(Photo of GM DeFirmian teaching group 2 by Chiiwen Liou.)
Three-time US Champion Grandmaster Nick DeFirmian, rated 2541 FIDE, taught the most recent session of the San Francisco School of Chess on July 12-13. Although he currently lives in Denmark, DeFirmian has strong ties to Northern California, growing up in Fresno and earning a degree in physics from UC Berkeley. For many years, he regularly played at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club, the venue for the weekend lecture. His claim to fame now lies in editing the encyclopedia "Modern Chess Openings" (better known as MCO).
Over two days, GM DeFirmian shared a number of opening concepts with the students of the School of Chess. He taught the top group (five students and two guests) for nearly four hours on Saturday, advocating a positional approach to understanding the move orders and strategies to play the 6.Be3 line of the Najdorf Sicilian. GM DeFirmian also demonstrated a "refutation" of the Petrov's defense from the game Naiditsch-Kramnik (Dortmund 2008) and showed some theory in the Zaitsev variation of the Ruy Lopez. It was interesting to watch how even an ultra-tactical opening such as the Najdorf could be understood by a calm positional approach.
The Danish-American Grandmaster returned on Sunday to teach groups 2 and 3, each for about two hours. He started out by going back in history and demonstrating an obscure simul game in the Two Knight's defense where Bobby Fischer played like Paul Morphy. GM DeFirmian spent a large portion of the class on the Yugoslav attack in the Dragon Sicilian, a line which every young player should study sometime in their development as a future master.
The San Francisco School of Chess will continue in August and September with lectures by local International Masters Josh Friedel (August 23) and Vinay Bhat (September 7). Both popular 20-something year old masters have the three norms necessary for the Grandmaster title; Josh is merely waiting for his paperwork to be approved while Vinay needs 17 FIDE rating points to reach 2500. A new group of students will be selected for classes starting this fall.