Sunday, August 31

CalChess Labor Day

(Players on the top two boards for round 2: NM Steven Zierk and IM Dmitry Zilberstein on left squared off against GM-elect Vinay Bhat and NM Gregory Young on the right.)

The annual CalChess Labor Day festival, also known as the adult state championship, takes place this weekend at the Golden Gateway Holiday Inn in San Francisco. This event, with six rating categories and two different playing schedules, draws more players each year than any other adult tournament in northern California. With over 120 advance entries and another 25 on-site entries on Saturday, the total attendance should once again reach 170.

The Master section is reasonably strong but also quite large. The top players include GM-elect Vinay Bhat and IM Dmitry Zilberstein in the 3-day schedule plus IM Ricardo DeGuzman, fresh off his dominating 8.0/9 result in the Alan Benson IM tournament, signed up for the 2-day schedule. After two rounds in 3-day, FM Sam Shankland and your reporter are the only 2-0 scores because my star students NM Steven Zierk and NM Gregory Young impressively drew their second round contests against Bhat and Zilberstein, respectively. Kudos also to my 11 year old student Yian Liou for taking down veteran IM Walter Shipman in the first round.

Click here for pairings and standings throughout the weekend. Richard Shorman took some photos yesterday, which will probably appear on the ChessDryad website soon.

Wednesday, August 27

Shankland Nears IM Norm, But Faces Naroditsky

As the Alan Benson IM Norm Tournament wraps up this week at the Mechanics' Institute, it has become clear that a single game will determine the fate of both of the top norm contenders. FM Sam Shankland (photo at left) took care of business by defeating former US Champion IM John Grefe and now merely has to win his final game with the black pieces to earn his second IM norm. However, his opponent will be none other than FM Danya Naroditsky (photo at right), back home after several weeks of intense chess training in Moscow. In fact, Danya still hopes for his own norm, needing to score 3.0 out of 4 games, including today's contest against tournament leader IM Ricardo DeGuzman. Who will win the crucial Naroditsky vs Shankland game? Stay tuned on Thursday!

Update on Wednesday afternoon: Naroditsky lost to DeGuzman and now needs to win his final three games. Kudos to IM Ricardo DeGuzman for dominating the Alan Benson IM Norm Tournament!

Update on Thursday night: Naroditsky and Shankland drew their head-to-head encounter, thereby knocking both competitors out of norm contention. On the bright side, Naroditsky played a brilliant sacrificial attack this morning to defeat Grefe.

Final Standings
  1. 8.0/9 IM Ricardo DeGuzman (2389 +287)
  2. 6.0/9 FM Sam Shankland (2368 +69)
  3. 6.0/9 IM Vladimir Mezentsev (2400 +34)
  4. 5.5/9 FM Daniel Naroditsky (2311 +91)
  5. 4.0/9 NM Michael Aigner (2234 +59)
  6. 4.0/9 NM Gregory Young (2233 +60)
  7. 3.0/9 IM Odondoo Ganbold (2380 -184)
  8. 3.0/9 IM John Grefe (2369 -172)
  9. 3.0/9 FM Richard Lobo (2261 -52)
  10. 2.5/9 FM Bela Evans (2279 -117)
  • +7 DeGuzman
  • +3 Mezentsev, Shankland
  • +2 Naroditsky
  • -1 Aigner, Young
  • -3 Ganbold, Grefe, Lobo
  • -4 Evans

Two World Champions

Globe trotting Northern California junior FM Danya Naroditsky poses with GM Vladimir Kramnik at the Tal Memorial in Moscow. The 2007 World U12 Champion meets the World Chess Champion from 2000 to 2007! Perhaps Danya hopes to play in this tournament in 10 years, but this year marked the domination of GM Vassily Ivanchuk, a full point ahead of Kramnik and others in the final standings. (Thanks to the Naroditsky family for this photo.)

Sunday, August 24

Benson IM Tournament Wraps Up Soon

The Alan Benson IM Norm Tournament will wrap up this week, just in time for the Labor Day weekend. Over 2/3 of the games are completed and the standings begin to take on some meaning. IM Ricardo DeGuzman (photo at left by Mark Shelton of ChessDryad) has been on fire, winning five games while yielding draws only to Grefe and Aigner. Moreover, DeGuzman already defeated both of his nearest competitors: IM Vladimir Mezentsev and FM Sam Shankland.

Current Stand
ings (updated through Monday afternoon)
  1. 6.0/7 IM Ricardo DeGuzman (2389 +249)
  2. 4.5/7 FM Sam Shankland (2368 +44)
  3. 4.5/7 IM Vladimir Mezentsev (2400 +6)
  4. 3.5/6 NM Gregory Young (2233 +160)
  5. 3.5/8 NM Michael Aigner (2234 +49)
  6. 2.5/6 IM John Grefe (2369 -103)
  7. 2.5/7 IM Odondoo Ganbold (2380 -172)
  8. 2.0/3 FM Daniel Naroditsky (2311 +101)
  9. 2.0/8 FM Richard Lobo (2261 -116)
  10. 1.0/5 FM Bela Evans (2279 -167)
  • +5 DeGuzman
  • +2 Mezentsev, Shankland
  • +1 Naroditsky, Young
  • -1 Grefe, Aigner
  • -2 Ganbold
  • -3 Evans
  • -4 Lobo
The three young participants all remain mathematically alive for an IM norm:
  • Sam Shankland suffered a major blow by losing to DeGuzman on Saturday, but he pulled himself together in time to beat Mezentsev with black on Sunday. Sam needs to win both of his remaining games: white versus Grefe and black versus Naroditsky.
  • As the lowest rated player in the field, Gregory Young wasn't expected to be a serious norm contender on paper. Yet after six games, he drew three of four IMs. He needs 2.5/3 for an IM norm, facing Naroditsky, DeGuzman and Evans all with black.
  • Daniel Naroditsky returned from his trip to Moscow on Sunday and has to quickly recover from jet lag. He will be quite busy with six more tournament games plus a US Chess League contest, all before Friday afternoon.
Good luck to all three norm contenders as they finish this tournament. Will anyone succeed in reaching the necessary score for an IM norm? Stay tuned! Your reporter will follow the results closely while preparing for his own final game: white versus 1973 US Chess Champion IM John Grefe on Friday afternoon.

Fpawn Rating List - September 2008

I have updated the USCF rating for all of my chess students using the September rating supplement that is now available on the MSA site. Please note that I have incremented everyone's grade by +1; I hope that none of my students flunked a year in school. ;-)

You may view the full Fpawn Rating List by clicking on the link. Congratulations to the following students who officially broke into the next highest rating class: Steven (2200), EvanS (2000), Yian (2000), Nicholas (1800), DanielL (1600) and EvanY (1600). Special kudos to Steven Zierk (see photo below) for earning the well-deserved NM title!

Top 5 Students Overall

  1. NM Steven 2246
  2. NM Gregory 2227
  3. Alan 2037
  4. EvanS 2020
  5. Yian 2019
(Honorary: FM Danya 2339, NM Daniel 2288 and David 2094)

Top 5 Grades K-6
  1. Yian 2019 -- CalChess Elementary (K-6) Champion
  2. Kyle 1840 -- CalChess Elementary (K-5) co-Champion
  3. James 1739
  4. DanielL 1629
  5. Neel 1620
Top 5 Grades 7-8
  1. NM Gregory 2227 -- US Junior (U21) co-Champion
  2. Sam 1931
  3. Alex 1750
  4. Andrew 1682
  5. KevinG 1657
Top 5 Grades 9-12
  1. NM Steven 2246 -- CalChess High School co-Champion and Denker representative
  2. Alan 2037
  3. EvanS 2020
  4. Jeff 1996 -- CalChess High School co-Champion
  5. Adam 1909

Friday, August 22

Advance Entries for Labor Day

Make sure to sign up for the CalChess Labor Day State Championship before Monday's postmark deadline, or else plan to show up an hour before round 1. This tournament at the Golden Gateway Holiday Inn in San Francisco routinely draws about 175 players, including several International Masters and the Bay Area's top juniors. It is traditionally the largest and strongest chess event each year in Northern California. Check out last year's crosstables. The organizer is Richard Koepcke and the chief TD is John McCumiskey.

US Chess School Bio Article

(These photos were posted on the blog. At left, Gregory plays blitz. At right, Sam stands and preaches to the choir.)

Check out the latest exciting article by Elizabeth Vicary on Chess Life Online. She interviewed all eight of the young participants (no pun intended) at the US Chess School in New Jersey a week ago and produced a novella that could have been titled "Young Chess Masters: What Does It Take?" Of course, the sections about Sam Shankland and Gregory Young are especially enlightening because we know these young men (pun intended) very well, but I would read the rest too.

If you're 1800 and wondering what it takes to become a master, I think Elizabeth Vicary found the answer for you. Read and learn! For example, most of the students spoke about the importance of studying tactics regularly. Yet Victor Shen takes it one step further: "There are many different types of tactics: kids are good at calculating forced lines, long variations that end in mate, but they are less good when the positions are unclear or the variations are unforced. Also, they aren’t so great at endgame tactics." Chess isn't just about finding checkmates or winning material. That's why many of these young men emphasized studying Grandmaster games.

Wednesday, August 20

Do You Want to be Part of the SF School of Chess?

(The above students in group 2 range in rating from 1850 to 2050.)

The San Francisco School of Chess is recruiting interested students (K-12) for its second season of classes from October through January. The exact dates have yet to be determined, but will be roughly once a month. All classes are 2-3 hours long and take place on weekends at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club in downtown San Francisco. Sponsored through the Mechanics' Institute, the instructors so far in the exciting first year have included Grandmasters Gregory Kaidanov and Melik Khachiyan plus IM David Pruess. There will be a nominal fee for students. Please visit this informational website for additional details, including the School's philosophy.

Students will be divided into three groups with the following rating divisions:
  1. Juniors rated over 2100.
  2. Juniors rated over 1800.
  3. Elementary (K-6) kids rated over 1600 + Primary (K-3) kids rated over 1400 + Top Northern California Girls
A word about the selection process: We are lucky to have many promising players in the area right now, and we do not yet have the capacity to accomodate everyone. In the interest of keeping classes focused and productive, we will keep the class sizes somewhat small. In addition to chess playing strength, our main criteria for who can attend will be based on commitment. Students are expected to commit to participating in most of the sessions (at least 3 out of 4) and remaining active in chess events outside of our program. Players who are active at the Mechanics’ Institute tournaments may stand a better chance of being noticed for this special opportunity. Finally, if the dates of our sessions do not work, don’t despair! We will update our schedule and invitation list periodically throughout the year.

If you are interested in the San Francisco School of Chess, can commit to attending 3 out of 4 weekend classes in October through January and fit into one of the above rating categories, contact IM David Pruess by the end of August. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask either Pruess, Mechanics' Institute Chess Room Director IM John Donaldson or myself. Email addresses may be found at the informational website.

Update for the Benson IM Tournament

This summer's IM norm tournament at the Mechanics' Institute (see photo of chess room above) now stands at the halfway point, with 22 out of 45 games played. Everyone has played at least twice while two have six results and I finished eight (out of nine). The other half of this invitational event, aptly named after Berkeley area chess master Alan Benson, will be completed over the next week, finishing just before the Labor Day tournament begins. Click here for a complete list of participants, all ranging in rating from 2233 to 2400.

Since players have completed a different number of games, the following standings are presented in plus/minus format, e.g. number of wins minus number of losses.

Current Standings (updated through Thursday afternoon)
  • +3 IM Ricardo DeGuzman
  • +2 IM Vladimir Mezentsev (photo at right)
  • +1 FM Sam Shankland, FM Daniel Naroditsky, NM Gregory Young
  • -1 IM John Grefe, FM Bela Evans, NM Michael Aigner
  • -2 IM Odondoo Ganbold
  • -3 FM Richard Lobo
All three of the young norm seekers still have a majority of their games left to play. Sam drew his first three games and now has his work cut out for him: he nearly must run the table with 5.0 out of 6 to claim a norm. If anyone can do it, Sam can! Daniel (needs 5.0 out of 7) and Gregory (needs 3.0 out of 5) are both in considerably better shape. One interesting pairing that could change this outlook takes place on Thursday: Gregory white versus Sam (update: Sam won).

Readers of this blog may recall that I had a game against my longtime nemesis on Tuesday afternoon. This was the 31st time that IM Ricardo DeGuzman (see photo below) and I have crossed swords (prior record +1 =8 -21). While I am very pleased to have drawn this 110 move game as black, neither of us should be proud with the quality of play. Two monkeys would surely have found stronger moves than we both did at critical moments. Here is a sample of this blunderfest:

Ricardo DeGuzman (2389) vs Michael Aigner (2234)
1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. c4 Bg7 5. Nc3 d6 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Qe8 8. b3 e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. e4 Nc6 11. Nd5 Rf7?! {Nxd5 12.cxd5 fxe4 13.Ng5 Nd4 with approximate equality} 12. Ng5 Rd7 13. exf5 gxf5 14. Bb2 Nb4 15. Qb1 Nbxd5 16. cxd5 Rxd5? {anything that maintains material equality is better} 17. Bxd5+ Nxd5 18. Re1 Qh5? {Qg6} 19. Qd1 Qxd1 20. Raxd1 c6 21. Bxe5 Bh6 22. h4 Bd7 23. Nh3 Be8 24. Nf4 Bf7 25. f3 Bf8 26. Nxd5 Bxd5 27. Kg2 a5 28. Rb1 Bb4 29. Re2 a4 30. bxa4 Rxa4 31. a3 Bf8 32. Rxb7 Rxa3 33. Rf2 Re3 34. Bf4 Rc3 35. Rc7 h5 36. Be5 Re3 37. Bf4 Rc3 38. Bg5 Bg7 39. Rb2?! {simply Re7 followed by Re3 breaks the pressure against f3} Rxf3 40. Rb8+ Kh7 41. Rd8 Be4 42. Rf8? {Kg1 is +4.0 according to Fritz 11} f4 43. Bf6 Rxg3+ 44. Kf1 Bd5 45. Bd4 Kh6 46. Bxg7+ Rxg7 47. Rh8+ Kg6 48. Rxg7+ Kxg7 49. Rxh5 Kg6 50. Rg5+ Kf6?! {Kh6} 51. Kf2 Be4 52. Rg4 Kf5 53. Rg1? {Rg7} Kf6 54. h5? {Rg8} c5 55. Rc1 Kg5 56. Rxc5+ Kh6 57. Re5 Bc2 58. Rd5 Bb3 59. Rf5 Bd1 60. Rxf4 Bxh5 {We played on for another 50 moves until the game was officially drawn.} 1/2-1/2

Update on Thursday afternoon: I got word from the Chess Room staff that DeGuzman beat Mezentsev and Shankland beat Young. The standings above reflect these two results.

CalChess Labor Day State Championship

It is time once again to sign up for the CalChess Labor Day Tournament, which serves as the Northern California Adult State Championship (mail-in entry deadline is August 25). This annual event has grown into the largest chess gathering for adults in the Bay Area, attracting about 180 players for each of the past three years. The two-time defending State Champion is GM-elect Josh Friedel (see photo at right). He will no doubt face a challenge from several International Masters and a variety of lesser maestros.

Participants choose between 3-day and 2-day schedules and can play in one of six class sections divided by rating. Improving players may opt to "play up" a section, e.g. For example, I would encourage a junior rated 1900 to play in the Expert section instead of Class A. I am likely to play in the 3-day schedule for the Master section. Wish me luck, especially since I will inevitably be paired against my many high rated students.
  • Event: CalChess Labor Day Tournament
  • Dates: August 30 - September 1 (2-day option is Sunday-Monday only)
  • Location: Van Ness at Pine in San Francisco (1.2 mile walk from Civic Center BART)
  • Format: 6 round swiss in 6 sections (Open, Expert, A, B, C, D/E/Unrated)
  • 3-day schedule: Saturday 10:00, 3:30; Sunday 11:00, 4:45; Monday 10:00, 3:30
  • 2-day schedule: Sunday 9:30, 11:45, 2:00, 4:45; Monday 10:00, 3:30
  • Time control: 30/90, SD/60 except first three rounds of 2-day schedule are G/60
  • Entry fee: $70 adults, $60 juniors by August 25; $10 more on site; $10 play up fee
  • On-site registration: Saturday 8:00-9:30, Sunday 8:00-9:00
  • Prize fund: $5,400 total including $700 for 1st place in Master section
  • Click here for flyer and entry form
I'll be there! Will you? I hope to see most if not all of my students at this big event!

Monday, August 18

Good Luck to Alex Grossman in Turkey!

(Alex Grossman on left is playing against his opponent from Greece in round 1.)

Northern California junior Alex Grossman is representing Australia at the World Youth (U16) Chess Olympiad in Mersin, Turkey (near the Syrian border). Alex is playing on top board for a fairly low-rated Aussie team, which means he can expect to face stiff FIDE rated competition from other countries. For example, he lost to Sotirios Malikentzos (2063) from Greece in round 1. Alex currently has 0.5 out of 3 while his team stands in 20th place out of 26 teams. Good luck mate! Checkmate those blokes! :-)

Update on Wednesday night: Alex Grossman now has 1.5 out of 6 in Turkey. He lost to four players rated about 1975 average FIDE and scored 1.5 in two games versus unrated opponents. The competition is quite tough, including two Grandmasters and several IMs!

No IM Norm for Fpawn

(Black to move and win! Not all opposite bishop endgames are automatically drawn. This position arose in my game on Saturday evening against FM Richard Lobo. The main variation is a mate in 3, although white can give up his bishop to prevent checkmate.)

First of all, thank you to all of my fans who have left comments, either on this blog or per email. I am glad that people actually read this blog and am amazed to see folks from the East Coast or Canada who visit what is intended to be a Northern California blog. Welcome!

Unfortunately, my IM norm hunt came screeching to an end last weekend at the Mechanics' Institute in San Francisco. Simply said, if you seek to earn a norm, then you cannot lose with the white pieces--and certainly not twice in the same tournament. The Slav opening in my game against FM Bela Evans (2279 FIDE) did not go as planned and, after castling the wrong way on move 14, I was already strategically busted. My opponent left no doubt who was the better player that day and I resigned shortly after reaching move 40.

Now needing four straight wins for an IM norm, I earned the required result against FM Richard Lobo (2261 FIDE) as black in the Sveshnikov variation. Perhaps the opposite colored bishop endgame was objectively drawn, but there is no doubt that white must play more actively than he did in the game. His position was on life support already when he blundered into checkmate on move 51 (see diagram at the top of this article).

Alas, my last hope ended when I lost the very next day to the top seed in the tournament, IM Vladimir Mezentsev (2400 FIDE). He surprised me in the opening, although I managed to get some compensation for the pawn that I lost. At the very least, all of my pieces were active. Once again, it was not my day and I went down in flames in a complex endgame of two minor pieces against a rook. The improvement 43... Nd7 (instead of Kd5) gives black a significant advantage due to his dangerous g+h pawns.

Oh well, such is life. At least the kids, especially NM Gregory Young (3.0/4) and FM Danya Naroditsky (1.5/2) still have a legitimate shot at making a norm in the next two weeks. I play again on Tuesday as black against IM Ricardo DeGuzman. I have little at stake now, except to try to improve my "minus 20" lifetime record against him! Yes, after 30 games, I have 1 win, 8 draws and a whopping 21 losses to the Bay Area's resident 500 lb gorilla. Wish us all luck!

Friday, August 15

Alan Benson IM Norm Tournament

(Student Gregory Young, holding his trophy from the US Junior while posing with his teacher, continued his streak of strong results in the first half of the Benson IM.)

The Mechanics' Institute Chess Club (see photo at right) hosts at least one FIDE norm tournament each year to offer local masters the opportunity to face strong competition and perhaps even take a step towards the International Master title. The organizer is Chess Room Director IM John Donaldson, assisted by IM David Pruess. Scheduled for the last two weeks of August, this year's tournament is named after a longtime chess master, director and book collector living in the East Bay: Alan B. Benson.

The participants include four International Masters and six norm seekers for an average rating of 2323 FIDE. In order to achieve one of the three norms required for the IM title, the candidate must finish with a performance rating above 2450 FIDE, meaning a score of 6.5 in this tournament (6.0 for the four lowest rated players). This standard is difficult, but certainly not impossible for the young and talented masters in the field.
  • IM Vladimir Mezentsev (RUS), 2400
  • IM Ricardo DeGuzman (PHI), 2389, most active titled player in Bay Area
  • IM Odondoo Ganbold (MGL), 2380
  • IM John Grefe (USA), 2369, former US Champion (1973)
  • FM Sam Shankland (USA), 2368, age 16, highest rated Northern California junior
  • FM Daniel Naroditsky (USA), 2313, age 12, World U12 champion
  • FM Bela Evans (USA), 2279
  • FM Richard Lobo (ENG), 2261
  • NM Michael Aigner (USA), 2234
  • NM Gregory Young (USA), 2233, age 13, US Junior co-champion
Due to a variety of schedule conflicts, about a quarter of the games have already been played. The lowest seed, Gregory Young, started out well with an undefeated score of 3.0 out of 4, including wins against Lobo and Aigner. Despite the disappointing loss to my star student, I have 2.0 out of 4, including a surprising 16 move win with black against IM Ganbold. The two main norm hopefuls, Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky, both have 1.5, but Sam has finished three games while Daniel only played two so far.

Stay tuned for further updates on this blog over the next two weeks as this tournament wraps up before Labor Day. I will play four of my remaining five games between August 16 and 19, including challenging pairings as black against both of the top two seeds. Please wish me skill and luck, because I'll certainly need a lot of both.

Full Contact Chess in New Jersey!

The 7th session of the US Chess School took place this week at the Dean Ippolito Chess Academy in Branchburg, New Jersey. Two local kids participated in this exclusive session targeting some of the nation's most talented young masters: newly titled FM Sam Shankland (standing at the right end) and US Junior co-champion NM Gregory Young (hiding under the letter "A" of Academy). The lead instructor for the five day long training class was former US Champion GM Joel Benjamin.

Many readers of this blog may wonder what happened to Sam's arm. He told me that, while playing frisbee outdoors, he blindly backed into an unknown person, lost his balance and landed hard on his left arm. In chess terms, Sam got skewered. He broke his arm and will need to keep it in a sling for several weeks. I am sure that this minor injury will not slow down the young and restless master for long. :-)

I found lots of photos on Elizabeth Vicary's popular chess blog. Here are some links: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Thursday, August 14

Silicon Valley Challenge #6 Results

Article submitted by organizer and chief TD Charles Sun.

The Silicon Valley Challenge #6 attracted a total of 41 players to the Century Arts Alliance Foundation near the Great Mall in San Jose. Snacks and drinks were complimentary as usual and participants helped themselves between rounds. Despite the warm California weather, players were very comfortable in the air conditioned building. Parents even took the liberty of camping on the lawn outside.

The Open section was filled with some of the top juniors in the Bay Area along with one National Master and one International Master. Not surprisingly, there was no perfect score in the Open, although NM Albert Rich (see photo above) did win clear first, only yielding a draw to IM Ricardo DeGuzman in the last round. Albert’s rating is once again over 2200, gaining seven points from the event. Kudos also to IM Ricardo DeGuzman, Brian Wai, and Qijie Zhu, who shared second place.

Congratulations to Partha Vora in the Open section. At Silicon Valley Challenge #5, he took a share of second place for U1700. Two weeks later, he shared first place in the U1700 class prize. His rating went up 75 points in the past month! Also, great job to co-champion Felix Hernandez-Campos whose provisional rating has skyrocketed from 1619 to 1723.

In the U1600 section, there was fierce competition among its 13 players. Unrated Ron Steedman took clear first by an entire point, winning all of his games! (So goes the pithy saying of “play the board, not the opponent.”) Congratulations to Austin Cheng and John Canessa for sharing second place and to Leland Yu and Daniel Chen for splitting the U1000 prizes.

Thank you to everyone for participating in the Silicon Valley Challenge. I am glad so many parents and chess participants enjoyed the atmosphere; I had a great time directing the event as well. Future events will always be publicized on the Sun Chess Club website: and will be emailed to previous participants.

Sunday, August 10

Last Round of US Open

(Photo of the lobby at the Westin Park Central in Dallas, Texas.)

I drew an ugly game on Saturday night against 16 year old FM Marc Tyler Arnold (2423) of New York at the US Open. Of course, I am always happy to draw with a talented young player rated 150 points above me. However, the quality of my play as white was disappointing, especially when I moved the wrong rook to d1 on move 13. Fortunately, I was able to trade queens and survived some pressure from my opponent. The game petered out into an opposite bishops draw.

I now have 6.0 after eight rounds, good enough for a share of 11th place. My performance rating is about 2300 and I am up about 4 or 5 points for both USCF and FIDE. Considering that my play has been spotty at best, I must be satisfied to be in contention for money going into the final round. Of course, I need to win against a 2100+ rated opponent. My blog readers can follow the action live at 1pm Pacific on both the MonRoi website and the Internet Chess Club.

My student Steven Zierk drew his round 8 game against a young opponent rated about 2000. Nicholas Karas continues to excel against higher rated players, crushing a 1907 in 32 moves with black last night by loading Alekhine's gun on the h-file. Nicholas now stands at 4.5 out of 8 despite facing seven opponents rated above 1900--and he'll probably be paired against a 1950 today. Gooooo Nicholas!

Friday, August 8

Goofing Off in the Big D

Nicholas Karas, Steven Zierk and I are having a blast at the 109th US Open in Dallas, Texas--as this photo from our hotel room in the Westin Park Central shows. We have plenty of free time between the daily rounds at 7pm for fun and socialization (e.g. blitz tournament on Saturday afternoon). Unfortunately, both of my students lost to higher rated opponents in round 7. On the bright side, I won a fun game on the black side of the Sveshnikov against Jason Drake (2166). Nicholas has 3.5, Steven 4.5 and I am at 5.5 (out of 7).

California Player Scores from US Open

(My student Nicholas Karas, rated 1788, has 3.5 out of 6, having faced five opponents rated above 2000. He has beaten two experts and drawn with a third. Way to go!)

After six rounds, seven co-leaders have 5.5 at the 109th US Open in Dallas, Texas: GM Alex Yermolinsky, IM Douglas Root, IM Enrico Sevillano, IM Joe Bradford, IM Michael Mulyar, SM Gabriel Battaglini and IM Kirill Kuderinov

Here are the individual scores for Northern California players after 6 rounds. Three rounds remain to be played, one per day through Sunday.
  • NM Michael Aigner 4.5
  • NM Steven Zierk 4.5
  • IM Walter Shipman 4.0
  • Rohan Sathe 4.0
  • Nicholas Karas 3.5
  • Mukund Chillakanti 3.0
  • Mike Goodall 3.0
  • Arnav Shah 3.0
  • Kartik Chillakanti 3.0
  • Tony Pabon 2.5
  • Pratap Chillakanti 2.5
  • Jessica Lauser 2.0

Endgame Skills

(White to move. Assess this position. Which side is better, or is it a draw?)

I won my US Open game last night against Marc Jimenez (2044) of Texas, although I am not proud of how I handled the middlegame. Fortunately, I somehow managed to milk a full point out of this endgame, down a pawn with opposite colored bishops. Dead draw? No way! Believe it or not, the opposite colored bishops are not always an automatic draw, especially when one side can activate his pieces (plus king) and the opponent cannot.

Here is the conclusion of my game. The d-pawn is my trump.

Aigner-Jimenez 47. Rc7 Kf6 48. h4 Kg7 49. Ke4 Kf8 50. h5 gxh5 51. gxh5 Kg7 52. Kf5 Kf8 53. Bd7 Ba3 54. Ke4 Bb4 55. d6 a4 56. Ra7 Ba5 57. Rxa5 Rxd7 58. Kd5 Rb7 59. Kxc5 a3 60. Rxa3 Rb2 61. Ra8+ Kg7 62. d7 1-0

Thursday, August 7

US Open Merge Is Tonight

All schedules of the US Open are now underway. At the time of this post, the Traditional and Quick schedules have both completed round 5, the 6-day players are in the middle of round 5 and the 5-day players are finishing their fourth of five G/60 contests. All four schedules will merge tonight for round 6 at 5pm Pacific, at which time it will become easier to see who has performed well and who has not.

By my count, there are roughly 380 entries in the entire tournament, including two Grandmasters and eight International Masters. The turnout is quite disappointing compared to other US Opens that I have attended, such as the 2006 event in Chicago that attracted a whopping 534 participants and an impressive slate of titled players.

I have 3.5 out of 5, a score that I cannot be pleased with considering that I reached winning positions in all five of my games against experts and A players. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a knockout blow in round 3 against Kalin Nonchev (2177) and continued to play too optimistically, thereby losing control of the endgame. In the next round, I essayed the closed Sicilian as white against Daniel Rohde (1972) and spent half an hour on the critical position, but failed to calculate the decisive rook and king fork at the end of a deep combination. That game ended in a draw. On the bright side, I did win a short and sweet Rossolimo opening as black in round 5 against Vanessa West (2011) of Los Angeles.

Top row of photos from left to right:
  • Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky has 4.5/5 after a short draw in round 5.
  • Southern California IM Enrico Sevillano took the draw with the Yermonator.
  • Grandmaster Alex Shabalov, who appears to have broken his left arm, has 4.0/5.
Bottom row of photos:
  • IM Daniel Fernandez of University of Texas at Brownsville won the Collegiate Tournament of Champions before entering into the 5-day schedule.
  • Chess Life Online reporter NM Jonathan Hilton and IM Emory Tate both have perfect scores after four rounds in the 5-day schedule.
  • FM Joel Banawa and his brother Jouaquin came all the way from Los Angeles.
You may watch the action live on either the MonRoi website or on the Internet Chess Club beginning tonight at 5pm Pacific time. Click here for complete standings and pairings.

CalChess Players at US Open

Top row of photos from left to right:
  • State K-12 champ Steven Zierk was disappointed by his last round loss to finish at 3.5/6 in the Denker Invitational, but he has bounced back with 3.5/4 in the 6-day schedule of the US Open before today's game vs NM Aditya Balasubramanian (2204).
  • My student Nicholas Karas has 3.0/5, including wins against two experts!
  • Veteran IM Walter Shipman, 78 years young, came all the way to Texas to play.
Bottom row of photos:
  • Rohan Sathe and Arnav Shah are both in the action packed 5-day schedule.
  • Kartik Chillakanti (1.5/4) and his brother Mukund (2.0/4) really love chess.

Tuesday, August 5

Photos from the Last Round of Denker

Top row of photos from left to right:
  • Board 1 in the final round: Yeager white versus Parry.
  • NM Matt Parry (2253) from New York, in 1st place with 4.5/5.
  • FM Daniel Yeager (2349) from Pennsylvania was 0.5 behind the leader.
Bottom row of photos:
  • Scott Low (2198) from Maryland was tied with Yeager at 4.0/5.
  • Erik Patchell (2070) from Kentucky upset a 2183 last night and also has 4.0.
  • Steven Zierk drew with NM Victor Shen (2265) from New Jersey in round 5.
Please click here for the complete Denker standings. BREAKING NEWS! FM Daniel Yeager defeated NM Matt Parry to create a 3-way tie for 1st place at 5.0 between Yeager, Southern California NM Julian Landaw and Scott Low. Kudos to all three winners!

Photos from US Open

Top row of photos from left to right:
  • The top boards in the traditional schedule.
  • Southern California NM Julian Lanadw, who is playing in the Denker.
  • Bay Area veterans Tony Pabon and Mike Goodall.
Below is the host hotel of the 109th US Open, the Westin Park Central in Dallas.

Monday, August 4

Fpawn Plays at US Open in Dallas

(Blind player William Gibson uses a peg board to feel the chess pieces.)

As most of my readers know by now, I am presently in Dallas, Texas at the 109th US Open chess festival. This tournament lasts nine days, although many participants choose the faster 6-day or 5-day schedules. For those of us in the more relaxed schedule, we have the opportunity to attend meetings or chill out during the day (e.g. write blog posts or go to the pool) and then play one game each evening. Considering the hot Texas summer weather (105+ daily with 80% humidity), most of us stay indoors for the bulk of the day. Believe it or not, some crazy folks even go sightseeing!

I have performed reasonably well in my previous four US Opens, including a brilliant win against GM Pavel Blatny in 2003 and a tense last round draw on board 2 against GM John Fedorowicz in 2006. In fact, I finished tied for 2nd place overall and qualified for the 2007 US Championship at the 2006 US Open in Chicago.

This year, I managed to win my first two games, both which are available on ICC in the USOpen08 account (type: "liblist USOpen08"). Certainly, the more interesting pairing came in round 1, when I faced one of America's top blind players. William Gibson from Texas, rated 1800, used a peg board which he could touch with his hands during the game. We exchanged moves verbally while I played for both colors on the traditional tournament board. Although I won our game without too much adventure, I was deeply impressed by how much my veteran opponent "saw" without actually seeing anything. My students better not complain about being "blind" anymore after missing a tactic!

The nightly games begin at 5pm Pacific time through Saturday (and Sunday at 1pm PDT). Blog readers may wish to watch the top boards live on the MonRoi website and on the Internet Chess Club (look under the Events list). The highest 8-10 boards (plus some of the top Denker games) are covered on MonRoi. Watch for me and maybe even Steven Zierk tonight!

Update early Tuesday morning: My two students and I had one of each result on Monday night. Congratulations to Nicholas Karas for beating 2045 with white in round 3 of the US Open, placing him at 2.0/3! Steven drew with Victor Shen (2265) as black in round 5 of the Denker and has 3.5/5 heading into the final round tomorrow morning. Sadly, I lost a much superior position as black in the stonewall Dutch to Kalin Nonchev (2177) after refusing a draw in the endgame.