kamsky (2680, world #63) The champion in four of last five years, Kamsky struggled in 2014 and plays in the twilight of a storied chess career.  Indeed, he qualified as a candidate for the world championship in 1993, before four of his fellow competitors were born!
  • Sam Shankland (2661, world #84) Born and raised in the East Bay, Shanky learned his moves at the Berkeley Chess School. Gold for his board at the Tromsø Olympiad became his calling card, but hardly his only success.  He is aggressive and deadly as white, yet solid as black.

Dark Horses -- Grown up Young Stars ready to fight
Daniel Naroditsky
  • Ray Robson (2656, world #94) A prodigy who grew up playing chess, Robson is now a key member of the elite Webster U team. After slumping, he recently broke into the world Top 100.
  • Daniel Naroditsky (2640) Already a world champion at 12 years old, Danya grew up on the 64 squares.  Not merely a player, the incoming Stanford freshman is an author and aspiring historian.  Solid yet multidimensional, he strives to measure himself against the best.
Wily Veterans -- When Experience matters, they're the best
  • Alex Onischuk (2665, world #75) The US Champion in 2006, Onischuk has spent a decade as one of the Top 5 Americans.  He already transitioned to coaching and works at Texas Tech.
  • Varuzhan Akobian (2622) After years playing in the US Championship and Olympiad, Akobian has become a seasoned veterans. With inspiration and luck, he can still derail anyone.
Young Stars -- Not yet Contenders, but can beat anyone
  • Sam Sevian (2548) Bay Area chess fans will recall just a few years ago, this precocious kid rubbed elbows at local tournaments.  Now the youngest Grandmaster in US history, Sevian has bigger fish to fry.  What he may lack in experience, he makes up in energy and enthusiasm.
  • Kayden Troff (2544) The strongest chess player from the state of Utah continues to improve.  Already a Grandmaster, Troff dominated the 2014 US Junior to earn his invitation.
Pretenders -- Only need a kick in the rear and a little Luck
  • Timur Gareev (2599) The free-wheeling and outgoing Grandmaster of blindfold exhibitions brings plenty of flair to Saint Louis.  While erratic, he is capably of brilliance in every game.    
  • Conrad Holt (2525) Winner of the 2014 US Open, the UT Dallas student is the lowest rated participant this year.  Thunder Holt prefers insanely complicated positions and rarely draws.

The concurrent 2015 US Women's Championship features a defending champion aiming to win her fourth straight crown against a 12-player field that welcomes five newcomers.  Top rated GM Irina Krush (2477 FIDE) is the overwhelming favorite as she pursues her sixth national title.  In the absence of chief rival IM Anna Zatonskih, the next highest rating belongs to IM Nazi Paikidze (2333), a recent immigrant from the country of Georgia.  Other challengers include two experienced competitors: IM Rusudan Goletiani (2311) and WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (2301).  The youngest invitees are 13-year old  WFM Jennifer Yu and 12 year old WIM Annie Wang, a pair of gold medalists at international youth championships last year.  A first place award of $20,000 highlights the record $75,000 ladies prize fund.