Monday, November 30

Shankland and Kraai Draw Top Honors

IM Sam Shankland and GM Jesse Kraai shared first at 4.5/6 in the CalChess State Championship, held at a new venue in Santa Clara. Shankland (photo at left) had superior tiebreaks and earned the title for the second year in a row. Congratulations Sam!! Still a teenager, "Shanky" now has two adult trophies at home; although in a bit of an irony, he never won the CalChess Scholastic Championships!

The winners faced stiff competition from IM Ricardo DeGuzman, IM Dmitry Zilberstein and two teenagers: FM Steven Zierk and NM Greg Young. DeGuzman, Zierk and Young tied for third at 4.0/6, with Young claiming top U2300 honors as well. One interesting tidbit: Shankland, Kraai, DeGuzman and Zierk completed a quad amongst themselves, drawing every single game. (Photo of Shankland versus Kraai at top right.) With a performance over 2600 for his last 12 rated games, Zierk (photo at right) will break 2400 USCF.

The tournament attracted 153 players, almost all from the San Francisco Bay Area. Organizer Salman Azhar of paid out 100% of the $8,100 advertised prize fund, even though it was based on 166 paid entries. In a sure sign of the future, at least 60% of the players were kids, including a majority of the prize winners. And here's one unusual sight: a WIM and a FM played *up* in the Expert section!?
State Champions!
  • Master: IM Sam Shankland and GM Jesse Kraai; U2300: NM Greg Young
  • Expert: Karim Seada
  • Class A: James Kwok
  • Class B: Thadeus Frei (6-0!!)
  • Class C: Jonathan Uesato and Udit Iyengar
  • Class D/E: Leyton Ho; U1200: Rupa Gudiseva

Thursday, November 26

Hello from the Heart of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley becomes chess central this weekend as the CalChess State Championship takes place at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. Defending champion IM Sam Shankland will face stiff competition from veterans GM Jesse Kraai, IM Ricardo DeGuzman, IM Dmitry Zilberstein and the red hot teenager FM Steven Zierk. With 142 players registered in advance, the attendance will likely top out between 160 and 180. organizer Salman Azhar should be pleased (and relieved) with the turnout at his first big money tournament!

Players will be divided up into three different regions of the hotel: Master, Expert, A, B and C all play on the second floor (Bayshore room). The D and E sections (Mendocino room) and Friday scholastic tournament (Napa room) are on the ground floor. Hopefully the rowdy young kids stay far away from where the big boys do battle. We'll kindly allow an exception for 8 year old FIDE Masters. ;-)..
FINAL RESULTSI will try my best to provide limited internet coverage throughout the weekend, most likely on Twitter and perhaps by uploading photos to Flickr. No promises! I should be quite busy with over 20 students in attendance, all who want part of my attention. Hopefully my own games won't take too long, so that I have enough time to socialize, eat and still look at a few games between rounds. Wish me luck, both on and off the board!

Wednesday, November 18

Adult State Championship on Thanksgiving Weekend!

In a bold move, chief organizer Dr. Salman Azhar reinvented the annual Thanksgiving weekend tournament into something bigger, stronger and more prestigious. The advertised prize fund of more than $8000 (based on 166 entries) exceeds what any local organizer has offered since the failed Firecracker Open in 2001. The event takes place at the plush Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, across the street from the Great America theme park. Veteran players may remember this hotel as the venue of the CalChess Scholastics for many years in the 1990s and early 2000s.

To my surprise, the CalChess Board designated this untested event as Northern California State Open & Class Championship. At first, it seemed strange to me to quietly move our state championship from the traditional Labor Day weekend to an untested date. Moreover, chess enthusiasts from Southern California and other western states will undoubtedly continue to attend the 45th annual American Open in Los Angeles. I even heard of a few local players traveling to LA for the larger prizes and stronger competition.

However, I am impressed by the number of advance entries so far. Already 110 participants have registered for the 3-day and 2-day schedules (not including another 50 in the 1-day scholastic side event). I project a final turnout near the "based on" number of 166, or roughly on par with this year's Labor Day festival. Not bad at all for the first year! The Master section already appears respectably strong with five International Masters, including 2008 State Champion IM Sam Shankland, plus another seven masters (three age 16 or younger).
  • Event: CalChess Open State & Class Championship
  • Date: November 27-29 (3-day) or November 28-29 (2-day)
  • Location: Hyatt Regency at Santa Clara Convention Center, 5105 Great America Parkway (across street from Great America water park)
  • Format: 6 round swiss in 6 sections (Open, Expert, A, B, C and D/E).
  • 3-day schedule: Reg: Fri 10-10:30. Rds: Fri 11, 5:15; Sat 11, 5:15; Sun 10, 4:15.
  • 2-day schedule: Reg: Sat 9-9:30. Rds: Sat 10, 12:15, 2:30, 5:15; Sun 10, 4:15.
  • Time control: 40/2, G/1 except G/60 for rounds 1-3 of 2-day schedule.
  • Entry fee: $90 for 3-day, $84 for 2-day by Sunday 11/22; $20 more on-site.
  • Other fees: play up one section for $19, re-enter into 2-day schedule for $39.
  • Prize fund: $8100 based on 166 players, including $1000 guaranteed for 1st place in Master section and $500 for 1st place in lower sections ($300 for D/E).
  • Tournament flyer
  • Orientation page
  • Advance entry list
All of my students are strongly encouraged to attend this championship! Watch America's elite juniors match wits with titled players and each other in the Master and Expert sections: FM Steven, NM Gregory, NM Yian, Kyle, Arthur, DanielL and several more who haven't registered yet! I expect a fun weekend of skewers and forks. Be there!

New CalChess Website:

ANNOUNCEMENT from CalChess President Tom Langland (originally dated 11/01/09)

As many of you have observed the CalChess website ( has suffered a major malware attack. From what I can gather, the website was possibly penetrated several weeks ago, and has since been hit critically. This is not the first time the site has been attacked and penetrated, but one of several. The current location appears to provide insufficient protection against outside attacks. I also continue to receive 40-50 spam messages a day.

My attempts to remedy the situation have met with extreme resistance, and the current environment is untenable. This was a position I thought was regrettably forthcoming.

To that end, I have been working on a long-term project to improve the site, and due to the above situation, I am releasing it ahead of my intended schedule.

So... I am announcing the new official Calchess website located at:

The new site is still a work in progress, and I am looking forward to feedback. I do not have any plans to maintain the "old" site.

/Tom Langland/ (photo at right)

Postscript by fpawn: In fact, the domain name already expired and the former website is now history. What a shame! The old webmaster put much effort into the site, but unfortunately the many tools were never utilized to their potential. I tried hard for several years to write articles in the hopes that other local chess players would contribute as well. Becoming frustrated, I turned my efforts to this blog and died. There are many reasons why nobody wanted to post, ranging from pure laziness to the quirky personality of the webmaster. Fortunately, Tom Langland stepped up and volunteered many hours of his own time to develop almost entirely from scratch. I sincerely hope it meets a better fate, and I pledge to contribute again. Nonetheless, I intend to continue posting the majority of my writings on this blog.

Monday, November 16

US Chess League Semifinals: San Francisco vs Miami

In recent years, the San Francisco Bay Area sports franchises have not performed well. The A's 49ers, Raiders, Warriors and Earthquakes all try to out-stink each other. At least the Giants and Sharks have been competitive of late, although the hockey team seems allergic to winning playoff matches. College sports fans may look forward to the 112th Big Game, although few would have predicted before the season that Stanford, not Cal, has a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Go Stanford! Beat Cal!!

Fortunately, at least one San Francisco franchise has made the playoffs for five straight seasons! Congratulations to the Mechanics, competing in the US Chess League, for making local fans proud. The Mechanics finished at 6.5-3.5 in the regular season standings, earning second place in the competitive Western Division.

Featuring four strong Grandmasters and three International Masters each with two GM norms, the team has strength and depth unparalleled in the league. This season, the Mechanics' captain IM John Donaldson submitted four different lineups featuring Grandmasters on both boards 1 and 2: Josh Friedel + Jesse Kraai (see photo at left), Patrick Wolff + Kraai, Wolff + Vinay Bhat and Kraai + Bhat. In fact, the 2469 rated lineup of Friedel, Kraai, IM Sam Shankland and NM Yian Liou likely was the strongest in the history of the league, at least by numbers.

However, the formula of success for the San Francisco team always has been the play of talented (and underrated) juniors on boards 3 and 4. This year's roster included four members age 18 or younger: IM Shankland, FM Daniel Naroditsky, NM Gregory Young and NM Yian Liou (see photo at right). The first three were veterans, having participated already in previous years. Newcomer Yian Liou, the #2 ranked 12 year old in the nation, turned out to be the team's star! Playing in all but two weeks, Yian scored 6.5 out of 9 for a performance rating of 2412, including wins against IM Mehmed Pasalic of Chicago and WFM Bayaraa Zorigt of Dallas.

Tonight, the Mechanics face the Miami Sharks in the semifinal round of the playoffs! These rivals squared off twice in the regular season, with the local boys winning 3:1 in week 3 and drawing 2:2 in week 6. But the playoffs have favored Miami over the years, with the Sharks eliminating the Mechanics in both 2005 and 2007. Who will win this year? Tune into ICC between 5:30 and 9:00 to watch the action LIVE!

Playoff Semifinals: San Francisco vs Miami
  1. GM Jesse Kraai vs GM Julio Becerra 1/2
  2. IM Blas Lugo vs GM Vinay Bhat 0-1
  3. IM David Pruess vs IM Alejandro Moreno Roman 0-1
  4. NM Eric Rodriguez vs NM Yian Liou 1-0
UPDATE on Monday night: It was not to be! San Francisco got pummeled on three boards and lost 1.5:2.5. Congrats to the Sharks and good luck in the USCL Championship!

UPDATE on Wednesday night: Read the thorough post mortem by team captain IM John Donaldson at the Mechanics' blog.