Friday, February 29

Poll Results: Tournament Time Controls

My first poll has now closed after 8 days. Thank you to all of you who voted for your favorite tournament time controls. The poll received a total of 71 votes.

  1. 30/90, G/60 at 41%
  2. 40/120, G/60 at 31%
  3. G/60 - G/90 at 21%
  4. G/30 - G/45 at 7%
The two slowest options proved far more popular than rapid time controls. Fully 72% of the votes went to time controls that last 5-6 hours, while the fastest option of G/30 - G/45 saw the least support at merely 7%. These results are a bit surprising because of the popularity of one-day G/45 type tournaments on a monthly basis at both the Mechanics' Institute and in Santa Clara. I believe this unscientific poll suggests that many local chess players and parents now seek variety from the monthly schedule of G/45 events, preferring longer games at some more "serious" events.

Thursday, February 28

Anand Wins, Extends Lead at Linares

(The Linares tournament is held at the Teatro Cervantes in the heart of the city. Participants play on the stage with large video displays for the audience to follow the action. Photo from ChessBase website.)
After five days off to allow players and staff to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, the "Wimbledon of chess" has resumed in its traditional venue: the southern Spanish city of Linares. Fortunately for all chess fans around the world, the unbelievable fighting spirit has carried over from the first half of action in Morelia. Three of the four contests today were decisive, including one win by black. Perhaps the most complicated game today was the lone peaceful result, although regretably it ended with an agreement to draw by mutual fear when the position still had plenty of play remaining.
  • Anand 1-0 Shirov (8) -- Anand beats Shirov in the Sveshnikov variation with his impeccable endgame technique
  • Aronian 1-0 Topalov (8) -- English Opening
  • Ivanchuk 0-1 Carlsen (8) -- Carlsen creates counterplay in Ivanchuk's time pressure (under a minute for 15 moves) to overcome an opening disaster in Ruy Lopez
  • Radjabov 1/2 Leko (8) -- Queen's Indian

(Click on the links to view wins by Anand and Carlsen in the Chess Publisher game viewer.)

With these results, Anand extends his lead to a full point at 5.5 out of 8. Aronian and Carlsen are now tied for second place at 4.5. Rounds 9 and 10 are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, beginning at 7am PST. My students may want to follow the action on ICC on Saturday morning, with daily live audio commentary (Grandmasters!) by ChessFM. Note: the games often don't get exciting until the third or fourth hour of play, meaning after 9am PST. Sunday is a rest day for the players.

Update on Friday evening: Round 9 saw two decisive games: Carlsen outplayed Shirov while Ivanchuk beat Leko. Anand remains the leader at 6.0 out of 9, with Carlsen merely 0.5 behind. Guess who plays on Saturday? Anand vs Carlsen. Stay tuned for fireworks!

Tuesday, February 26

Bobby Fischer at Age 15

The following video will appeal to some of the younger readers of this blog. Here is Bobby Fischer as a goofy 15 year old who was already the top chess player in the United States. In fact, he was soon to fly to Yugoslavia to play against the best of the world. Could you imagine yourself standing on the stage in Bobby's place? What would be your secret?

The video comes from the TV game show "I've Got a Teen-Age Secret" on March 26, 1958.

8th Far West Open in Reno on March 21-23

The annual Far West Open is rapidly approaching on Easter weekend this year. For those of us living in Northern California who are used to playing in G/45 tournaments, the Reno events are a welcome change of pace. It is time to play serious chess without endgames marred by time pressure. The two Reno tournaments attract more players than any of the adult events that the Bay Area has to offer. Plus there's the opportunity to watch, learn from and compete with professional players; last year's edition saw the attendance of 3 GMs and 6 IMs.

The Far West Open is the smaller of the two annual Reno chess festivals. I wrote a long article about chess in Reno and last October's 25th Western States Open in the February issue of Chess Life (with Naroditsky on the cover). Alternatively, you can read the story online at the USCF website (registration required).
  • Event: 8th Far West Open
  • Date: March 21-23 (first round is at 12noon)
  • Location: Sands Regency Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nevada
  • Format: 6 round swiss in 5 sections (Open, A, B, C, U1400)
  • Time control: 40/120, 20/60, G/30 (maximum length game can go 7 hours)
  • Entry fee: $115-119 until March 1, $11 more until March 14, $22 on site
  • Prize fund: $25,000 based on 250 entries including $2000 for 1st in Open section
  • Entry form (print and mail this)
  • See this website for complete details.
  • Check advance entries.

I recommend this tournament to those students who are getting serious about chess and want to move to the next level. Perhaps attending a large chess festival will offer some inspiration. While conventional wisdom says that casinos do not mix well with kids, the tournaments in Reno are an exception. For example, if you request a room in the Regency or Dynasty towers, then you can conveniently take the elevator between your hotel room and the playing hall without entering the casino at all, except when going to eat. Even the ever-present smoke has gotten considerably better in the past year with a new Nevada law banning smoking except on the casino floor itself.

My students should let me know if they are thinking of going to Reno (note: entry fee goes up after this week). I will make sure to host a pizza party for my students, probably on Saturday before round 4. Many kids have spring break either the week before or the week after Easter, which makes this trip especially worthwhile as a small family vacation. Sadly, the Saratoga group is an exception with their spring break in mid April. Those students who have school on Friday, March 21 may consider a half-point bye in round 1 if they can drive up to Reno in time for round 2 at 7pm (it usually starts a bit late).

See you all in Reno!

Monday, February 25

New Idea for a Playoff

On Susan Polgar's chess blog, I read that the rules for this year's US Senior Open (April 28 - May 3 in Boca Raton, FL) offer an interesting alternative to settle the age old question of how to most fairly resolve a tie for first place. Since the winner receives an invitation to the 2008 Frank K. Berry US Championship, it is important to determine a single champion.
In case of ties, there will be a one-game "Modified Armageddon" playoff. White gets 120 minutes in sudden death. Black gets draw odds. Players open bid against the other player for black. The player willing to play the black side with the fewest minutes gets black and draw odds. The game will not be rated.
How low would you go? I think I could manage between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on my opponent's opening repertoire and style of play. At less time than that, I would simply let my opponent have black and I would play to win with white.
Of course, the same principle can apply to a blitz playoff. White starts with 5 or 6 minutes and then the players can bid for how much time black gets, decreasing in 30 second increments. This is a variant on the traditional 6 minutes versus 5 minutes. A faster player who is confident in his ability to draw with black might take 3 or 4 minutes just to earn draw odds.

Sunday, February 24

Nicholas Nip on Verge of Breaking 2200!

Nine year old Nicholas Nip now stands on the verge of breaking one of the most hallowed records in the USCF: the youngest player to reach a 2200 rating to become a master. After action over the past two weekends, his rating has jumped to 2193. Not yet ten years old, Nicholas has plenty of time to gain those last seven points to shatter a record once claimed by Bobby Fischer (13 years) and now held by Hikaru Nakamura (10 years and 79 days). In fact, Nicholas has a shot to become the first nine year old National Master in the history of American chess!

Nicholas gained 56 precious rating points (2137 to 2193) in a pair of six game matches at a G/60 time control. His opponents were expert Romulo Fuentes (2113) and NM Emmanuel Perez (2282). Nicholas crushed Fuentes by a whopping 5.5-0.5 and overpowered Perez to the tune of 4.0-2.0 (three wins, two draws and one loss). Perhaps Nicholas, who has been taught mostly by Liina Vark and her husband Eric Hicks of Academic Chess, is already training for the World Championship match of his dreams, whether it comes against Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen or even a player that we have not heard of yet. Ahh dream on... still a long ways to go.
Good luck to Nicholas as he makes the Bay Area proud! If he is successful at breaking Nakamura's record, he becomes the third local youngster to hold this esteemed record. Back in 1995, young rivals Jordy Mont-Reynaud (10 years and 209 days) and Vinay Bhat (10 years and 176 days) both became the youngest USCF master in short succession. Jordy earned the FIDE Master title but never managed to maintain a rating much above 2300. Vinay now holds the Grandmaster title and is still active as a player.
Update on February 27: The latest Tuesday Night Marathon got rated and Nicholas dropped to 2186. He now needs 14 rating points for the master title.

Anand Leads Linares at Halfway Point

(Magnus Carlsen as white versus Viswanathan Anand at the beginning of round 3 in Morelia. Anand won the game. Photo from official website.)
Seasoned chess enthusiasts look forward every year to the tradition known as the Linares super-tournament. Eight of the top players in the world test their opening preparation, mental capacity and nerves in a double round-robin format. The participants for 2008 are all ranked in the top 13 of the world: Viswanathan Anand (2799), Veselin Topalov (2780), Alexei Shirov (2755), Peter Leko (2753), Vassily Ivanchuk (2751), Levon Aronian (2739), Teimour Radjabov (2735) and Magnus Carlsen (2733). Considering the high level of competition, many chess experts call this event the "Wimbledon of chess."
For the second year in a row, the Linares tournament has been split between two continents, with half of the rounds played in Morelia, Mexico and the other half in Linares, Spain. During the first seven rounds in Morelia, the participants faced each other player one time and then they repeat the process in Linares--of course, with opposite colors. The Morelia half just ended on Saturday and now the players have until Thursday to fly to Spain and adjust to the European time zone and climate.
Standings after 7 of 14 rounds
  • 4.5 Anand
  • 4.0 Topalov and Shirov
  • 3.5 Aronian and Carlsen
  • 3.0 Ivanchuk and Radjabov
  • 2.5 Leko

The story of the tournament has been the high percentage of fighting chess games. In many top level chess competitions, the number of draws varies between 2/3 or even 3/4 of the games. Not so in Morelia! A stunning 15 of 28 games so far have been decisive, and even many of the draws were filled with plenty of drama. Every player has both won a game and lost a game! Nearly 40% of the games featured the Sicilian defense, one of the most aggressive openings known. Simply said, the tournament has been a spectator's delight.

The best player, without a doubt, has been Anand. He leads at "+2" or 4.5 out of 7. He overcame a loss to Aronian with victories against Shirov, Leko and Carlsen. Two other players who can be happy with their result to date are the veteran Shirov and the youngster Carlsen. The one who is probably the most disappointed is Leko. It has to be an omen when the well-known drawmaster Leko has less peaceful results than Mr. "Fire On Board" Shirov himself!

Here are my favorite five games, with links to the Chess Publisher game viewer. I highly recommend checking out these games to all serious students of the royal game, especially to my own students rated over 1800 USCF (hint, hint). You can also find all of the games in "liblist Linares08" online at ICC.

Stay tuned beginning on Thursday to see who will prevail in the second half of the tournament. Will World Champion Anand defend his #1 FIDE rating or can someone else finish in first place? Check out the official website or visit ChessBase website for news and detailed Grandmaster analysis. The Internet Chess Club also has daily coverage on ChessFM; type "finger Linares08" for more information when you're logged in.

Friday, February 22

Silicon Valley Challenge on March 15

The Sun Chess Club will host the 4th Silicon Valley Challenge on March 15 in northeastern San Jose. This event is organized by my high school student Charles Sun. I will be there are well to provide assistance during registration and make sure that Charles doesn't mess up. Check out the crosstables for last year's event in Saratoga. Can we match 62 players, including 3 masters?
  • Event: Silicon Valley Challenge #4
  • Date: March 15 at 10:00am (registration closes at 9:45am)
  • Location: 2146 Ringwood Avenue, San Jose CA (off I-880 near Milpitas)
  • Format: 4 round swiss in 3 sections (Open, U1400, U1200)
  • Time control: G/60 for Open and U1400; G/30 for U1200
  • Entry fee: $35 adults, $30 juniors by March 10 ($5 school team discount)
  • Prize fund: $555 total including $100 for 1st place in Open section
  • Print entry form
  • Check advance entries

This tournament is highly recommended to my students, particularly those rated below 2000. I am planning to play just to have fun. If I have time between rounds or at the end of the day, I can go over some games with my students. Unfortunately, I know that some of you will be busy at MathCounts competition, but the rest of my students are encouraged to come on down!

USCF Spring Nationals

In the spring of each year, the USCF hosts three major National Scholastic Championships. Usually they are spread out around the country; last year's events were in Sacramento, Kansas City and Nashville. These tournaments are intensely competitive and it is an experience unlike any that you can achieve from local events. Yet it isn't all about winning, because only a few will become national champions. The Nationals represent a unique opportunity to meet chess players near your age from New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida and other states. Hence, I think the time and cost of the trip is worthwhile for serious scholastic chess players.

It is now high time to begin serious planning if you wish to attend this year's nationals.
  • National Junior High (K-9) (April 4-6 at Hyatt Regency DFW, Dallas TX) Website
  • National High School (K-12) (April 18-20 at Hyatt Regency Atlanta GA) Website
  • National Elementary (K-6) (May 9-11 at Westin Hotel, Pittsburgh PA) Website
The fpawn has attended at least one of the Nationals for several years and he is interested in going to one again this year. But which one? It depends mostly on where the most students go and who would be interested in having me available for coaching between the rounds. Any of my students who are planning to attend Nationals, please send me an email note soon so that I can consider my own travel options.
As a final note, this year's CalChess State Scholastics will be on held the weekend after the National Elementary. Make sure to add these dates to your calendar as well.
  • CalChess Scholastic Champs (May 17-18 at Hilton Hotel, San Jose CA) Website

Thursday, February 21

Poll: Tournament Time Controls

Please vote in my first poll for this blog. What is your favorite time control for a serious chess tournament? Please select from one of four options on the right side of this blog (near the top). Your vote will only be counted once, so ballot stuffing won't work.

In Northern California, the time controls range from the popular G/45 series at the Mechanics' Institute to 30/90, G/60 at the State Championship on Labor Day weekend. The major weekday evening chess clubs typically allocate two hours per player per game. There are also many scholastic tournaments, which vary from the rapid G/30 to the more leisurely G/90 in the K-12 division at the annual State Scholastics. What do you prefer?

Our Men in Moscow

Local International Masters David Pruess and Josh Friedel have been travelling the globe in search of chess nirvana and those elusive GM norms. By my count, David needs only one more norm for the Grandmaster title and Josh needs two. Can they do it? Those of us back home in sunny California are betting "yes!"

Both young men are recipients of the prestigious Samford award, which provides considerable financial support to study and play chess abroad. Previous adventures took our heroes to the heart of western Europe: France and Germany. David actually found some success recently, sharing first place and earning his second GM norm at the Rohde Open in Sautron, France last November.

This month, David and Josh went to the mecca of chess: Moscow. Over the course of three weeks in the dead of Russia's winter, they played in two of the strongest swiss format events in the world: the Moscow Open and the Aeroflot Open. To give you an idea how strong these tournaments are, David and Josh are playing not in the top section but in the second division (under 2550 FIDE)! You can read on-site reports written by Josh on both of these events by clicking on the links in this paragraph.

Unfortunately, it now looks like neither Josh nor David found the success that they were looking for on their odyssey. Josh has respectable results while David probably is dreaming of California. Hopefully, both masters can learn something from this trip and will apply it to future tournament successes. I am sure that the Grandmaster title remains within reach!

Moscow Open (300 players, most rated over 2100 FIDE)
Josh 5.5/9 for 76th place
David 4.5/9

Aeroflot Open - Section A2 (92 players, most rated between 2300 and 2550 FIDE)
Josh 4.5/8 for 28th place
David 2.5/8

The final round of the Aeroflot Open is on Friday. Josh is paired vs Mihajlovskij (2466) and David is paired vs Nyzhnyk (2405), who was Danya Naroditsky's main rival at the World Youth U12. Here's wishing them both luck!

Update on Friday morning: Josh won in the final round of the Aeroflot Open to finish in 19th place (out of 92) at 5.5/9. Good job! Sadly, David lost to the Ukrainian "wunderkind" and had a tournament result that he'll no doubt prefer to forget.

Wednesday, February 20

Useful ICC Commands

Here are just a few basic commands that will help you navigate around the Internet Chess Club. From my experience, many people are unfamiliar with the wide range of options available on ICC and thus are really missing out on a lot! There may be alternative ways to execute some of these commands using the various menus in the BlitzIn and Dasher interfaces. If the following commands are completely new to you, then I also recommend checking out my ICC tutorial.

To execute a command, you should type at the command prompt at the bottom of a console. In the examples, you may always replace the name fpawn by another username.

match fpawn 10 2 -:- challenge me to game with 10 minutes plus 2 sec/move increment
seek 10 2 1500-2000 -:- seek a 10 2 game within rating range 1500-2000
type: 15 or click on button 15 at top of Dasher -:- automatically get a 15-minute game
type: 5 or click on button 5 -:- automatically get a 5-minute game (highly recommended)
type: 1 or click on button 1 -:- automatically get a 1-minute game (very addictive)
set noescape 1 -:- disconnection = forfeit, no matter what the reason
set notakeback 1 -:- do not allow takeback requests

tell fpawn Hello! -:- you tell hello to me
say good game -:- say is like tell, but to your current or most recent opponent
F9 key -:- press it once to continue talking to someone or more often for multiple people
message -:- when you log in, type this to see if you got any messages
message fpawn Where are you? -:- sends a message to me when I am offline
tell 1 How do I play a game? -:- sends your question to channel 1 (help channel)
g-join NorthCA -:- request to join Northern California channel
tell 312 howdy! -:- talk to channel 312, which is the NorthCA group

+notify fpawn -:- add me to your list of friends
+censor fpawn -:- block all communication from me (e.g. if someone is rude to you)
+noplay fpawn -:- block me from challenging you
-notify, -censor, -noplay -:- remove username from that list

set busy 2 -:- only people on your notify list can talk to you (use 0 to reset)
away not available -:- anyone who tries to talk to you sees "fpawn is not available"
set quietplay 2 -:- block almost all communication during games (use 0 to reset)
set kibitz 2 -:- block kibitzes from all but titled players, e.g. GM or IM (use 1 to reset)

history -:- show your most recent 20 games on ICC (right click on game to examine)
examine -:- opens a chess board for you to examine moves on
mex fpawn -:- allow me to analyze with you (assuming I am watching your game)
observe fpawn -:- watch the board I am currently playing or examining on
follow fpawn -:- keep watching my board continuously
follow -:- with no name afterwards, this stops following me
setwhitename Kasparov -:- set white player name when examining a game
setblackname Fischer -:- set black player name when examining a game
liblist -:- show games contained in your personal library (right click on game to examine)
libkeep -:- save an examined game to the end of your personal library
libkeepexam Kasparov Fischer + %54 -:- save game Kasparov vs Fischer that was won to white to library spot 54 (replace "+" with "=" for draw and "-" if black won)
pgn fpawn -:- shows PGN notation for my game (use Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V to copy into Fritz)
fen fpawn -:- shows FEN code for current position (also can copy directly into Fritz)

play TrainingBot -:- solve tactics and checkmate puzzles (ranked from 1 to 8 stars)
say hint, say give, say skip -:- ask TrainingBot for a hint, the solution or skip puzzle
tell TrainingBot difficulty 3 -:- set puzzles to level 3 or harder
tell TrainingBot progress -:- shows how many puzzles you have solved
play ProblemBot -:- same as TrainingBot, but only compositions (harder problems)

16 Students Played in Santa Clara!

(Does this kid look happy? He should be! 10-year old Yian Liou just defeated FM Eric Schiller in 23 moves with black. Photo from ChessDryad.)

As a final note to the People’s Replacement, it was a pleasure to see 16 of my students at the tournament. I really wish I had more time to socialize or go over games, but I played in the longest game in both of the morning rounds. Every one of my own four contests went at least 3.5 hours and 55 moves. In past People’s Tournaments in Berkeley, I have taken one half-point bye to spend time reviewing games, but that was not so convenient in this year's event with only four rounds.
Congratulations to my students who won prize money or had other success. Danya shared 2nd place in the Master/Expert section, including a draw against IM Ricardo DeGuzman. Yian also started out well, beating FM Eric Schiller in round 1 with black. James shared 3rd place in Class A with a decent result, ahead of three other students who finished at 50%. And last but not least, mad props to Chris for sharing first place in Class B with a very impressive 3.5/4! Chris also gained the most rating points, jumping from 1659 to 1699 (+40).
FM Schiller, Eric (2200) vs Liou, Yian (1900)
1. d4 f5 2. Qd3 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3 Nc6 5. a3 g6 6. Bf4 a6 7. O-O-O Bg7 8. Be5 O-O 9. h4 e6 10. g4 fxg4 11. h5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Nxh5 13. fxg4 Qg5+ 14. Kb1 Qxg4 15. Nf3 Qf5 16. Qd4 b6 17. Bh3 Qf4 18. Qd3 Ng3 19. Nd4 Nxh1 20. Nxe6 Bxe6 21. Bxe6+ Kh8 22. Rxh1 Rae8 23. Qxg6 Qf1+ 0-1
To replay this game, click on the link to Chess Publisher.
I added Danya, Yian and Chris to the Student Achievements page on my website. You can find Chris under Adult Tournament Successes while Danya and Yian are listed under Master Scalps.

People's Replacement Tournament in Santa Clara

(Photo of time scramble at the end of round 1 game Alan Naroditsky vs Michael Aigner. Thanks to Mark Shelton of ChessDryad.)

The annual People’s Chess Tournament in February is one of the oldest traditions of Northern California chess. Its history dates back to the topsy-turvy era of free speech and free love in Berkeley around the early 1970s. Normally the tournament takes place in magnificent Pauley Ballroom looking out at Sproul Plaza and the Campanile (Sather Tower) on the campus of UC Berkeley. The spirit of the counterculture remains alive today, symbolized by the incessant noise generated by the bongo drummers that spend each afternoon in the plaza.

Unfortunately, a scheduling snafu robbed us chess players of this tradition in 2008, for the second time in three years. When it appeared there would be no People’s Tournament at all, South Bay organizer Salman Azhar stepped up to the plate despite only three week’s notice. The People’s Replacement Tournament was definitely not the Real Thing, but it would have to suffice. The event was moved 50 miles south to the library of Granada School in Santa Clara. Only four rounds were played over two days, instead of the usual three-day schedule. And at least one veteran player complained about the lack of drums. On the bright side, the new venue allowed easy freeway access and plenty of free parking.

About 80 players showed up for the 1200+ sections while another 40 kids played in the one-day side event restricted to players rated under 1200. These attendance figures allowed Dr. Azhar to increase the advertised prize fund slightly to $2500, a respectable 71% of last year’s payout in Berkeley despite having 45 fewer players. Players competed in four sections: Master/Expert, Class A, Class B and Class C/D. In an era of G/30, G/45 and G/60 tournaments, the People’s time control was slow enough for classical chess: 30/90, G/60. In fact, some parents remarked how pleased they were to see their kids actually take their time to think while playing chess!

The top section featured local IM Ricardo DeGuzman as the top seed, followed by two FMs and two NMs. Upsets began rolling in as early as the first round: fifth grader Yian Liou (1900) crushed FM Eric Schiller’s anti-Dutch system within 20 moves but high school student NM Sam Shankland could only draw against extensive opening preparation by adult expert Brendan Purcell (2023). In the third round, reigning world U12 champion FM Danya Naroditsky calmly held DeGuzman to a draw. These results left this reporter as the only player with a perfect 3-0 score going into the final round, with DeGuzman, Shankland and Naroditsky tied for second at 2.5 each.

That set up my critical round 4 pairing with IM DeGuzman. We played many times before, with DeGuzman scoring a lopsided 23.5/27 = 87%. I had never won, achieving just seven draws despite several completely winning positions. Our typical game saw DeGuzman overcoming an opening disadvantage through his creative and aggressive middle and endgame play.

Aigner, Michael (2242) vs IM DeGuzman, Ricardo (2457)
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 e6 6. Be3 Nd4 7. Nce2 Ne7 8. c3 Nxe2 9. Nxe2 d6 10. d4 cxd4 11. Bxd4 e5 12. Be3 O-O 13. Qd3 Qc7 14. Rd1 Rd8 15. c4 Be6 16. b3 Qa5+ 17. Qd2 Qc7 18. O-O a6 19. Nc3 Qa5 20. Nd5 Qxd2 21. Nxe7+ Kf8 22. Nxg6+ hxg6 23. Rxd2 b5 24. c5 dxc5 25. Bxc5+ Ke8 26. Rxd8+ Rxd8 27. Be3 Bf8 28. h4 Ba3 29. Kh2 Rc8 30. Rd1 Rc2 31. Rd2 Rc8 32. Re2 Bc1 33. Bb6 Rc6 34. Ba7 f6 35. Bh3 Bf7 36. Kg2 a5 37. Bg4 a4 38. bxa4 bxa4 39. Re1 Bxa2 40. Be2 Rc3 41. Bb5+ Kf7 42. Bxa4 Be6 43. Be3 Bxe3 44. Rxe3 Rxe3 45. fxe3 Bg4 46. Bb3+ Ke7 47. Kf2 Kf8 48. Ke1 Bf3 49. Bc2 Ke7 50. Kf2 Bg4 51. Bd3 Kf8 52. Be2 Bd7 53. Ke1 Bc6 54. Bd3 Kg7 55. g4 Kh6 56. Kd2 Bb7 57. Kc3 Bc8 58. Be2 Bb7 59. Bf3 Kg7 60. Kc4 f5 61. g5 Kf7 62. Kd3 Ba6+ 63. Kd2 Bb7 64. Ke2 fxe4 65. Bg4 Bd5 66. Bc8 Ke7 67. Kf2 Bb3 68. Bb7 Bc2 69. Ke2 Ke6 70. Kd2 Bb1 71. Kc3 Bd3 72. Bc6 Ke7 73. Kb4 Bb1 74. Kc5 Ba2 75. Bxe4 Bf7 76. Bd5 Be8 77. Bg8 Ba4 78. Bc4 Bd7 79. Bd3 1-0

To replay this game, click on the link to Chess Publisher.

The game in Santa Clara was no different; I achieved a huge opening advantage from the white side of the Maroczy bind. The veteran IM meekly lost a pawn with 19… Qa5 allowing the thematic tactic 20.Nd5, but the game had just begun. Surely a clear pawn up should be enough to win. However, after two inaccuracies (I should have played 32.Bh3 instead of Re2 and 34.Ba5 instead of Ba7), history was well on its way to repeat. Was this the DeGuzman Curse?

Fortunately, history would not repeat itself. Known for impeccable play in the late middlegame and endgames, the sly magician blundered with the greedy 39… Bxa2 when the pawn push a3 would have sufficed for an advantage. The brilliant retreat 40.Be2 threatens three black targets on the a5-e8 diagonal and, from this point forth, black was in trouble. The bishop of same color endgame up a pawn that resulted from further trades on moves 44 and 45 was merely a matter of technique despite white’s doubled pawns. After nearly seven years since our first meeting, the monkey is off my back!

Approximately a quarter of the players in the tournament won a part of the prize fund. Much has been said about the rise of scholastic chess in our area, with many adults dropping out simply because they no longer can keep up with the tactical skill of underrated kids. In fact, the three players who tied for second place in the Master/Expert section were age 12, 14 and 16. But there is still a glimmer of hope for the older generation: the Class A and Class C winners were all adults! Hopefully this success by George Mandrusov, Harold Parker and Kenneth Voss can inspire players at their age not to quit but rather to keep fighting on.

List of Winners
Master: 1st NM Michael Aigner; 2nd NM Sam Shankland and FM Danya Naroditsky
Expert: Rohan Agarwal
Class A: George Mandrusov
Class B: Kartik Chillakanti and Chris Tsai
Class C: Harold Parker and Kenneth Voss
Class D: Muhammed Mohideen
U1200: Daniel Liu, Stephen Leung and Rahul Swaminathan
U900: Linus Wang and Malik Khalil
U500: Muzammil Khan

1200+ rated:
U1200 rated:
Saturday photos:
Sunday photos:

Fpawn Rating List - March 2008

(As World U12 Champion, FM Danya Naroditsky earned his spot on the cover of Chess Life magazine for February 2008.)

I have updated the USCF rating for all of my chess students using the March 2008 supplement. You may view the entire Fpawn Rating List by clicking on the link. Congratulations to FM Danya Naroditsky for taking over the top spot with a rating of 2256 after gaining about 15 points each at North American Open (Las Vegas, NV) and Western Class Championships (Agoura Hills, CA).

Top 5 Students Overall
  1. FM Danya 2256
  2. Gregory 2194
  3. Steven 2105
  4. Alan 2008
  5. Jeff 1966

(Honorary students: NM Daniel Schwarz 2249 and David Chock 2098)

Top 5 Grades K-6

  1. FM Danya 2256
  2. Sam 1902
  3. Yian 1900
  4. James 1737
  5. Alex 1720

Top 5 Grades 7-8

  1. Gregory 2194
  2. Arthur 1882
  3. Adam 1881
  4. Andrew 1741
  5. KevinG 1609

Top 5 Grades 9-12

  1. Steven 2105
  2. Alan 2008
  3. Jeff 1966
  4. Charles 1901
  5. KevinH 1802

Wednesday, February 13


Welcome to the fpawn chess blog. I just created this feature, which I hope to use more frequently later this year as I travel to tournaments. For now, just visit my homepage and check out my finger notes on ICC for the latest news.

In case you're wondering, the above photo was taken recently, on February 10. Thanks to Mark Shelton of ChessDryad, one of my favorite Northern California chess websites.

May all your pawns promote!

Michael Aigner