Wednesday, December 31

Stanford Ties for Third at Pan Ams

(Stanford chess team from left to right: NM Daniel Schwarz, FM Elliott Liu, Christopher De Sa, NM Vaishnav Aradhyula. Photo taken by WIM Alexey Root of UTD.)

Congratulations to the Stanford University chess team for finishing tied for third place at the Pan American Intercollegiate Championship in Dallas on December 27-30. The team of FM Elliott Liu (2406), NM Daniel Schwarz (2321), NM Vaishnav Aradhyula (2207) and Christopher De Sa (2155) faced stiff competition against 2500+ average teams from the two scholarship powers of University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) and University of Maryland at Baltimore County (UMBC). UTD won on tiebreaks over UMBC, both with 5.0/6; Stanford finished at 4.5. Other master strength teams in attendance included New York University, Harvard, University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) and University of Toronto.

As a reward for placing in the top four, Stanford was invited to participate in the Final Four of college chess on April 4-5, once again in Dallas. The Cardinal will face UTD, UMBC and UTB in a round-robin for the most prestigious prize in college chess. This will be a huge challenge as UTD fields a GM and a whopping 7 IMs while UMBC has three GMs plus a WGM. Goooo Stanford!

Please read the story on Chess Life Online for more details about the Pan Am.

Friday, December 26

North American Open Begins Tonight

Hello from Bally's Las Vegas, site of the North American Open. The hotel lies in the center of the world famous Las Vegas Strip. The Eiffel Tower (photo above) stands outside my window and Bellagio is just across the street. Indeed, Bally's appears to be an appropriate venue for one of the biggest prize funds on the American chess calendar. I expect to see nearly 600 players and upwards of a half dozen Grandmasters. The winners last year were GM Hikaru Nakamura and Berkeley native IM David Pruess. Regretably, Nakamura will not attend due to a commitment in Norway against GM Magnus Carlsen!

Check here for the official website and, hopefully, some live coverage via the MonRoi system. The first round of the main schedule (4-day) begins at 6pm tonight. I hit the jackpot with the round 1 pairings a year ago and was duly crushed by GM Nakamura. Whom will I face this year? Nine of my students and a number of other Bay Area players have already signed up for the final tournament of 2008. Wish us all luck! And check back this weekend for a couple of blog updates between rounds.

Tuesday, December 23

More Photos from Sacramento

I took these photos of Sacramento chess club members at the Weekend Swiss on December 20-21. Check out my Flickr photo album for more pictures from Sacramento area tournaments in 2008. Only the last 26 photos came from the past weekend.
  • top left: Jamshid Alamehzadeh
  • top right: Stoyan Elitzin and Alonzo McCaulley
  • bottom left: Ricardo Salazar and Virgil Vigil
  • bottom right: Brendan "Joe" Birt

Fpawn and Students PWN Sac-town

(The fpawn poses with student Suraj Nair after both won 1st place. To my disappointment, these trophies did not come filled with wine or candy.)

The final chess tournament of the year in Sacramento is the annual Weekend Swiss held at the Learning Exchange on Howe Avenue. About 40 players, their parents and a few enthusiastic observers came despite the cold weather. Many of the longtime regulars at the Sacramento Chess Club played, including three of the five masters: James MacFarland, Zoran Lazetich (first photo at bottom) and Michael Aigner. Thanks to longtime club TD John McCumiskey (second photo at bottom) for hosting yet another fine tournament.

The first round saw a tsunami of upsets in the top section that significantly changed course of the competition. At one point, all three masters appeared to be facing defeat. I managed to win after five hours of play against 2007 club champion Alonzo McCaulley, but both of my fellow masters lost. Kudos go to Jamshid Alamehzadeh (1854) for swindling Lazetich in an endgame and Ricardo Salazar (1839) for defeating MacFarland.

The main consequence of these upsets was that I would cruise through the entire four round tournament without being paired with anyone rated over 1900. (Sigh!) After working hard against McCaulley, I secured a comfortable advantage by move 25 in two games and won the third in merely 13 moves with black! I took clear 1st at 4-0, a full point ahead of NM Lazetich, Michael Da-Cruz, Nicholas Karas and Alamehzadeh.

Congratulations also to two of my students for winning money and achieving small milestones. Nicholas Karas (third photo at bottom) broke 1900 USCF by winning his first three games, defeating an expert along the way, before losing to his teacher. (Ahem!) Fresh off his victory in the 9th grade section at the CalChess Grade Levels in Stockton, Suraj Nair scored 2.5 out of 3 against B players to take clear 1st in the U1800 section. He broke 1600 USCF, gaining nearly 200 rating points in the past month and 400 points since the summer. After the final round, I asked Suraj what he did to improve so fast; he credited many hours of solving tactics puzzles on CT-ART. (Students: hint, hint!)

Friday, December 19

Lecture on Sunday at Berkeley International

Today was the sixth round of the Berkeley International. Four rounds remain to be played, one on each day through Tuesday. Good luck to the local players hunting for norms!

Standings after round 6:
  • 4.5 G.Kacheishvili
  • 4.0 Z.Izoria, J.Friedel, I.Krush
  • 3.5 L.Milman, D.Sharavdorj, D.Naroditsky, D.Rensch
  • 3.0 J.Sarkar, D.Pruess, M.Esserman
  • 2.5 J.Kraai, V.Bhat, B.Evans, I.Zenyuk,
  • 2.0 D.Haessel
  • 1.5 S.Kustar
Unofficial norm watch:
  • FM Daniel Rensch has +1 against 2515 average, including 2 foreigners
  • IM Irina Krush has +2 against 2419 average, including 4 foreigners
  • FM Marc Esserman has 50% against 2492 average, including 2 foreigners
  • FM Daniel Naroditsky has +1 against 2374 average, including 2 foreigners
(Estimate the performance after six rounds by adding 65 points to the average for +1 and 120 points for +2. Need 2451 performance for IM norm and 2601 for GM norm.)

Check out the pairings for the next round daily after 11:00pm. My fellow blogger Dana Mackenzie comments on some of the more exciting games on his chess blog.

Finally, the organizer IM David Pruess kindly asked me to spread the word of a 30 minute talk by FM Daniel Rensch on Sunday before the eighth round. The lecture begins at 1:20pm at 1581 Le Roy Avenue in Berkeley. FM Rensch presently has 3.5 out of 6 after facing three GMs and three IMs. He is well above the IM norm threshold and may even earn a GM norm. He operates American Chess Events in Phoenix, Arizona, teaching chess to kids and running scholastic tournaments. He is also a great guy whom I first met nearly 10 years ago when he was an up-and-coming teenager.

National 5th Grade Champion Kyle Shin

(A young new "Terminator" captured the top honors at 5th Grade nationals.)

Perhaps California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger played "the Terminator" in the movies, but San Francisco's Kyle Shin deserves that nickname at the chess board. He survived the jungle of upsets in 5th Grade at the National K-12 Championships in Orlando, not by firing an Uzi but by confusing his opponents with a hail of tactics. Somehow, he was the only of the top six seeds to survive the first two days of competition unscathed at 5-0.

Talented Kyle finished near the top in previous years, but this time his final score of 6.5 out of 7 was sufficient for undisputed first place! Having fulfilled one chess dream at the Magic Kingdom, Kyle's next goal no doubt should be to bring his 1923 USCF rating up to expert level. What are you waiting for? Go get 'em dude!

Check out these two highlights from Orlando. (Thanks Kyle!)

Thursday, December 18

National Kindergarten Champion Arun Khemani

He is just 5 years old but can fork your king and queen faster than you can blink an eye. His chess rating is over 1000 at an age when some kids learn how to count to 10. Instead of learning the ABC's, he studies en passant, opposition, zwischenzug and prophylaxis. He won't take AP exams for another twelve years, but he already understands French, Danish, Italian and Sicilian.

He fears nobody on the 64 squares and is eager to challenge opponents his age and even those a dozen times older. Most importantly, he loves to play the royal game! There's no doubt that his name will be one that the Bay Area chess community will remember for years to come.

Congratulations to Arun Khemani, the Kindergarten champion at both the CalChess Grade Level in Stockton and the National K-12 in Orlando! As the photo on the left shows, the organizers in Orlando specially designed the first place trophy to match Arun in height.

The photo below shows Arun before his last round game against top rated Awonder Liang from Wisconsin. Arun (playing white) needed to win in order to tie for first and he succeeded! The second picture shows five smiling Bay Area chess stars after the awards ceremony: Lindsey Canessa, John Canessa, Arun Khemani, Cameron Wheeler and Rayan Taghizadeh. Kudos to all, especially to coach Ted Castro!

Wednesday, December 17

David Pruess Or Paul Morphy?

(IM David Pruess may show future students some of the tactics in the Cochrane gambit.)

Four rounds have been completed in the Berkeley International. After two rounds, the six Grandmasters in the field had combined for an unimpressive 5.5/12 score, under 50%. They stormed back with four wins in round 3 and two in round 4--more importantly with no defeats. The top two seeds, GM Zviad Izoria and GM Giorgi Kacheishvili (both from the country of Georgia) are tied for first at 3.0 out of 4. Order has returned to the leaderboard.

However, IM David Pruess prefers chaos over order on his chessboard. He no doubt shocked most observers by essaying the Cochrane gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7) in the fourth round. Check out the game on Chess Publisher by clicking on this link. This gambit, which is considered theoretically dubious by most, leads to complications that favor a creative attacker such as Pruess. His opponent, FM Dale Haessel, was unable to cope with the surprising sacrifice and succumbed to checkmate on move 22. The fatal mistake may have occurred quite early; theory suggests a plan of either 5... c5 and 6... Be6 or 5... Be7 and 6... Re8, but not 5... Be7 and 6... c5. Pay attention kids: If your opponent mixes up opening lines in a sharp opening, look for a refutation!

There has been excitement on other boards too. FM Daniel Rensch from Arizona, who appears to be intimidated by nobody, remains tied for first place with two wins and two draws against a daily double of GMs and IMs. He appears to be on his way to an IM norm, and perhaps even a GM norm. The early leader, FM Marc Esserman from Florida, cooled off a bit but remains in contention for both norms because he has already faced four Grandmasters.

Local 13-year old star FM Daniel Naroditsky may be the shortest player in the field, but he stands tall at 2.0/4 with a 2383 performance rating after an impressive win in the Kan Sicilian over IM Sandor Kustar from Hungary. FM Bela Evans (see photo at left), who spends most days working for the Fremont area scholastic organization Success Chess, has collected a hat trick of draws against titled players, including GM Jesse Kraai. In the most entertaining game versus IM Justin Sarkar, Evans demonstrated the power of a pesky knight pair to overcome the deficit of an exchange (R+N vs N+N) in the endgame.

Standings after round 4:

  • 3.0 Z.Izoria, G.Kacheishvili, D.Rensch
  • 2.5 J.Friedel, I.Krush, D.Pruess, D.Sharavdorj, M.Esserman
  • 2.0 V.Bhat, J.Sarkar, D.Naroditsky
  • 1.5 J.Kraai, L.Milman, B.Evans, I.Zenyuk, D.Haessel
  • 0.5 S.Kustar, S.Shivaji, S.Jahedi
Check out the pairings for the next round daily after 11:00pm. For analysis of some exciting games, please visit Dana Mackenzie's chess blog.

Aamir and Suraj Win CalChess Titles in Stockton!

(From left to right: Aamir Azhar, Suraj Nair and Michael Meng. Photos of Aamir and Michael by Dr. Alan Kirshner of CalNorth Youth Chess.)

Here's a somewhat belated recognition to my three students who played at the CalChess Grade Level Championships in Stockton on December 6-7. A total of 342 intrepid young players arrived at the University of the Pacific to compete for the title of state champion in one of 11 sections ranging from Kindergarten to High School. Perhaps the competition was lighter than the CalChess Scholastics in the spring because none of the local 1800+ rated players attended, but don't tell that to those who worked hard for their trophies.

Two of my students took home 1st place trophies and a third got 4th place. Congrats to 7th grade champion Aamir Azhar and 9th grade champion Suraj Nair! Honorable mention goes to Michael Meng for finishing just half a point behind the winners in the tough 6th grade section.
  • Aamir (1650) improved recently by consistently beating opponents that he was supposed to beat, something that he did quite well in Stockton. He stumbled only against co-champ Thomas Gonda, but later Aamir won the blitz playoff for the bigger trophy. Check out Aamir's strong attack against the Chigorin defense.
  • Suraj (1499) left no doubt who was the man to beat in 9th grade by blasting his way to a perfect 6-0 score. He crushed the top seed (1713) with a thematic Bxh7+ sacrifice, much like the spectacular Pruess-Kraai game in the previous post. Suraj took care of business in his other games to finish two points ahead of the field.
  • Michael (1274) was rated well below the top players in 6th grade, but that was not reason to be intimidated. He finished with 4.5 out of 6 and barely missed out on a chance to tie for 1st with a last round draw.
Click this link for the USCF rating report. Many thanks to Chief TD John McCumiskey, the entire directing staff and the North Stockton Rotary for spending their time preparing for and running this annual tournament. I still have faint hope that someone who attended the event will write a summary article for the CalChess website.

Monday, December 15

Berkeley International is Underway

(White to move. What did the Bay Area's magician IM David Pruess play in this normal looking French defense? Click here to replay the entire game.)

The third Berkeley International features some of the Bay Area's top masters against competitors from around the country. The 19 player field put together by organizer IM David Pruess (see photo at right) includes Grandmasters, International Masters and foreign players so that GM and IM norms may be possible. In fact, there are six GMs: Zviad Izoria and Giorgi Kacheishvili, both representing the country of Georgia, Dashzegve Sharavdorj from Mongolia plus the three locals Jesse Kraai, Josh Friedel and Vinay Bhat. They are joined by five IMs and one WIM. For more, read the thorough preview by GM Friedel for Chess Life Online.

The rounds take place daily at 2:00pm in the Berkeley Chess School building at 1581 Le Roy Avenue. However, the best way to follow the action is to log onto ICC and check the events list using either BlitzIn or Dasher interface. Type "/finger EastBay08" for information or "/liblist EastBay08" for completed games.

Standings after round 2:
  • 2.0 M.Esserman
  • 1.5 Z.Izoria, G.Kacheishvili, I.Krush, D.Pruess, D.Rensch, D.Haessel
  • 1.0 J.Sarkar, D.Sharavdorj, B.Evans, I.Zenyuk
  • 0.5 J.Kraai, J.Friedel, V.Bhat, L.Milman, D.Naroditsky, S.Kustar, S.Shivaji
  • 0.0 S.Jahedi
Check out the pairings for the next round daily after 11:00pm.

There have been numerous upsets so far. That's obvious just by looking up the leader, FM Marc Esserman, who started out rated #15 out of 19. He defeated a pair of Grandmasters in the first two rounds, including an entertaining tactical slugfest against GM Sharavdorj, but faces top rated GM Izoria in round 3. All told, the six Grandmasters have combined for more losses than wins after the first two days!

The local norm candidates, IM David Pruess and FM Daniel Naroditsky, both were paired against two GMs but with mixed results. The difference was that Pruess drew with GM Izora and won with a deep Bxh7 sacrifice against GM Kraai while 13-year old Naroditsky, easily the youngest player (see photo at left), lost to GM Kacheishvili and drew GM Bhat. Go David and Danya!

Also check out Dana Mackenzie's chess blog for an on-site report from the first round.

Sunday, December 14

Two National Champs! Kyle Shin and Arun Khemani Win in Florida!

(Photos of national champions Kyle Shin on left and Arun Khemani at local tournaments.)

Veni! Vidi! Vici! Lest anyone doubt the impact of the Bay Area scholastic chess community at the national scene, this weekend proved that our kids are prepared to challenge the best of the country--and for that matter, the world. Only 11 local players and their parents flew to Lake Buena Vista, Florida for the National K-12 Championships, yet three of them remained in contention for top honors on the last day. Amazingly, 7 out of 11 took home a trophy! And in spite of difficult competition, two stars won 1st place trophies!

Congratulations to National Champions Kyle Shin (clear first in 5th grade) and Arun Khemani (top tiebreaks in Kindergarten).

As the top seed in 5th grade, Kyle Shin (1943) knew that he would be tested by each and every opponent. He survived a tough game in round 2 against an underrated young Russian immigrant and escaped a losing position in round 6 with a perpetual check. The final round took the full three hours. As Capablanca famously said: "a good player is always lucky." The difference between Kyle and the three other A players in his grade was the ability to take care of business against low rated opponents. In fact, Kyle never faced his nearest competitors because all of those strong players lost to 1600s, and in one case, a 1400. Good job Kyle for sticking to the game plan!

On the other hand, Arun Khemani (1055) faced a different challenge after losing to an unrated in the very first round. Salman Azhar of summed it up best by observing that the "sign of a champion is what he does after he loses rather than after he wins. Arun bounced back from [the] first round loss with six wins to bring Bay Area a National Championship!" In the last round, Arun defeated the top seed, Awonder Liang from Wisconsin, in a battle between two 1000+ rated 5 year olds. He's still young, yet there's no doubt that Arun's future in chess is bright! Kudos also to all-star coach Ted Castro!

Click here for the trophy distribution and the USCF rating report.
  • Kindergarten: Arun Khemani 6.0 - 1st place!!!
  • Kindergarten: Lindsey Canessa 4.0 - honorable mention
  • 1st Grade: Rayan Taghizadeh 5.0 - honorable mention
  • 2nd Grade: John Canessa 5.0 - 12th place
  • 3rd Grade: Cameron Wheeler 5.5 - 9th place
  • 3rd Grade: Alvin Kong 5.0 - honorable mention
  • 5th Grade: Kyle Shin 6.5 - 1st place!!!
Kudos to all of the prize winners! Cameron Wheeler stood tall against the big boys in 3rd grade, drawing with one 1800 before succumbing to another. Siblings John and Lindsey Canessa both earned trophies. Lindsey even doubled her 150 rating, now up to 338.

Saturday, December 13

Kyle and Cameron Try to Win in Florida

Two out of three days at the National K-12 Championships have been completed. The field thinned out after five grueling rounds. Now only a handful of contenders remain undefeated with dreams of becoming national champion. Two local players have placed themselves in position to finish at the top: Kyle Shin (5.0 in 5th grade) and Cameron Wheeler (4.5 in 3rd grade). Three more sit at 4.0 with a decent shot at winning a trophy.
  • Kindergarten: Arun Khemani (CalChess Champion) 4.0 and Lindsey Canessa 2.5
  • 1st Grade: Rayan Taghizadeh (CalChess Champion) 4.0
  • 2nd Grade: John Canessa (CalChess Champion) 4.0
  • 3rd Grade: Cameron Wheeler (CalChess Champion) 4.5; Art Zhao 3.5 and Alvin Kong 3.0
  • 5th Grade: Kyle Shin (photo at right) 5.0 and Maadhav Shah 3.0
The 5th grade section is full of upsets, but top seeded Kyle Shin has calmly won all five of his games. On the other hand, the other three A players each dropped at least one point in the standings. My stern warning to take each game 100% seriously regardless of the opponent's rating has paid dividends so far; too many kids at nationals are underrated by 200 or more points (especially those hailing from New York or New Jersey).

Kudos to Cameron Wheeler for taking care of business in the first four rounds and then drawing with talented Tommy He (1842) in round 5. The rook endgame seemed hopeless at first glance, but Cameron alertly kept his rook active until his opponent gave him a draw. He faces yet another 1800 on Sunday morning.

Best of luck to Kyle, Cameron and all CalChess kids in Florida!

National Grade Level in Florida This Weekend

(I know at least one young chess player who will no doubt be spending time at the pool in Florida, even in the middle of December. Have fun Kyle!)

The 2008-09 scholastic national championships kicked off yesterday at a beautiful resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida--near the magical theme parks of Disney World. The 1250 young chess enthusiasts attending the National K-12 Chess Championships are divided into 13 sections ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade; each player only faces opponents in the same grade. Since the field is diluted across so many sections, most of the older and higher rated juniors skip this event due to lack of competition. Nonetheless, the entries are impressive. The top seeds from around the country include talented names such as IM Marc Tyler Arnold and NM Alexander Heimann, both in 10th grade; Andrew Ng in 9th; Ryan Moon in 8th; Jarod Pamatmat in 6th; Christopher Wu in 4th; and Jonathan Chiang in 3rd.

Some of the top boards are being broadcast live on the MonRoi website. For complete results and pairings, please check the official website.

Despite the long flight, a total of 11 elementary school age players and their parents made the trip from Northern California to Florida. Four of these players just won the CalChess Grade Level Championships in Stockton a week ago. Now they're shooting for the stars. The scores below are after three rounds. There are two more rounds today (Saturday) with the final two on Sunday. Please join me in wishing all local players good luck! Hopefully they can bring home some nice trophies.
  • Kindergarten: Arun Khemani (CalChess Champion) 2.0 and Lindsey Canessa 1.0
  • 1st Grade: Rayan Taghizadeh (CalChess Champion) 2.0
  • 2nd Grade: John Canessa (CalChess Champion) 3.0
  • 3rd Grade: Cameron Wheeler (CalChess Champion) 3.0; Art Zhao and Alvin Kong both 2.0
  • 5th Grade: Kyle Shin (photo at right) 3.0 and Maadhav Shah 1.0
Update on Saturday afternoon: Cameron and Kyle are both 4-0. Round 5 is on Saturday at 6pm Eastern, 3pm Pacific.

Rob Wheeler, the father of Cameron, wrote the following in an email to friends yesterday evening: "We had a pretty uneventful flight out to Florida. After settling in, we took the kids to Downtown Disney for a bite, then it was off to bed. We had a lazy morning and explored a bit before Cam's first round at 1pm." After Cameron won the first two rounds easily, his father explained: "It looks like round 3 should be against an 1100. If all goes well, things start to get interesting in rounds 4&5. There are 4 boys 1800+ and 3 more in the 1600s." Amazing! Four 1800 rated 3rd graders in one tournament. Welcome to the big show and good luck!

Saturday, December 6

Chess Life Online Interview with IM Shankland

(This photo from the official World Youth website shows Sam playing in the final round. He is white against GM Quang Liem Le on the second board from the bottom.)

Check out this extensive interview that IM Sam Shankland gave to Chess Life Online. Most of the article concentrates on the World Youth Festival in Vietnam, where Sam tied for first U18 and thereby earned the bronze medal. While you are reading the story, make sure to answer the following six reading comprehension questions.
  1. How did a Frisbee change the course of Sam's life?
  2. What form of transportation do the Vietnamese use to get to the beach?
  3. Which variation of the Sicilian defense was Sam afraid of playing as black?
  4. Sam values the chess books by which author like gold?
  5. T or F: White wins by force in the Dragon by quickly pushing his g- and h-pawns.
  6. T or F: According to the article, some people say that Sam is now overrated.
Do you want to show Sam how much you admire him? Email me all six correct answers and I will publish your first name and last initial right here on the blog. Send the answers to michael AT fpawn DOT com by Friday evening, December 12.
All six answers correct
: Bob C, Colin M.

In addition, Sam annotated all eleven of his games from Vietnam, many in substantial detail. Responding to one interview question, he makes a point about the importance of annotating your games. If you too want to some day become a master or even an International Master, then print out the article and carefully play through these games.

Friday, December 5

December Top 100 Lists -- FIVE #1s

(Sam goes pink! At the 2005 National Grade Level Championships in Houston, TX, Sam Shankland outdid even his eccentric reputation by turning up for a round with a pink hairdo. How on earth could this punk earn the IM title just three years later!?)

After several corrections, the USCF has finally posted the December Top 100 lists. This supplement includes events rated by November 7, with an age cutoff on November 1.

The big news this month is that FIVE local players are now ranked #1 for their age. The readers of this blog have no doubt become accustomed to seeing FM Daniel Naroditsky (age 12) and NM Nicholas Nip (age 10) ranked at the top. Recently, Samuel Sevian (age 7) moved to the Bay Area and became an active participant in local tournaments. By the freak timing of birthdays, NM Gregory Young (age 13) assumes the top spot for his age each year in December, when IM Ray Robson turns 14 in late October and FM Naroditsky remains 12 until early November. (Remember that the magic date for these rankings is November 1.)

The final CalChess member to earn the #1 ranking is a well-deserving newcomer: World U18 co-Champion IM Sam Shankland (age 17). By gaining over 150 rating points and receiving the IM title, "Shankypanky" distinguished himself over the past year. In fact, the high school senior is now ranked #3 in the nation for K-12, behind only IM Robert Hess from New York and IM Robson from Florida. He's come a long ways since those days of pink hair.

GOLD MEDAL (top 5)
Arun Khemani (#2 age 5)
Samuel Sevian (#1 age 7)
Tanuj Vasudeva (#5 age 7)
NM Nicholas Nip (#1 age 10)
Yian Liou (#3 age 11)
FM Daniel Naroditsky (#1 age 12)
NM Gregory Young (#1 age 13)
IM Sam Shankland (#1 age 17)

Players ranked in the top 10 and top 25 of the country also deserve a special recognition. The names shown in bold and italics are all current or former students of mine.

Vignesh Panchanatham (#10 age 8)
Kesav Viswanadha (#6 age 9)
NM Steven Zierk (#6 age 15)

John Canessa, Cameron Wheeler, Armaan Kalyanpur, Allan Beilin, Jack Zhu, Daniel Liu, Daniel Zheng, Kyle Shin, Jerome Sun, Sam Bekker, Andrew Yeh, Rohan Agarwal, Michael Lin, Adarsh Konda, Michael Zhong

The CalChess Top 20 lists have not been updated for the new supplement, but I can confirm the following youngsters as the Top 5 for 11 & under and age 12-17. I have had the personal honor of working with half of these talented students over the years.

CalChess Top 5 Elementary (age 11 & under)
  1. NM Nicholas Nip, 2207
  2. Yian Liou, 2056
  3. Daniel Zheng, 1947
  4. Kyle Shin, 1943
  5. Jerome Sun, 1852
CalChess Top 5 JHS and HS (age 12-17)
  1. IM Sam Shankland, 2425
  2. FM Daniel Naroditsky, 2379
  3. NM Steven Zierk, 2258
  4. NM Gregory Young, 2249
  5. Rohan Agarwal, 2196

Tuesday, December 2

Turkeys Play Chess in Milpitas

(IM Ricardo DeGuzman won all of his games at the Thanksgiving Festival.)

The Bay Area Chess Thanksgiving Festival attracted about 150 players for mental exercises to burn off all the calories from turkey dinner. One IM, one NM and two former masters headlined the field in the top section. The venue at an office park in Milpitas was amazingly comfortable; the higher rated players were distributed throughout several smaller rooms surrounding the bigger main room, each with a door to minimize noise.

The playing schedules included options for 1-day (Friday only), 2-days (Saturday and Sunday) and all 3-days. The 1-day swiss saw 77 juniors compete for trophies in five sections ranging from U1400 to U500. Another 63 players chose the adult tournament, with about 2/3 choosing the faster 2-day schedule (three games of G/60) over the leisurely 3-day option (all six rounds at 30/90, SD/60). The organizer paid out about $1900 in prizes, 64% of the advertised amount. Smaller side events included a scholastic blitz tournament on Friday afternoon and scholastic quads on Saturday.

The competition in the Master/Expert section went according to form with the top five rated players finishing in the money. Top rated International Master Ricardo DeGuzman (2430) was never seriously threatened all weekend, sweeping the field with an impressive 6-0 score. Your humble reporter, NM Michael Aigner (2272), took second place at 4.5. Check out the game viewer for the game that decided the top honors.

Five players shared third place and the U2200 prizes at 3.5 points. Former masters Mike Splane (2196) and Dana Mackenzie (2120) combined for a solid 5.5/6 against lower rated juniors but only could score one draw in four games against the two masters. Teenage expert Evan Sandberg (2030) also tied at 3.5 after a disappointing last round draw.

Kudos to the two juniors who shared the U2200 honors: Brian Wai (1755) of Saratoga High School and 7-year old Samuel Sevian (1833). Wai (see photo at right) calmly defeated three of the top five Bay Area prospects under age 12 (all rated between 1830 and 1950), drew with Mackenzie and lost only to IM DeGuzman and this writer. After this 2150+ performance, his rating shot up nearly 100 points to 1850. Sevian, already rated #1 in the nation for age 7&under, joined the big tie at 3.5 by vanguishing two young A-players and drawing with expert Sandberg.
The following list shows the winners of each section at the Thanksgiving Festival plus the player with the largest rating gain (excluding provisional ratings).

  • 1st = IM Ricardo DeGuzman, 6.0/6
  • Most rating points = Brian Wai (+95)
Class A/B
  • 1st = Rahul Desirazu, 5.0/6
  • Most rating points = Rahul Desirazu (+93)
Class C/D
  • 1st = Julian Michael Lin, 6.0/6
  • Most rating points = Daniel Chen (+204)
Star Section
  • 1st = Binjih Lin and Richard Yi, 3.0/4 each
  • Most rating points = Binjih Lin (+85)
Elite Section
  • 1st = John Guiragossian, 4.0/4
  • Most rating points = Rohan Kasiviswanathan (+150)
Champ Section
  • 1st = Anish Yakkala, Nathaniel Sauerberg and Udit Iyengar, 3.5/4 each
  • Most rating points = Nathaniel Sauerberg (+142)
Premier Section
  • 1st = Steele Langland and Michael Sandler, 4.0/5 each
  • Most rating points = Michael Sandler (+173)
Booster Section
  • 1st = Akash Thiagarajan, 5.0/5
  • Most rating points = Akash Thiagarajan (+127)
Thanks to organizer Salman Azhar (see photo at left) of Bay Area Chess for organizing and the Pakistan-American Culture Center for hosting the festival in Milpitas. The tournament staff included CalChess President Tom Langland, Leo Lo, Paul Steiner, Gajanan Chinchwadkar and David Lee

Perhaps the greatest disappointment of the weekend was the complete lack of participation by Bay Area adults. Only a dozen of the 63 players in the main tournament were over the age of 18. Where did all of the Bay Area adults go and why would they skip a slow time control event?

While the decline in local adult chess may be traced to the natural advantage of juniors at the popular G/45 and other fast time controls, this reasoning certainly doesn’t apply to a leisurely event at a 30/90, SD/60 time control. In fact, the four adults in the Master/Expert section (out of 17 players) combined to score a lopsided 10.5 out of 11 against the lower rated kids! And while a junior won Class A/B, four out of the six adults in the section still gained rating points. If there was an event for adults to match wits against the talented juniors, then seemingly this was it.

2008 Berkeley International

I am writing on behalf of my friend IM David Pruess. He is organizing the 2008 Berkeley International, to be held in Berkeley on December 14-23. The tournament will be 10 rounds, one game per day. The field should be incredibly strong, with six Grandmasters and four IMs signed up to date. David is still recruiting more foreign players so that GM and IM norms are possible. Entries are restricted to FIDE rating of 2200 and juniors over 2100.

Update December 2: David told me earlier today that he recruited two more foreigners, including GM Zviad Izoria (2610 FIDE).

Sound like a good deal? Certainly there is no other local tournament to match this level of competition. If you count airfare and hotel, then it is much cheaper to play in Berkeley than, say, World Open in Philadelphia.

I know that some chess players have work or school during the week of December 15. Since the games are daily at 2pm, David suggests taking 2-3 byes if you are able to get out at noon on other days. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a norm, you will need to play all of the rounds.
If you have any questions or concerns about the tournament, please contact IM David Pruess using pruess (at) or dpruess on ICC.