Sunday, July 23

NorCal Top 100 Lists


An incredible total of 145 boys and girls from Northern California earned recognition on the NorCal Top 100 Lists, which are compiled using the monthly US Chess Top 100 Lists. The junior rankings include 34 titled players, including 22 masters, 3 IMs and one WIM. The most competitive ages range from 10 to 12 and 16 to 17, each year with at least a dozen representatives. Hearty congratulations to all of these kids, their parents and coaches!

More than 90 of these talented youngsters hold a published FIDE rating recognizable around the globe, including almost all those age 12 or older. Merely a dozen years ago, the number was in the single digits. Many young globe trotters already represented California and the United States abroad, either at Pan American Youth or at the World Youth and World Cadet festivals. Indeed, success in chess can serve as a passport to travel.

Without further ado, I present the cream of the crop, the Best of the West. Check out my website for the complete NorCal Top 100 Lists for July 2017.


GOLD MEDAL (Top 5)
  • SM Jack Zhu #5 age 18
  • IM Vignesh Panchanatham #3 age 17 and National Champion K-12 
  • IM Kesav Viwanadha #4 age 17 and National Champion K-12
  • IM Cameron Wheeler #4 age 16
  • WIM Ashritha Eswaran #4 girls 16-18
  • SM Rayan Taghizadeh #4 age 14 and National Champion K-9
  • SM Andrew Hong #1 age 12
  • NM Balaji Daggupati #4 age 12
  • ** WCM Rochelle Wu #2 girls 10-12
  • NM Christopher Yoo #2 age 10
  • Rui Yang Yan #5 girls 10-12
  • ** Eric Li #2 age 9
  • CM Sriram Krishnakumar #3 age 8
** recently moved to California


SILVER MEDAL (Top 15)
  • NM Gabriel Bick (18)
  • FM Ladia Jirasek (16)
  • NM Siddharth Banik (16)
  • NM Michael Wang (15)
  • NM Ivan Ke (14)
  • FM Josiah Stearman (13)
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan (12)
  • CM Chinguun Bayaraa (11)
  • Kevin Pan (11)
  • WCM Aksithi Eswaran (11)
  • Adrian Kondakov (9)
  • WCM Ashley Pang (9)
  • WCM Anika Rajaram (8)

BRONZE MEDAL (Top 30)
  • NM Teemu Virtanen (18)
  • NM Allan Beilin (18)
  • NM Pranav Nagarajan (17)
  • NM Colin Chow (17)
  • NM Art Zhao (17)
  • NM Richard Yi (17)
  • Sophia Li (17)
  • Kimberly Liu (14)
  • Justin Feng (13)
  • David Pan (13)
  • Alex Kolay (12)
  • Maurya Palusa (11)
  • Krishna Nathan (11)
  • Vyom Vidyarthi (10)
  • Shawnak Shivakumar (9)
  • Kally Wen (9)
  • Nitish Nath (8)
  • Shaaketh Sivakumar (8)
  • Omya Vidyarthi (7)
  • Ryan Wang (7)

NorCal Top 20 JHS & High School (Age 12-17)

Presenting the three young Bay Area International Masters: Cameron Wheeler,
Vignesh Panchanatham and Kesav Viswanadha. Credit: USChess and ChessDryad

USCF Rating List
July 2017
Age as of July 1
  1. IM Wheeler, Cameron (16) 2486
  2. IM Panchanatham, Vignesh (17) 2477
  3. IM Viswanadha, Kesav (17) 2471
  4. SM Hong, Andrew Z (12) 2422
  5. SM Taghizadeh, Rayan (14) 2417
  6. FM Jirasek, Ladia (16) 2369
  7. NM Wang, Michael (15) 2338
  8. NM Banik, Siddharth (16) 2321
  9. NM Ke, Ivan (14) 2303
  10. FM Stearman, Josiah P (13) 2290
  11. NM Nagarajan, Pranav (17) 2264
  12. NM Daggupati, Balaji (12) 2247
  13. WIM Eswaran, Ashritha (16) 2231
  14. NM Chow, Colin (17) 2223
  15. NM Zhao, Art (17) 2218
  16. NM Yi, Richard (17) 2211
  17. nm Wang, Michael Lei (17) 2194
  18. Pan, Christopher (16) 2192
  19. Ravuri, Vinesh (16) 2170
  20. nm Iyengar, Udit (17) 2161
http://www.fpawn.com/NorCalTop20Juniors.pdf

NorCal Top 20 Elementary (Age 11 & Under)

Christopher Yoo became the youngest master in US history
at 30 days before his 10th birthday. Credit: USChess

USCF Rating List
July 2017
Age as of July 1
  1. NM Yoo, Christopher (10) 2235
  2. CM Bayaraa, Chinguun (11) 2112
  3. WCM Wu, Rochelle (11) 2082
  4. Pan, Kevin (11) 2051
  5. Li, Eric Yuhan (9) 2040
  6. Palusa, Maurya (11) 1974
  7. Yan, Rui Yang (10) 1970
  8. Vidyarthi, Vyom (10) 1958
  9. Nathan, Krishna (11) 1953
  10. CM Krishnakumar, Sriram (8) 1945
  11. Kondakov, Adrian (9) 1884
  12. Peng, Andrew Wayne (11) 1876
  13. Boldi, Ethan (10) 1838
  14. Sairam, Pranav (10) 1809
  15. WCM Eswaran, Aksithi (11) 1801
  16. Thirumalai, Atul (11) 1800
  17. CM Nachiappan, Aghilan (10) 1795
  18. Shivakumar, Shawnak (9) 1781
  19. Kamath, Atul (10) 1766
  20. Zhang, Nathaniel A (11) 1763
http://www.fpawn.com/NorCalTop20Juniors.pdf

Time odds: Mamedyarov versus Yoo


Time odds: white has 25 seconds and black has 3 minutes
White is GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (#6 in World)
Black is 10 y/o NM Christopher Yoo (youngest master in US history)
White wins
Credit: San Jose Hackers chess camp @ Bay Area Chess

Blitz: Naroditsky versus Mamedyarov


3-minute blitz
White is GM Daniel Naroditsky (#111 in World)
Black is GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (#6 in World)
Black wins
Credit: San Jose Hackers chess camp @ Bay Area Chess

NorCal Top 20 Women

Some top women are just girls. Here 10 y/o Rui Yan (white) faces California newcomer
11 y/o Rochelle Wu at the 2017 People's Tournament. Credit: Bay Area Chess

USCF Rating List
July 2017
  1. WIM Eswaran, Ashritha 2231
  2. WFM Byambaa, Uyanga (MGL) 2232
  3. NM Tsodikova, Natalya 2202
  4. WFM Tsegmed Munkhchuluun (MGL) 2132
  5. Saikhanchimeg Tsogtsaikhan (MGL) 2128
  6. WCM Wu, Rochelle 2082
  7. Yan, Rui Yang 1970
  8. Liu, Kimberly 1941
  9. WIM Haring, Ruth 1938
  10. Li, Sophia 1881
  11. Chatterjee, Trina 1860
  12. WCM Garai, Antara 1854
  13. Goodkind, Lauren 1849
  14. Ravindran, Ashwini (IND) 1849
  15. Nayberg, Simona 1840
  16. Hasteer, Divija 1810
  17. WCM Eswaran, Aksithi 1801
  18. Show, Serafina 1796
  19. Goodkind, Barbara 1795
  20. Meiyappan, Annapoorni 1760

NorCal Top 20

Two future Grandmasters battle at the 2007 CalChess Scholastics.
Daniel Naroditsky plays white against Sam Shankland. Credit: ChessDryad

USCF Rating List
July 2017
  1. GM Shankland, Sam 2752
  2. GM Negi, Parimarjan (IND) 2742
  3. GM Naroditsky, Daniel 2733
  4. GM Zviad Izoria 2702
  5. GM Holt, Conrad 2647
  6. GM Chirila, Ioan Cristian (ROU) 2630
  7. GM DeFirmian, Nick 2576
  8. IM Zierk, Steven 2555
  9. GM Sevillano, Enrico 2510
  10. IM Wheeler, Cameron 2486
  11. IM Panchanatham, Vignesh 2477
  12. IM McCambridge, Vincent 2475
  13. IM Viswanadha, Kesav 2471
  14. SM Sharma, Arun 2468
  15. IM Zilberstein, Dmitry 2466
  16. IM Kavutskiy, Kostya 2456
  17. IM Coleman, Teddy 2440
  18. IM DeGuzman, Ricardo (PHI) 2431
  19. SM Zhu, Jack Q 2422
  20. SM Hong, Andrew Z 2421

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: ChessKid.com)

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 Chess.com, 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

Saturday, December 3

Magnus Strikes Again, Retains Title

World Champion Magnus Carlsen
Credit: Maria Emelianova and Chess.com
World Champion Magnus Carlsen claimed the chess crown for the third time by prevailing in a competitive title match in New York.  The challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia gave the Norwegian titleholder all that he could handle, refusing to crack despite several losing positions.  After a dozen classical games, the combatants remained tied with one win each and ten draws.

The first two games of the rapid playoff also ended drawn.  As the pressure mounted, Carlsen sacrificed a pawn in the third rapid game and finally crashed through.  The fourth and final tiebreak game also ended in favor of the Norwegian after a spectacular queen sacrifice 50. Qh6+ forced checkmate in one.  A battle that many observers criticized as being dull and uninteresting concluded with perhaps one of the most memorable checkmates in chess history!

The first chess title bout between two players born after 1980 has concluded in favor of the defending champion.  For Carlsen, this was his third successful championship match, the first two coming against Viswanathan Anand in 2013 and 2015.  He can expect to face another challenger in late 2018.  For now, the champ can enjoy a vacation to celebrate his 26th birthday, which coincidentally was the day of the playoff.

Tal Meets Qh6 and Carlsen Wins



Watch Israeli GM Tal Baron broadcast the final moves of the World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin.  Within a minute, his live reaction runs the gamut from disbelief to pure ecstasy as Carlsen first played Rc8+ and followed up with the spectacular queen sacrifice Qh6+.  Karjakin immediately resigned, unable to prevent checkmate in one.

Saturday, November 12

World Championship Results

Players stare at board in full concentration during Game 7. (credit: Chessbase)

World Championship Match
New York City
November 11 - 28
Games Begin 11AM Pacific time
Tiebreaks on November 30 (if necessary)

         |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-----|
 Round # | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10| 11| 12| TOT |
         |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-----|
 Carlsen | = | = | = | = | = | = | = | 0 | = | 1 | = | = | 6.0 |
         |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-----|
Karjakin | = | = | = | = | = | = | = | 1 | = | 0 | = | = | 6.0 |
         |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|-----|

Magnus Carlsen plays White in Games 1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 12
Sergey Karjakin plays White in Games 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11


Tiebreaker on Wednesday, November 30.
  1. Four games of Rapid G/25 with 10 sec increment. 
  2. If still tied, two games of Blitz G/5 with 3 sec increment.
  3. If still tied, repeat until 10 Blitz games are completed.
  4. If still tied after 14 tiebreak games, then one Armageddon game. White gets 5 minutes, Black gets 4 minutes.  Black wins if drawn!  A 3 second increment kicks in on move 61.

Friday, November 11

Carlsen vs Karjakin Match Begins Today

Carlsen and Karjakin smile on the day before Game 1. (credit: Chess24)

The World Chess Championship 2016 begins today at 11AM Pacific time. Defending champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway faces challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia, but born in Ukraine. The venue is the Fulton Market Building in the South Street Seaport of Manhattan, New York. This will be the first title bout featuring two players of the Computer Age. Karjakin is 26 and Carlsen turns 26 on November 30, the day of the tiebreaker, if necessary. Both grew up analyzing with computers, studying databases, and playing blitz on the internet.

When they were kids.... (credit: Chess Daily News)
The competitors are two of the three youngest Grandmasters in history. Carlsen is both the #1 rated player in the world at 2853, and holds the highest rating in history of 2882. He earned the GM title in 2004 at the tender age of 13 years, 4 months and 27 days. Carlsen was crowned world champion in 2013, vanquishing Viswanathan Anand of India. He also won a rematch in 2015. On the other hand, Karjakin became the youngest GM ever in 2002, amazingly only 12 years and 7 months old. Now he is #9 in the world at 2772, with a lifetime peak rating of 2788. He qualified for the title match by winning the strong Candidates Tournament earlier this year, outlasting the top rated American Fabiano Caruana in the final round. While Karjakin has competed against the strongest players in the world for the past decade, this will be his first shot at the chess crown.

Most experts have tabbed Carlsen as the favorite. They cite his higher rating and greater experience in title matches. His universal style has few known weaknesses, and his ability to grind out a win from a seemingly drawn endgame is second to none. Carlsen could play almost any opening imaginable, and sometimes chooses to avoid mainstream theory simply to obtain the middlegame he prefers. For someone who enjoys marathon games, he is fit as an athlete, an advantage that may be less significant against an opponent his own age.  

This is the board they will play on. The glass window
is a special mirror that spectators can see through, but
the players cannot. (credit: Dan Lucas of US Chess)
All that said, Karjakin is a dangerous challenger, a talented junior who dominated tournaments back in his youth. Over the years, he has also shown few weaknesses. Perhaps his strength lies in defending, an attribute that highlights resourcefulness and resilience. In many ways, Karjakin’s style mirrors that of the world champion. Another advantage could be in the opening, where he draws upon the accumulated knowledge of the Soviet Chess School. Never before has Karjakin received unconditional financial support of the Russian Chess Federation and the Kremlin. His team of seconds may include some of the best of the world, or at least, the former Soviet Union.  No doubt, he will be fully prepared, and probably an even stronger player than ever.

The match lasts just 12 games, short by historical standards. For example, the famous encounter between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972 went 24 rounds. And the first match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov in 1984 was controversially aborted after 48 games over nearly five months! As a result, the subsequent four Kasparov-Karpov matches were capped at 24 games. In spite of historical precedent, 12 games became the modern standard in 2008, when Viswanathan Anand soundly defeated Vladimir Kramnik.

The World Chess Championship 2016 runs from November 11 to 30. Games are scheduled one per day starting at 11AM Pacific time, with a rest day after every two games (plus an extra day off before the final game). Carlsen has the white pieces in rounds 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 and 12. Once either player reaches 6.5 or 7.0 points, the match terminates immediately. On the other hand, if they finish tied 6 to 6, then a 4 game rapid time control tiebreaker will occur on November 30.

Carlsen won in Bilbao just 4 months ago. (credit: Chessbase)

Who will win? These two combatants have battled 21 times in classical chess, with the Norwegian scoring 4 wins against only 1 for the Russian. Karjakin’s lone win came in 2012, while Carlsen has won three straight (not counting draws), most recently this July in Bilbao, Spain. No doubt, the defending champion remains the clear favorite. My prediction is +2, which translates to Carlsen scoring 2 wins more than losses (e.g. 6.5-4.5 with 3 wins, 1 loss and 7 draws). Let the show begin!

Recommended websites:

Wednesday, August 10

Carlsen vs Karjakin Match in Manhattan

Magnus Carlsen (Credit: Tata)
Sergey Karjakin (Credit: Tata)









VS








Press Release from the World Chess Federation (FIDE):
The FIDE World Chess Championship Match 2016 is to take place at the Seaport District in Manhattan, New York.

The three week long Championship Match, to be held from November 11th to 30th, will be contested by 25-year-old reigning champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and his challenger, 26-year-old Sergey Karjakin of Russia.

When they were kids.... (Credit: Chess Daily News)

The Match arena will be built within the Fulton Market Building, a five minute walk from Wall Street, and will also feature dedicated spectator and VIP lounges with panoramic views of the Brooklyn Bridge as well as retail space, a restaurant, TV studios and much more.

Shabalov Wins US Open Again

2-time US Open champion GM Shabalov
poses with TD Francisco Guadalupe
(Photo credit: Guadalupe)
Defending champion GM Alexander Shabalov emerged as the winner after a dramatic final day at the 2016 US Open in Indianapolis.  At first, Shabalov vanquished GM Aleksandr Lenderman on top board for his 8th victory in 9 rounds.  Then he defeated Israeli GM Gil Popilski in an Armageddon blitz playoff to claim the trophy.  15-year old IM Ruifeng Li, the tournament leader throughout the entire week, only managed a draw in the final round and finished in 3rd place.  Officially, 389 participants played in at least one round of the giant single section swiss.


Five shared the highest score from Northern California at 6.0 out of 9.  Congratulations to NM Michael Wang, NM John Langreck, FM Mark Pinto, and two young experts: Balaji Daggupati and Christopher Yoo.  11-year old Balaji is rated 2166 after an especially impressive run, defeating a pair of masters and losing only once, to top rated GM Illia Nyzhnyk. 9-year old Christopher finished perfect against opponents rated under 2200, and drew a master in the money round.   Well done guys!!

Sunday, July 31

US Open in Indianapolis

Participants of the Denker Invitational. NM Michael Wang is in second row,
sixth from the right, wearing light blue dress shirt. Photo credit: US Chess

The 117th US Open kicked off this weekend in Indianapolis.  The 9-round tournament features three schedules: one game per day, 6 days beginning on Tuesday, and 4 days at an accelerated time control.  The 6-day schedule tends to be most popular.  After the merge prior to round 7, all participants compete for the same prizes.  At the time of this post, there are 10 Grandmasters among the 311 entrants, led by top rated GM Alex Lenderman (Note: GM Illia Nyzhnyk is now the highest rated after joining the 6-day schedule.)

The annual US Open features daily side events alongside the main tournament.  Chess politicians from around America meet to discuss the business of governing the US Chess Federation.  Three prestigious scholastic invitationals each offer $5,000 college scholarships to the winners.  The Denker, named after the late GM Arnold Denker, attracts the high school state champion from every state.  The Barber, named after organizer Dewain Barber of Southern California, targets top K-8 players from each state.  Likewise, the National Girl's Tournament of Champions invites the top young ladies.  Each of these invitationals runs 6 rounds over four days.

Saturday, July 30

People's Open in Berkeley

Top boards in 3-day schedule, from left to right: GM Parimarjan Negi (W),
GM Nick DeFirmian (B), FM Cameron Wheeler (W) and IM Kesav Viswanadha (B).

The 41st Annual People's Tournament returned to its traditional roots on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.  Due to the lack of a suitable venue in Berkeley, this event was held at Santa Clara in recent years.  This year, chess came home to The Faculty Club on campus.

  • Top players:
    • GM Parimarjan Negi, GM Cristian Chirila
    • IM Kesav Viswanadha, IM Ricardo DeGuzman, IM Elliott Winslow
    • FM Cameron Wheeler, SM Arun Sharma, FM Andy Lee
  • 169 total participants 

Saturday, June 11

Chess Students Head Off To College

All smiles on graduation day.


















For almost two decades, I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach some of the brightest young minds in Northern California.  Simply spoken, smart children play chess, and chess offers a competitive arena to exercise their brain muscles.  Of course, I always knew my students had the cerebral skill to excel.  And every June, it seems that the graduates move on to some of the best colleges in America.  Well done mates!

The High School graduating Classes of 2015 and 2016 included more than a dozen of my former chess trainees, four who achieved the master level.  Their college choices were, quite literally, all over the map.  Six preferred the short commute to Berkeley, Stanford, UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State.  Another signed up for the short flight to UC Irvine.  The remaining students apparently wanted to get away from home--far, far away.  They enrolled at MIT, New York University, Carnegie Mellon, Wesleyan, U Mass and Washington University (Saint Louis).  Quite a list, I dare say!  

The following list shows the universities all around the country where 51 of my former chess students enrolled at (includes incoming freshmen)Two prominent Bay Area schools top of the list.  Roughly 2/3 stayed close to home, choosing to study at one of a dozen California schools.  If it is not the nice weather, then it must be the worldwide acclaim of the University of California.  Indeed, my list includes 7 of the 9 undergraduate UC campuses.   

  • 14 = UC Berkeley
  • 6 = Stanford 
  • 3 = MIT and UC San Diego
  • 2 = Duke, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, UCLA and UC Santa Cruz  
  • 1 = Cambridge (UK), Yale, Wesleyan, UMass, Rutgers, Northwestern, Washington (StL), Caltech, Pomona, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Pacific, San Jose State and Puget Sound

Note: The above list only includes undergraduate institutions and not graduate schools.

Tuesday, May 17

CalChess Denker and Barber Qualifiers

NM Michael Wang (credit: @USChess)

Near the end of yet another school year, many students look forward to a relaxing summer vacation.  For two local  chess juniors, this summer includes a trip to Indianapolis to represent Northern California at the Denker and Barber Invitationals from July 30 to August 2.  After five competitive rounds over two days, the results are in.

The Denker Qualifier (grades 9-12 only) saw 5 masters and 4 experts battle for the ticket to Indy.  Half of the games were drawn and all but one of the masters finished undefeated.  Nonetheless, one player managed to separate himself from the field to take clear first.  Congratulations to 9th grader NM Michael Wang for a strong performance!

The Barber Qualifier (grades K-8) attracted 27 enthusiastic and talented participants, including a trio of masters.  Alas, all three masters tasted defeat on the first day (rounds 1-3) and were out of contention.  In the final round, a 5th grader faced a 3rd grader for all the marbles.  The game ended in a draw, allowing 5th grader Balaji Daggupati to claim clear first.  Well done!

The Denker Invitational began in 1985, with each state naming one High School representative (Northern and Southern California are considered separate states).  The Barber Invitational for K-8 started in 2011.  Thanks to the late GM Arnold Denker, his family and Dewain Barber for sponsoring and organizing these two national championships.

Best of luck to Michael and Balaji in Indy!

CalChess Denker and Barber Participants

  • 2016: Michael Wang --------------------- Balaji Daggupati
  • 2015: Vignesh Panchanatham ---------- Rayan Taghizadeh
  • 2014: Colin Chow -------------------------- Siddharth Banik
  • 2013: Hunter Klotz-Burwell --------------- Vignesh Panchanatham (co-champion!
  • 2012: Sudarshan Seshadri --------------- Udit Iyengar
  • 2011: Nicholas Karas ---------------------- Neel Apte
  • 2010: Steven Zierk (champion!)   
  • 2009: Evan Sandberg   
  • 2008: Steven Zierk   
  • Balaji Daggupati
  • 2007: Nicolas Yap   
  • 2006: Daniel Schwarz   
  • 2005: Nicolas Yap   
  • 2004: Benjamin Tejes   
  • 2003: Monty Peckham   
  • 2002: Benjamin Haun   
  • 2001: none
  • 2000: Micah Fisher-Kirshner   
  • 1999: Vinay Bhat   
  • 1998: Vinay Bhat   
  • 1997: Dmitry Zilberstein   
  • 1996: Dmitry Zilberstein   
  • 1995: Adrian Keating-Clay   
  • 1995: Jennie Frenklakh (extra player)   
  • 1994: Dmitry Zilberstein (champion!)   
  • 1993: Peter Lee   
  • 1992: Adrian Keating-Clay   
  • 1991: Alan Stein (champion!)    
  • 1990: Andrew McManus   
  • 1989: Andrew McManus   
  • 1988: Kash Patel   
  • 1987: Andrew McManus   
  • 1986: Peter Yu   
  • 1985: none