Sunday, May 14

SuperNationals VI - Sunday Update

IM Vignesh Panchanatham celebrates with
GM Sam Shankland. (credit: US Chess)
SM Rayan Taghizadeh (credit: US Chess)

(This paragraph was posted at 1:00pm PDT.) The final round pairings of SuperNationals VI in Nashville saw a pair of Bay Area stars sitting at board 1 of their respective sections. Both IM Kesav Viswanadha and SM Rayan Taghizadeh could clinch first place simply by winning with the white pieces. Possibly a draw would be enough. Another 8 local juniors had 5.0 points heading into the last round and hoped for a Top 10 trophy: IM Vignesh Panchanatham and NM Michael Wang in K-12; Abhinav Koka in K-8; William Sartorio in K-6; Sriram Krishnakumar, Nitish Nath and Adrian Kondakov in K-3; and Lucas Jiang in K-1. Will they make it?

IM Kesav Viswanadha (credit: US Chess)
Congratulations to three National Champions! IM Kesav Viswanadha and IM Vignesh Panchanatham tied for first place in K-12 with four others. Both repeat as National High School champions, a title they earned in Atlanta last year. Also kudos to SM Rayan Taghizadeh for winning the Junior High K-9 section. This is Rayan's second straight victory at SuperNationals, as he won Elementary K-5 four years ago at SuperNationals V.

A grand total of 22 NorCal kids won a place trophy or honorable mention (tied for last trophy) in the championship sections. Special kudos to those who also finished in the Top 10: William Sartorio (9th in K-6), NM Christopher Yoo (5th in K-5), Sriram Krishnakumar (5th in K-3) and Adrian Kondakov (7th in K-3). Three more came very close: Maurya Palusa (11th in K-5), Nitish Nath (12th in K-3) and Kavya Meiyappan (11th in K-1). Way to go!!

Four Bay Area school teams placed in the Top 3 of their section. The K-12 proved most competitive, with Monta Vista High School of Cupertino capturing 1st place, narrowly ahead of teams from Washington and Virginia.  This was the fourth National team title in seven years for IM Viswanadha, IM Cameron Wheeler, nm Udit Iyengar and nm Pranav Srihari after 2011 (Regnart ES), 2012 (Kennedy MS) and 2015 (Monta Vista HS). Wow!!  Two other Silicon Valley schools, Mission San Jose HS and The Harker School, finished in 6th and 9th place, respectively.  Respect!

Monta Vista High School (credit: Vasu Sarangapani)

While the Monta Vista dynasty is quite impressive, equally so is the year-to-year success at Mission San Jose Elementary. Regardless of which students attend his program, Coach Joe Lonsdale manages to craft a strong team that is always competitive in multiple age groups at National Elementary! This year, MSJE finished 3rd in K-6, 2nd in K-1 and co-champions in K-5! By my count, this is the seventh national title that MSJE won or shared since 2009, and comes on the heels of victory in K-6 last year (with mostly different kids). I honestly don't know how Coach Joe pulls this off every year.

Final Standings (minimum 4.0) 

K-12 Championship

  • IM Kesav Viswanadha (MVHS) 6.0 (NATIONAL CHAMPION)
  • IM Vignesh Panchanatham (Harker) 6.0 (NATIONAL CHAMPION)
  • NM Michael Wang (Harker) 5.5 (14th place)
  • IM Cameron Wheeler (MVHS) 5.0 (18th place)
  • Christopher Pan (Mission) 5.0 (honorable mention)
  • nm Udit Iyengar (MVHS) 4.0
  • Ganesh Murugappan (Mission) 4.0
  • Anirudh Seela (Mission) 4.0
  • Amit Sant (Mission) 4.0
  • Monta Vista High School 18.5 (NATIONAL CHAMPION)
  • Mission San Jose High School 17.0 (6th place)
  • The Harker School 16.5 (9th place)

K-9 Championship

  • SM Rayan Taghizadeh 6.0 (NATIONAL CHAMPION)

K-8 Championship

  • Abhinav Koka 5.5 (14th place)
  • Jaisuraj Kaleeswaran 4.0
  • Shaashwath Sivakumar 4.0
  • Hopkins Junior High School 12.0 (15th place)

K-6 Championship

  • William Sartorio 5.5 (9th place)
  • Milind Maiti 5.0 (18th place)
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan (MSJE) 4.5
  • Atul Thirumalai (MSJE) 4.5
  • Leo Jiang (MSJE) 4.0
  • Shreyas Nayak (MSJE) 4.0
  • Edwin Thomas (MSJE) 4.0
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 17.0 (3rd place)

K-5 Championship

  • NM Christopher Yoo 6.0 (5th place)
  • Maurya Palusa 5.5 (11th place)
  • Vyom Vidyarthi 5.0 (17th place)
  • Kevin Pan (MSJE) 5.0 (24th place)
  • Allyson Wong (MSJE) 5.0 (honorable mention)
  • Stephen He (MSJE) 5.0
  • Abhinav Penagalapati 4.5  
  • Nicholas Jiang (MSJE) 4.5
  • Aghilan Nachiappan (MSJE) 4.0
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 19.5 (co-NATIONAL CHAMPION)

K-3 Championship

  • Sriram Krishnakumar 6.0 (5th place)
  • Adrian Kondakov 6.0 (7th place)
  • Nitish Nath 5.5 (12th place)
  • Shaaketh Sivakumar 5.5 (14th place)
  • Shawnak Shivakumar 5.5 (16th place)
  • Nikhil Parvathaneni 4.0

K-1 Championship

  • Kavya Meiyappan (MSJE) 5.5 (11th place)
  • Lucas Jiang (MSJE) 5.0 (17th place)
  • Omya Vidyarthi 5.0 (honorable mention)
  • Jason Li-Shen Liu (MSJE) 4.5
  • Elizur Fisher-Kirshner 4.0
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 18.5 (2nd place)

Saturday, May 13

SuperNationals VI - Saturday Update

What a spectacular venue for a record setting chess tournament! (credit: GM Maurice Ashley)

Saturday is usually the wildest day at any national scholastic championship with three challenging rounds. Some strong players will spend up to 12 hours at the chess board, where just one mistake can doom the dream of finishing in first. Upsets are the norm and a brutal round 3 this morning has already taken its toll on the competitors. Who will be left standing tonight?

As SuperNationals VI continues, this weekend offers a good opportunity to review past champions. Only a few juniors from Northern California have ever won a national title. However, the Bay Area has become much more competitive over the past five to ten years. Teams from Mission San Jose Elementary in Fremont won a half dozen team championships since 2009. A mini dynasty sprung up in Cupertino as a tight core group tasted victory at Regnart Elementary, Kennedy Middle and Monta Vista High.

NorCal Champions at Nationals (since 2000)

  • K-12 Champs: Vignesh Panchanatham (2016), Kesav Viswanadha (2016), Michael Zhong (2007)
  • K-9 Champs: Vignesh Panchanatham (2014), Gregory Young (2007)
  • K-8 Champs: Siddharth Banik (2013)
  • K-6 Champs: Andrew Hong (2015), Vignesh Panchanatham (2012), Kevin Moy (2012), Daniel Liu (2010)
  • K-5 Champs: Rayan Taghizadeh (2013), Cameron Wheeler (2011), Allan Beilin (2010)
  • K-3 Champs: Balaji Daggupati (2014), Cameron Wheeler (2009), Rahul Desirazu (2006), Daniel Naroditsky (2005)
  • K-1 Champs: Chinguun Bayaraa (2013), Ben Rood (2011), Tanuj Vasudeva (2008), Nicholas Nip (2006)

Champion School Teams (since 2000)

  • K-12 Teams: The Harker School (2016), Monta Vista HS (2015)
  • K-9 Teams: none
  • K-8 Teams: Kennedy MS (2012)
  • K-6 Teams: MSJE (2016, 2015, 2013, 2009), Gomes ES (2014), Weibel ES (2012)
  • K-5 Teams: Gomes ES (2013), Regnart ES (2011)
  • K-3 Teams: MSJE (2014), Weibel ES (2010)
  • K-1 Teams: MSJE (2012)

GM Maurice Ashley signs autographs.
Please contact me if you see a missing name or school. It seems plausible that the US Chess Yearbook may have omitted some winners, especially in case of a tie for first place.

Now back to 2017. The tournament finishes with two rounds on Sunday. Expect high drama, tension and lots of excitement. Will any of the Bay Area kids finish at the top? Stay tuned!

GM Sam Shankland (credit: US Chess)

Standings after Round 5 (minimum 3.0) 

K-12 Championship

IM Cameron Wheeler (credit: US Chess)
  • IM Kesav Viswanadha (MVHS) 4.5 (1st place)
  • IM Vignesh Panchanatham (Harker) 4.0
  • NM Michael Wang (Harker) 4.0
  • IM Cameron Wheeler (MVHS) 3.5
  • Christopher Pan (Mission) 3.5
  • nm Pranav Srihari (Mission) 3.0
  • nm Udit Iyengar (MVHS) 3.0
  • Pranav Senthilkumar (Mission) 3.0
  • Michael Tang (Harker) 3.0
  • Monta Vista High School 14.0 (1st place)
  • The Harker School 12.0 (7th place)
  • Mission San Jose High School 11.5 (9th place)

K-9 Championship

SM Rayan Taghizadeh (credit: US Chess)
  • SM Rayan Taghizadeh 4.5 (2nd place)

K-8 Championship

  • Shaashwath Sivakumar 4.0
  • Abhinav Koka 4.0
  • Jaisuraj Kaleeswaran (Hopkins) 3.0
  • Stanley Ko 3.0
  • Hopkins Junior High School 9.0 (14th place)

K-6 Championship

  • Milind Maiti 4.0
  • William Sartorio 4.0
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan (MSJE) 3.5
  • Shreyas Nayak (MSJE) 3.0
  • Leo Jiang (MSJE) 3.0
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 12.0 (3rd place)

K-5 Championship

  • Vyom Vidyarthi 4.5 (tied for 3rd place)
  • NM Christopher Yoo 4.0
  • Kevin Pan (MSJE) 4.0
  • Maurya Palusa 3.5
  • Abhinav Penagalapati 3.5  
  • Aghilan Nachiappan (MSJE) 3.0
  • Stephen He (MSJE) 3.0
  • Allyson Wong (MSJE) 3.0
  • Leo Jiang 3.0
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 13.0 (3rd place)

K-3 Championship

  • Sriram Krishnakumar 4.0
  • Adrian Kondakov 4.0
  • Nitish Nath 4.0
  • Shaaketh Sivakumar 4.0
  • Nikhil Parvathaneni 4.0
  • Shawnak Shivakumar 3.5

K-1 Championship

  • Kavya Meiyappan (MSJE) 4.5 (6th place)
  • Jason Li-Shen Liu (MSJE) 4.0
  • Lucas Jiang (MSJE) 4.0
  • Omya Vidyarthi 3.0
  • Elizur Fisher-Kirshner 3.0
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 15.0 (1st place)

Friday, May 12

SuperNationals VI - Friday Update

This is one of five large playing halls at the Grand Ole Opry. (credit:

The sixth SuperNationals brings more than 5500 eager young chess players, their parents and coaches to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, TN, from Thursday, May 11 to Sunday, May 14. Every four years, the three spring scholastic championships (High School, Junior High and Elementary) come together under a single roof to form one humongous tournament. The resulting electric atmosphere has to be seen to be believed!

Among this world record turnout are 81 children from Northern California, including several school teams seeking to capture first place trophies. Three local International Masters lead the way in the powerful K-12 section: Cameron Wheeler, Vignesh Panchanatham and Kesav Viswanadha. Two younger stars are the rating favorites in their age groups: Rayan Taghizadeh in K-9 and Christopher Yoo in K-5. Strong teams represent Monta Vista High School, Mission San Jose High School and Mission San Jose Elementary. Best of luck to all!!!

Garry Kasparov smiles and signs books for kids. (credit: US Chess)

Standings after Round 2 (minimum 1.5) 

K-12 Championship

IM Vignesh Panchanatham (credit: US Chess)
  • IM Cameron Wheeler (MVHS) 2.0
  • IM Vignesh Panchanatham (Harker) 2.0
  • IM Kesav Viswanadha (MVHS) 2.0
  • nm Udit Iyengar (MVHS) 1.5
  • Monta Vista High School 6.0 (1st place)
  • Mission San Jose High School 4.0 (14th place)

K-9 Championship

  • SM Rayan Taghizadeh 2.0

K-8 Championship

  • Jaisuraj Kaleeswaran (Hopkins) 2.0
  • Hopkins Junior High School 4.5 (9th place)

K-6 Championship

  • Milind Maiti 2.0
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan (MSJE) 1.5
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 4.5 (4th place)

K-5 Championship

NM Christopher Yoo (credit: US Chess)
  • NM Christopher Yoo 2.0
  • Maurya Palusa 2.0
  • Vyom Vidyarthi 2.0
  • Aghilan Nachiappan (MSJE) 2.0
  • Stephen He (MSJE) 2.0
  • Abhinav Penagalapati (MSJE) 2.0
  • Kevin Pan (MSJE) 1.5
  • Nicholas Jiang (MSJE) 1.5
  • Allyson Wong (MSJE) 1.5
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 7.0 (1st place)

K-3 Championship

  • Sriram Krishnakumar 2.0
  • Adrian Kondakov 2.0
  • Nitish Nath 2.0
  • Shaaketh Sivakumar 1.5
  • Nikko Le 1.5

K-1 Championship

  • Kavya Meiyappan (MSJE) 2.0
  • Omya Vidyarthi 2.0
  • Jason Li-Shen Liu (MSJE) 2.0
  • Lucas Jiang (MSJE) 2.0
  • Mission San Jose Elementary 7.0 (1st place)

Sunday, January 8

PRO Chess League Kicks Off

After 11 seasons, the internet-based US Chess League has expanded into the PRO Chess League.  There are three major differences between the two leagues.  While the USCL had teams from all corners of the United States, the PCL will be an international affair with teams from five of the seven continents: North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.  To attract greater spectator interest, games will be played at a rapid time control of G/15 + 2 second increment.  Players from one team will face all four from the other team, for a total of 16 games.  Finally, each team may field one "Free Agent" in their weekly lineup, in addition to three local players, as long as the average rating does not exceed 2500 FIDE.

Perhaps most exciting is that the PRO Chess League promises to showcase several elite chess players of the world!  Indeed five of the top 7 on the January 2017 FIDE list will participate.

  • #1 Magnus Carlsen (Norway)
  • #2 Fabiano Caruana (Montreal)
  • #4 Wesley So (Saint Louis)
  • #5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Marseille)
  • #7 Hikaru Nakamura (Miami)
  • #13 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (San Jose)
  • #22 Lenier Dominguez (Miami)
  • #29 Li Chao (Montreal)

Two Bay Area squads have registered among 48 total entries from around the world.  The San Francisco Mechanics, organized by the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club, were one of the founding members of the USCL.  Grandmasters Patrick Wolff and Vinay Bhat will lead the way, backed up by International Masters Yian Liou, Cameron Wheeler (IM-elect) and Teddy Coleman.  Youth will be served by four high school students: Cameron, FM Rayan Taghizadeh, FM Josiah Stearman and NM Siddharth Banik.

The other local team was formed by Bay Area Chess to represent Silicon Valley.  The San Jose Hackers, among the highest rated in the league, feature a quintet of Grandmasters headlined by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan, ranked #3 in the world on the rapid rating list.  The other GMs are Rauf Mamedov, Daniel Naroditsky, Zviad Izoria and Cristian Chirila.  The San Jose roster also includes two IM-elects and a trio of juniors: NM Teemu Virtanen, NM Ivan Ke and 10 year old NM Christopher Yoo.

Both Bay Area squads will compete in the Red Division against other American cities in the Central and Pacific time zones.  Indeed the locals square off head-to-head in round 2 on January 18!  The competition will be stiff, with the Saint Louis Arch Bishops, Webster Windmills, Rio Grande Ospreys and Dallas Destiny all fielding strong rosters.  The other three sections are the Blue Division (Eastern time zone plus Canada and South America), Green Division (Europe, Asia and Africa) and the Orange Division (Europe and Africa).  Click here for a list of players for all 48 teams.

Matches take place every Wednesday on, starting on January 11.  Since the matches consists of four mini rounds and 16 games total, a whopping 384 rapid games will be completed each week.  The pairings for the first six weeks have been predetermined.  The seventh week (February 22) will be a playoff positioning round.  During the playoffs, each division crowns a champion.  The division winners will square off in semifinals on Saturday, March 25 and a final on Sunday, March 26.  The four division champions are guaranteed at least $3,000 from the prize fund and the league champion wins $20,000!

Good luck to both the San Francisco Mechanics and San Jose Hackers in the inaugural season of the PRO Chess League!

PRO Chess League Links

Thursday, January 5

NorCal Top 20 for January 2017

Bay Area star GM Sam Shankland faces Super-GM Levon Aronian at 2015 World Team Championship.

NorCal Top 20
January 2017 USCF ratings
  1. GM Sam Shankland 2755
  2. GM Parimarjan Negi 2742
  3. GM Daniel Naroditsky 2732
  4. GM Cristian Chirila 2593
  5. GM Nick DeFirmian 2566
  6. IM Steven Zierk 2559
  7. IM-e Cameron Wheeler 2479
  8. SM Arun Sharma 2468
  9. IM Kesav Viswanadha 2456
  10. IM Vignesh Panchanatham 2450
  11. IM Ricardo DeGuzman 2431 
  12. IM David Pruess 2408
  13. IM Ray Kaufman 2402
  14. NM Faik Aleskerov 2399
  15. NM Jack Zhu 2399
  16. FM Rayan Taghizadeh 2375
  17. NM Andrew Hong 2370
  18. FM Andy Lee 2361
  19. NM Daniel Schwarz 2360
  20. NM Ladia Jirasek 2343
In general, all players have completed one Bay Area tournament within the past year. Exceptions made for local titled players who are active out of state or abroad. 

Honorable Mention (players with local roots who have been less active recently)
  • GM Vinay Bhat 2570
  • IM Yian Liou 2500
  • IM Vincent McCambridge 2496
  • IM Vladimir Mezentsev 2435
  • IM John Donaldson 2412

Sunday, January 1

From Chesspunk to International Master

Chesspunks pose with their coach FM Daniel Naroditsky during a
training session in 2010. From left to right: Vignesh, Allan Beilin,
Daniel, Kesav and Cameron {credit: Cameron's blog)

Silicon Valley's own Chesspunks, trained in da 'hood, are on a mission to conquer the world!  Six years ago, they were just wannabes, promising young chess players searching for a title.  Today, all four are masters, two are fully fledged International Masters, and a third is now an IM-elect.  And their former trainer is a Grandmaster ranked in the Top 120 of the planet.

Kesav Viswanadha received the IM title first, earning his third and final IM norm at the 2014 US Masters in North Carolina.  Next came Vignesh Panchanatham, who scored his third norm at the 2016 World Open in Philadelphia.  Finally, Cameron Wheeler caught up with his friends by completing his third norm last week at the 2016 North American Open in Las Vegas.

Credits: Kesav (left) by Greg Shahade; Vignesh (middle) and Cameron (right) by Richard Shorman.

Congratulations to the Bay Area's latest trio of International Masters!  Kesav, Vignesh and Cameron join an impressive fraternity of local prodigies to be awarded this prestigious title before graduating from high school!

  • GM Vinay Bhat -- IM in 2001 -- GM in 2008
  • GM Sam Shankland -- IM in 2008 -- GM in 2011
  • IM Steven Zierk -- IM in 2010 -- has 2 GM norms
  • GM Daniel Naroditsky -- IM in 2011 -- GM in 2013
  • IM Yian Liou -- IM in 2014
  • IM Kesav Viswanadha -- IM in 2014
  • IM Vignesh Panchanatham -- IM in 2016
  • IM-elect Cameron Wheeler -- IM is pending