Monday, May 5

GM Khachiyan Teaches Master Class at Mechanics' Institute

Grandmaster Melik Khachiyan, ranked #2 in California at 2566 USCF, flew north from his home base in Beverly Hills to teach a master class at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club on Saturday, May 3. A native of the small country of Armenia, he studied under the tutelage of the 9th World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian. Khachiyan has since progressed to becoming a successful chess teacher himself and he can include the super-GM Levon Aronian, now ranked #6 in the world, among his many pupils.

Saturday's three hour lecture in San Francisco was the latest in a series of training sessions for the Bay Area's top juniors. Khachiyan focused on the difficult skill of defense for the first half of the class. He demonstrated several tactical tricks to try to change the course of an inferior game, such as this exchange sacrifice on move 16 against GM Eugene Perelshteyn at the 2006 American Open (he shared first place). While entertaining the audience with occassional humor (see photo at right), the Grandmaster drilled home general principles: (1) look for combinations (sacrifices and other surprise moves) to activate your pieces and (2) when you see a serious threat, stop it now! In the second half of the session, Khachiyan shared his recommendations in a variety of openings, including the French defense, the Sveshnikov variation and the (semi-)Slav defense. He had strong opinions about nearly any opening that the audience could suggest.

By offering master classes such as this one and the March session taught by GM Gregory Kaidanov, the Mechanics' Institute seeks to develop a crop of talented young chess players from the Bay Area who can compete with the best of the nation and perhaps even the world. (Any readers who wish to support future classes should contact Chess Room director IM John Donaldson.) The invited students included four players ranked in the top 10 of the nation for their age and three more in the top 30. Regretably, some other invitees could not attend due to academic conflicts (SAT and AP exams).
  • NM Gregory Young, 13, 2213
  • NM Nicholas Nip, 10, 2207
  • Steven Zierk, 14, 2147
  • Yian Liou, 10, 1956
  • Evan Sandberg, 15, 1942
  • Adam Goldberg, 13, 1901
  • Kyle Shin, 10, 1824
(Thanks to Yian Liou's parents, Chiiwen and Chi-Ju, for sharing these candid photographs. Front row: Kyle. Second row from left to right: Evan, Yian, Steven, Adam and Nicholas. Not pictured: Gregory.)

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