Saturday, November 27

Kasparov Talks @ Google

Here is one more video of Garry Kasparov in the Bay Area. On November 3, he spent a day at the Googleplex in Mountain View, giving a simul and answering questions at a forum. The former World Chess Champion also took time out of his busy schedule to meet with reigning World Under 18 Champion IM Steven Zierk.

Tuesday, November 9

Kasparov Simuls in Silicon Valley

Did you know that Garry was in town last week?

Yes, the 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov visited two Silicon Valley companies. He gave talks at Google and Palantir Technologies, even playing a pair of simuls. The following YouTube video shows the 10 board simul at Palantir on November 1.

Speaking at Palantir, Kasparov proclaimed the Apple II computer (1977) as America's most recent revolutionary invention. Never one to shy away from controversial opinions, Kasparov believes the United States has become complacent when it comes to innovation. Read more about the lecture here.

Monday, November 1

Team USA Captures One Gold and Two Silvers

Congratulations to the three medal winners for Team USA at the 2010 World Youth!
  • IM Steven Zierk of Los Gatos, CA (at left of top photo) won GOLD in Under 18
  • NM Kayden Troff of Utah (middle of bottom left photo) won SILVER in Under 12
  • Jeffrey Xiong of Texas (middle of bottom right photo) won SILVER in Under 10
Finally, make sure watch the last 4-minute long highlight video produced by Chessdom. I saw all three medalists plus the last round game between Samuel and Vignesh.

Saturday, October 30

World Under 18 Champion!!!

I woke up early today just for this special moment. I logged into the official World Youth website and saw the final moves. Frankly, I couldn't believe what I was seeing; perhaps I wasn't awake yet. Alas, I woke up just in time to see my student become undisputed World Under 18 Chess Champion. Within 32 short moves, Steven Zierk crushed a 2495 rated Azeri Grandmaster, his fourth straight victory at the end of this two week long tournament.

Merely four years ago, Steven was a retired 1500 rated middle school player who played chess off and on as a hobby. Those who knew him already saw his talent back then. With a little motivation and guidance, Steven reached 2100 in the first year and 2300 in the second. Today, he stands as the newest International Master in the country, plus with a valuable Grandmaster norm to boot. His performance rating is a mindboggling 2723, more than 100 points above the GM norm requirement! Steven becomes the third Bay Area World Youth champion in four years, joining Daniel Naroditsky (U12) in 2007 and Sam Shankland (U18) in 2008.

What else can I say? Congratulations Steven! I am really proud of you.

Two other Americans won medals this year. Kudos to Kayden Troff of Utah, who was leading U12 for most of the tournament. He took home the silver medal after losing a crucial round 9 pairing. More kudos to talented youngster Jeffrey Xiong of Texas for winning another silver medal in U10. Click here for the complete results for Team USA.

Bay Area Final Standings at World Youth
  • U18: FM Steven Zierk 9.5 -- 1st place
  • U12: Kesav Viswanadha 4.5
  • U12: Allan Beilin 5.0
  • U10: Cameron Wheeler 8.0 -- 5th place
  • U10: Samuel Sevian 8.0 -- 6th place
  • U10: Vignesh Panchanatham 8.0 -- 9th place
  • U8: Rayan Taghizadeh 7.0
  • Girls-U8: Joanna Liu 6.5

Thursday, October 28

Round 8 Interviews with Zierk and Troff

Check out twin interviews with FM Steven Zierk and NM Kayden Troff starting at 4:13 in the round 8 video below. Rock on Steven and Kayden! And thanks once again to the Bulgarian chess news website Chessdom.

Wednesday, October 27

Kayden Troff and Steven Zierk Rock at World Youth

(The World Youth website includes literally hundreds of photos taken by Chessdom.)

NM Kayden Troff of Utah rocks the entire world in Halkidiki, Greece! He has scored an amazing 7.5 out of 8 and leads the U12 section by a full point with three rounds left. Kayden's pairings have certainly been difficult enough; counting tomorrow's round, he has played five of the top eleven seeds, for a performance rating of 2525 FIDE. Make sure to check out his interesting chess blog.

Bay Area FM Steven Zierk has an undefeated 6.5/8 in the U18 section, good enough for clear 2nd place. He already drew with the leader and his performance of 2649 easily exceeds the GM norm threshold. Unfortunately, Steven has faced only two of the required three Grandmasters; the other GMs all struggled to score even 5.0. What a big shame!

Bay Area Standings at World Youth (after 8 of 11 rounds)
  • U18: FM Steven Zierk 6.5 -- 2nd place
  • U12: Kesav Viswanadha 4.0
  • U12: Allan Beilin 3.5
  • U10: Cameron Wheeler 6.0 -- 6th place
  • U10: Samuel Sevian 5.5 -- 13th place
  • U10: Vignesh Panchanatham 5.5 -- 19th place
  • U8: Rayan Taghizadeh 5.0
  • Girls-U8: Joanna Liu 5.0 -- 18th place

Sunday, October 24

FM Zierk Leads Local Delegation at World Youth

(At left, array of flags flying outside playing hall. At right, both Steven and his young pupil Cameron have excellent results
. Visit Cameron's chess blog for more photos.)

The two week long World Youth Chess Championships in Halkidiki, Greece reached its midway point today as the 1400 participants played both rounds 5 and 6 (of 11). Tomorrow is the rest day, typically reserved for sightseeing tours and a well-deserved break from the chessboard. The tournament concludes with a closing ceremony after the final round on Saturday.

First-hand accounts from Halkidiki have been quite positive, fortunately in stark contrast to World Youth nightmares of yesteryear, e.g. Belfort, France in 2005. Check out this detailed chess blog written by 10 year old Cameron Wheeler and his father Rob. Great photos! In addition to pairings and standings, the excellent official website features round-by-round reports, PGN files with 50 top games per round, hundreds of photographs, and video interviews.

The eight CalChess juniors who flew to Greece fare quite well given the tough competition. Half of our kids are in the top 10 of their section! Samuel Sevian, the top seed in U10, remains at the top of the hill, having surrendered just one draw. A bit more surprising is the phenomenal result of Cameron Wheeler in the same section. Cameron scored four wins and two draws against opposition that includes a trio of young FIDE masters. His friend Vignesh Panchanatham recovered from a first round loss by winning four straight games (plus a draw for 4.5/6). Two of Coach Ted Castro's talented 8 year olds, Rayan Taghizadeh (photo at right) and Joanna Liu (wearing her Weibel shirt!) stand at 4.0 and 4.5 respectively. Lastly, Kesav Viswanadha and Allan Beilin may have earned less points than the others, only because they are playing in the more advanced U12 section.

However, the biggest story so far has been the phenomenal performance of FM Steven Zierk in the U18 division. My former star student stands at an undefeated 5.0 out of 6 despite facing three opponents rated around 2500, including a pair of Grandmasters. His performance rating of 2656 puts him on track for a GM norm, and nearly clinches an IM norm! He already drew against the leader, GM Samvel Ter-Sahakyan of Armenia, in a wild game. In fact, he played three of the top six seeds, beating one and drawing with the other two, in spite of losing positions. Admittedly, anything is possible with five rounds to go, but Steven currently finds himself in a most enjoyable situation. Good skill, mate!

Bay Area Standings at World Youth (after 6 of 11 rounds)
  • U18: FM Steven Zierk 5.0 -- 2nd place
  • U12: Kesav Viswanadha 3.0
  • U12: Allan Beilin 2.5
  • U10: Samuel Sevian 5.5 -- 1st place
  • U10: Cameron Wheeler 5.0 -- 5th place
  • U10: Vignesh Panchanatham 4.5 -- 16th place
  • U8: Rayan Taghizadeh 4.0
  • Girls-U8: Joanna Liu 4.5 -- 8th place

Interview with Zierk in Greece

The round-by-round video reports from the World Youth in Greece have been a real pleasure to watch. Check out a 45 second interview with Bay Area representative FM Steven Zierk at the end of the round 4 video below. Thanks to the Bulgarian chess news website Chessdom for all of the media available online.

Friday, October 22

Los Angeles Norm Tournaments

Thanks to NM Ankit Gupta for sharing this news.

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Chess Club will host an IM norm invitational next month. This ten player round-robin will be the first such event in LA for five years. The nine rounds are spread out over consecutive weekends (November 12-14 and 20-21) at the California Market Center on 110 East Ninth Street in downtown LA. The time control is 40/90, G/30 with an increment of 30 seconds from move 1.

The average rating of the field is 2338 FIDE, which makes it a respectable Category 4. Players must score 6.0 out of 9 to earn an IM norm. The field includes three International Masters: Enrico Sevillano (see photo at right), Tim Taylor and Zhanibek Amanov of Kazakhstan. Most of the norm seekers are role players for the Los Angeles Vibe team in the US Chess League: Roman Yankovsky, Alexandre Kretchetov, Tatev Abrahamyan, Joel Banawa, Jouaquin Banawa, Konstantin Kavutskiy and Ankit Gupta.

Metro Club director Michael Belcher hopes to organize more international tournaments in the future. Any readers with interest in such norm tournaments in the future (either IM or GM norm tournaments) should send an e-mail with subject "METROCHESSLA" to Michael Belcher at td(at)chess(dot)com and Ankit Gupta at gupta.ankit.h(at)gmail(dot)com. You will receive more information from the Metropolitan Chess Club mailing list.

Monday, October 18

October Top 100 Lists

(Left photo: Organizer Salman Azhar.)

(Right photo: Coaches Alan Kirshner and Ted Castro with 2010 K-3 National Champions.)

I recently updated the CalChess Top 100 and CalChess Top 20 lists for October. The October supplement includes tournaments rated by the first Friday in September, meaning the Labor Day Festival did not make the cut. The age is current as of September 1.

Kudos to 113 local juniors ranked among the top 100 of the nation for their age. Salman Azhar of Bay Area Chess and All Star Coach Ted Castro apparently discovered the mythical Fountain of Youth. No fewer than 50 Northern California kids are nationally ranked for age 10, 9, 8 or 7 & under, the majority affiliated with either Salman or Ted! I can't wait to see how many young masters we'll have in about five years.
(The Chesspunks train with FM Daniel Naroditsky for World Youth. From left to right: Vignesh, Allan, Danya, Kesav and Cameron. Photo from Cameron's blog.)

A record 16 kids age 17 & under are currently rated above 2000, including four in elementary school! New experts this year: Cameron Wheeler, Jack Zhu, Kesav Viswanadha, Daniel Liu, James Kwok and Andrew Yeh. Superstar FM Daniel Naroditsky, incredibly almost 2500, holds the only #1 ranking this month, but nine more youngsters are ranked among the top five for their age, including four #2's. Here's a big round of applause for ten unofficial gold medalists for October!

GOLD MEDAL (top 5)
Advait Budaraju (#4 age 5)

Josiah Stearman (#4 age 7)
Rayan Taghizadeh (#4 age 8)
Michael Wang (#5 age 8)
Samuel Sevian (#2 age 9)
NM Yian Liou (#2 age 13) -- Co-champion of US Cadet Invitational
FM Daniel Naroditsky (#1 age 14)
NM Gregory Young (#2 age 15)
NM Steven Zierk (#4 age 17) -- Winner of Denker High School Invitational
IM Sam Shankland (#2 age 18) -- Winner of US Junior Invitational

Players ranked in the top 15 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.

(top 15)

Ben Rood (#15 age 6)
Anthony Zhou (#8 age 7)
FM Tanuj Vasudeva (#8 age 9)
Cameron Wheeler (#6 age 10)
Vignesh Panchanatham (#10 age 10)
Udit Iyengar (#13 age 10)
Jack Zhu (#7 age 11)

Kesav Viswanadha (#9 age 11)
NM Evan Sandberg (#14 age 17)
NM Rohan Agarwal (#15 age 17)

Solomon Ge (#21 age 7)
Leyton Ho (#21 age 8)
Jeffrey Tao (#18 age 9)
Colin Chow (#17 age 10)
Richard Yi (#20 age 10)
Allan Beilin (#17 age 11)
Daniel Liu (#16 age 12)
Kyle Shin (#17 age 12)

Paul Richter (#21 age 12) -- CalChess K-12 Co-champion
Andrew Yeh (#30 age 14) -- CalChess K-12 Co-champion
Hayk Manvelyan (#19 age 16)

Saturday, October 16

Play Chess in Reno Next Weekend!

To those readers not flying to Greece on Sunday, I highly recommend the annual Western States Open in Reno starting in just five days. Unfortunately, I can't attend one of my favorite events because of an extended illness.

The Western States is one of the largest and strongest annual chess events west of the Continental Divide. Come to watch the Grandmasters play! Organizer Jerry Weikel, his wife Fran and the entire staff work diligently to make the weekend as enjoyable as possible for all. In fact, the Western States draws more players from Northern California than any local adult event except Labor Day. If you still have doubts, check out my article in the February 2008 issue of Chess Life about the 25th anniversary tournament in 2007.
  • Event: Western States Open
  • Dates: October 22-24
  • Location: Sands Regency in Reno (map)
  • Format: 6 round swiss in six sections (Open, Expert, A, B, C, U1400)
  • Schedule: Registration: Fri 9-10. Rounds: Fri 12, 7, Sat 10, 6, Sun 9:30, 4.
  • Time control: 40/2, 20/1, SD/30 (up to seven hours!)
  • Prize fund: $37,000 based on 400 players, $25,000 guaranteed.
  • For more information, visit the Reno Chess Club website.
  • At this late date, register on-site on Thursday evening or Friday morning.
  • Click here for the advance entry list (149 entries).
Although the tournament is held at a casino, the chess rooms are on the second floor, above the gambling floor. Surprisingly, the chess event is actually quite kid-friendly. One suggestion: If you request a room in the Regency or Dynasty towers, the children can ride the elevators between your hotel room and the tournament hall without passing through the casino at all.

Many students find it difficult to attend because of school. If you can, skip classes on Friday; otherwise take a round 1 bye and drive up in the early afternoon. Unlike most other 3-day tournaments, Reno doesn't offer a 2-day schedule. Despite this conflict, plenty of local juniors play in Reno each year, including many of my students.

Postscript: Students of mine may wish to visit my house in Davis on the way to or from Reno. I live just two minutes away from I-80. While I am sick, I would love to say hi. Please email me if you're interested.

Tuesday, October 12

Slow Chess League on ICC

The Team 45 45 League on ICC is accepting signups for a new tournament! You play one game each week for six weeks (plus playoffs) against different opponents at a mutually negotiated time. The time control is 45 minutes plus a 45 second increment for every move; a typical game may last 2-3 hours. The league, which has been active on ICC for a dozen years now, offers sections at 200 rating point intervals to allow everyone the opportunity to play opponents near their own rating.

I have played in T4545L for quite a few years and I also volunteer as a section TD. About 15 of my students have played in the league--great practice! There are several teams of Bay Area kids, both elementary school and middle school. Please email me for references. The league is both highly recommended and fun to play!

Before joining, please carefully read the Quick Guide and Player Handbook. The T4545L has some strict rules which require a modest level of personal responsibility. It also helps if you are somewhat flexible in your availability to play, either after school on several days of the week or on most weekends. If you're busy at a big weekend tournament, you may wish to ask your captain to sit out that week. Feel free to contact me with further questions.

World Youth in Greece

(Three of our biggest contenders
at World Youth: FM Steven Zierk, Samuel Sevian and Rayan Taghizadeh.)

The 2010 World Youth Chess Championships begin next week at the Porto Carras Grand Resort (see photo at right) in Halkidiki, Greece. From October 20 to 30, more than 1400 boys and girls will play 11 rounds in a dozen sections ranging from U8 to U18. The competition should be fierce since the most promising talents from around the world will attend. There are future Grandmasters in every section!

The American delegation consists of 40 players, 5 official coaches and over 100 people in all. The Bay Area is well represented with eight participants, all who will attend their first World Youth. Will anyone follow in the footsteps of FM Daniel Naroditsky (gold medal U12 in 2007) and IM Sam Shankland (equal first and bronze medal U18 in 2008)? We shall see!

Northern California representatives
  • U18 boys: FM Steven Zierk
  • U12 boys: Kesav Viswanadha and Allan Beilin
  • U10 boys: Samuel Sevian, Cameron Wheeler and Vignesh Panchanatham
  • U8 boys: Rayan Taghizadeh
  • U8 girls: Joanna Liu
Certainly I won't be the only one watching the results come in each day. Here's the round schedule. Most of the games begin at 16:00 Greek time, which is 6:00 in the morning in California. In past years, three to five boards from each section were broadcast live at the official website. Also make sure to follow youngster Cameron Wheeler and his father Rob, who plan to tweet and blog with daily results, stories and photos.

Good luck everyone! Go USA!!

Monday, October 11

Mike Goodall 1946-2010

An expert rated chess player, longtime USCF delegate, prominent San Francisco Bay Area event organizer, National Tournament Director and International Arbiter Mike Goodall passed away on October 5. Read the tribute written by Frisco Del Rosario for the chess blog at the San Francisco Examiner website.

Goodall had already lost a step or two when I first met him in the late 1990s. He remained active in the chess community through this year, playing Tuesday nights at the Mechanics' Institute and visiting the annual People's Open in Berkeley. He played in the first five rounds at the 2010 US Open just two months ago and directed the annual weekend tournaments in Santa Rosa until April 2009. It was obvious to me how much he loved chess and chess players. Like Bobby Fischer, Goodall moved on to a higher board at the appropriate chess age of 64.

Rest in Peace, Mike.

Does anyone have word of funeral arrangements? Please email me if you know.

Sunday, September 19

CalChess Top 20 Adults -- October 2010

(Photos of the top Bay Area chess masters: #2 IM Sam Shankland, #1 GM Vinay Bhat and #6 FM Daniel Naroditsky.)

Eight months have passed since I last posted the Top 20 Adults list for Northern California. I can report relatively few changes; most notably Japanese FM Shinsaku Uesugi began attending UC Berkeley. The top junior, 14 year old FM Daniel Naroditsky, moved up three spots to #6 after gaining 56 points to 2482. And a few players returned to the rankings after briefly dropping off due to inactivity (e.g. GM Walter Browne).

The four former residents of the GM House in El Cerrito (it closed last May) still occupy the top spots, with GM Vinay Bhat ranked #1 by a single point over US Junior Champion IM Sam Shankland. Both Vinay and Sam spend time outside of the Bay Area; Vinay travels around Europe (primarily Spain) while Sam started classes at Brandeis University (in Boston). By the way, if you enjoy studying well annotated games, then I highly recommend bookmarking Vinay's chess blog.

CalChess Top 20 Masters
(Fpawn's former students in red)

1 GM Bhat, Vinay 2560
2 IM Shankland, Sam 2559
3 GM Friedel, Josh 2554
4 GM Kraai, Jesse 2551
5 GM Browne, Walter 2520
6 FM Naroditsky, Daniel 2482
7 IM Florean, Andrei 2477
8 IM DeGuzman, Ricardo 2460
9 SM Kotlyar, Gregory 2435
10 FM Zierk, Steven 2431
11 IM Zilberstein, Dmitry 2421
12 IM Pruess, David 2411
13 FM Uesugi, Shinsaku 2399
14 IM Mezentsev, Vladimir 2394
15 IM Donaldson, John 2389
16 IM Tate, Emory 2389
17 IM Grefe, John 2340
18 FM Lee, Andy 2340
19 FM Cusi, Ronald 2332
20 NM Young, Gregory 2328

Sunday, July 25

Fremont Open Next Weekend!

The New Fremont Chess Club promotes chess for both adults and advanced juniors with a wide variety of activities. In addition to rated games on Friday nights from 8-11pm, the club hosts weekend tournaments plus camps and lectures by Grandmasters or International Masters. Celebrities who taught in Fremont include 2008 US Champion GM Yury Shulman and the reputed trainer GM Gregory Kaidanov. Check out a recent interview with Shulman by high school student Aditya Kumar.

The Fremont Open will take place next weekend, July 31 to August 1. The organizers hope to match the turnout from the past two years (average of 70). The early entries appear to be a bit sluggish, but the event seems like a good practice opportunity, especially for 1600 to 1900 rated players.
  • Event: Fremont Open
  • Date: July 31 - August 1.
  • Location: Club Sport.
  • Format: 4 round swiss in 3 sections (M/X, A/B and U1600).
  • Schedule: Register: Saturday 9:00-9:45. Rounds: both days at 10:00 and 3:30.
  • Time control: 30/90, G/60.
  • Entry fee: Postmarked by 7/26: $60. On site: $70. Play up for $10 per section.
  • Prize fund: $2400 based on 70 paid entries, including $350 for 1st place in M/X.
  • Contact: kenneth.zowal (at) sbcglobal (dot) net
  • Tournament Flyer
  • Advance Entry List

Monday, July 12

Cadet Kicks Off Today in Tennessee

(The town of Crossville, TN is home of the US Chess Federation national office and the venue for the US Cadet.)

The US Junior is not the only national scholastic invitational going on this week. Eight of the nation's top talents under age 16 flew to Crossville, Tennessee for the US Cadet. While the big guns (notably GM Ray Robson and FM Darwin Yang) elected to play in St. Louis, the field remains quite impressive. Undoubtedly this is the first time that all eight players are masters!

Another noteworthy observation about the Cadet is how tight the ratings are: just 100 points USCF from top to bottom! Seemingly anyone could beat anyone else in this tournament; it wouldn't surprise me to see each player nicked for at least one loss during the seven rounds. That should make it interesting! If I had to pick one favorite, I would go with the top seed Aleksandr Ostrovskiy because he lives in New York and consequently has more experience facing masters than anyone else.

Of course, I will cheer loudly for my pupil Yian Liou (photo at right) to bring home a national title. Yian has steadily improved from 1200 back in 2005 to nearly 2300 today. He earned a 2400 performance last weekend at Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles, drawing with GM Melik Khachiyan and beating IM Jack Peters. Go for the gold Yian!

2010 US Cadet Invitational (most updated USCF rating, July FIDE rating)
  1. Aleksandr Ostrovskiy (2299, 2257)
  2. Yian Liou (2277, 2211)
  3. David Adelberg (2275, 2216)
  4. Michael Yang (2247, 2141)
  5. Adarsh Jayakumar (2242, 2172)
  6. Ryan Moon (2227, 2227)
  7. Jarod Pamatmat (2210, 2060)
  8. Atulya Shetty (2198, 2086)
Games will be broadcast live on the MonRoi website (free registration). I don't know when the first round begins, except that it is sometime today. Stay tuned for updates. Correction: Round 1 is on Tuesday, July 13.

Friday, July 9

Good Luck to Steven and Sam at US Junior!

(The top two seeds--Sam Shankland at left and Ray Robson on right--share a lighter moment before the action begins. Photo from CCSCSL website.)

Two of the Bay Area's most successful young chess players will participate in the US Junior Closed (invitational) beginning this weekend at the magnificent Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. Please join me in cheering for FM Steven Zierk (one IM norm) and IM Sam Shankland (two GM norms).

The field seems a bit disappointing, with only three of the top nine players under 20 on the April Top 100 list actually showing up. This year's favorite is top seed and defending champion GM Ray Robson. The second seed, and only International Master to participate, is our own Sam Shankland, who could benefit from a little more luck than at recent tournaments. To be quite honest, I will be shocked if neither Ray nor Sam finish at least tied for first.

The dark horse is FM Conrad Holt, the highest rated player from Kansas ever. He gained another 50 rating points and earned a pair of IM norms at the Copper State International and World Open. Third seed FM John Bryant of Los Angeles won't be intimidated by anyone and may also end up being a force to reckon with.

In addition to Sam, I will cheer loudly for my student Steven Zierk. This is Steven's first one-game-per-day invitational and he will need to adjust to the level of competition. He has enough experience drawing against Grandmasters (plus one notable win) that he could be a serious contender. The challenge will be to play consistently in a round-robin tournament where eight of his nine competitors are rated within 30 rating points or higher.

2010 US Junior Closed (most updated USCF rating, July FIDE rating)
  1. GM Ray Robson (2608, 2562)
  2. IM Sam Shankland (2561, 2513)
  3. FM John Bryant (2483, 2403)
  4. FM Conrad Holt (2468, 2402)
  5. FM Darwin Yang (2429, 2396)
  6. NM Warren Harper (2416, 2304)
  7. FM Steven Zierk (2412, 2385)
  8. NM Parker Zhao (2382, 2267)
  9. NM Tyler Hughes (2381, 2312)
  10. NM Eric Rosen (2227, 2179)
Watch for live video coverage from St. Louis beginning at noon Pacific time daily through July 19 (rest day 7/16). As a treat, GM Hikaru Nakamura is scheduled to comment on the first two rounds this weekend. Games are being broadcast LIVE on ICC (check under the Events list). Watch for occasional updates on this blog and on my Twitter page.

Good luck Steven and Sam!

Thursday, July 8

Silicon Valley Challenge on Sunday!

(The playing hall is actually a dance studio. Watch out for the mirrors!)

First of all, I apologize to my regular readers for this extended absence. I am battling an annoying intestinal ailment that has deprived me of much of my usual zest for over two months. Unfortunately, it is still not cured, although the doctors can't seem to find anything wrong in my medical test results.

The 8th Silicon Valley Challenge hosted by the Sun Chess Club will be this coming Sunday! As in recent years, the event will be held at Susan's Dance Studio in NE San Jose.

This year takes on a little more significance since Charles graduated from Saratoga High School and will begin classes at UC Berkeley next month. I began teaching him in 2004 and had the pleasure of watching him grow into a smart and confident young man. Charles was never one of my star students, but his success at big money tournaments (Las Vegas!) remains unparalleled by my students. I still remember watching him improve from 1394 to 1806 in the summer of 2005. He attributed that quantum leap to learning to pay attention to tempo in chess.

In high school, Charles took over the leadership of the Saratoga High School club, extending the streak of state titles to a record six straight years. He also began organizing a couple of rated tournaments each year. Read about last year at this blog post. Over four years, a total of 350 players participated in 11 events, with an impressive peak of 62. Charles generously treats his players to free snacks and drinks, which may help explain why many come back each year.

  • Event: Silicon Valley Challenge #8
  • Date: this Sunday, July 11
  • Location: 2146 Ringwood Avenue, San Jose (off I-880 near Milpitas).
  • Format: 4 round swiss in 2 sections (Open and U1600).
  • Open schedule: Reg: 8:30-8:50. Rounds: 9:00, 11:30, 1:45, 4:00.
  • U1600 schedule: Reg: 10:30-11:15, Rounds: 11:30, 12:30, 1:45, 3:00.
  • Time control: G/60 for Open; G/30 for U1600.
  • Entry fee: $45 adults, $40 juniors on-site. Masters FREE!
  • Prize fund: $510 total including $100 for 1st place in Open section.
  • Go to Sun Chess Club website for the entry form
  • Or check the advance entry list.
  • Site capacity: 54 players.
I highly encourage my students to come to play. Unfortunately, it looks like my ongoing health problems may prevent me from coming down on Sunday. Big sigh!

Thursday, June 3

City Council Honors 6-time State Champs


WHEREAS, Six members of the Saratoga High School Chess Team competed at the CalChess State Chess Championship on April 17th and 18th, 2010 and won the team championship for the varsity section; and

WHEREAS, this Chess Championship was the sixth consecutive championship for the Saratoga High School Chess Team which is a record for the State; and

WHEREAS, the Saratoga High School Chess Team competed in chess competitions throughout the 2009/2010 school year and won the Santa Clara County high school chess championship, with four of the team members placing in the top five finishers, and came in 2nd place in the regional high school league chess championship; and

WHEREAS, the team has been self-motivated and trained throughout the year for this championship; and

WHEREAS, National Master Michael Aigner was the professional coach for the team and trained them in chess technique but also imparted on the team a deep appreciation of the benefits of strategic thinking, hard work and training for all efforts in life; and

WHEREAS, in recognition thereof it is appropriate to extend to them the special honors and highest commendations of the community of Saratoga.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of Saratoga does hereby congratulate and commend the members of the Saratoga High School Chess Team for this outstanding achievement.

2nd day of June 2010
Kathleen M. King, Mayor
City of Saratoga

(Team members from left to right: Coach Fpawn, Charles Sun, Kevin Garbe, Rolland Wu, Evan Ye and Brian Wai. Not present: Sankash Shankar.)

Saturday, May 15

2010 US Championship Underway

The 2010 US Championship began on Friday at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Thanks to club sponsor Rex Sinquefield for backing a most generous prize fund of $170,000, including $35,000 for 1st place and $3,000 minimum for last. The novel format is a nine round swiss with one major variation. After round 7, the top four players split from the main swiss and face off in a round-robin quad to determine the top prizes. The "Final Four" plays ten games to determine the national champion while everyone else completes the nine round swiss, with the winner earning 5th place. This ensures that the best players face each other at the end.

The field of 24 participants includes all of America's top Grandmasters, a few older veterans and the brightest young talent. Will defending champion Hikaru Nakamura (photo by Betsy Dynako at top right) flex his muscles to become the first repeat winner in 25 years? Or will fellow Olympiad team (photo by Mike Klein below) members Gata Kamsky, Alex Onischuk, Yury Shulman and Varuzhan Akobian snatch the top honors? Or perhaps one of the three talented teenagers will surprise everyone, like last year when Robert Hess took 2nd place.Defending champion: Nakamura
Favorites: Kamsky, Onischuk
Contenders: Shulman, Akobian, Lenderman
Star Juniors: Hess, Robson, Shankland
Former Champions: Shabalov, Christiansen, Benjamin, Yermolinsky
The Field: Ehlvest, Kaidanov, Kudrin, Stripunsky, Bhat, Finegold, Khachiyan, Kraai, Gurevich, Krush, Altounian

Of course, many readers of this blog will cheer for the California players. Vinay Bhat has come home after spending more than a year traveling the European chess circuit. Gaining 73 FIDE rating points in the past 9 months, he may be a dark horse to surprise everyone. CalChess State Champions Sam Shankland and Jesse Kraai both have the potential to beat anyone, but it is unclear if they can maintain that high level of play over the full 9 or 10 rounds. Many Bay Area chess fans still consider 2-time US Champion Alex Yermolinsky as a local hero, although he moved to South Dakota a few years ago. Finally, Melik Khachiyan of Los Angeles has developed an pool of students from Northern California.

Readers may watch games live daily beginning at noon Pacific time. The Internet Chess Club offers live audio and video broadcasts from Saint Louis for its members (observe boards 1 through 12). Monroi broadcasts live moves for free. The official tournament website also promises live games, but their bandwidth was too low yesterday.

Key Round 1 Results: Stripunsky 0-1 Nakamura, Kamsky 1-0 Robson, Shulman 1/2 Bhat, Lenderman 0-1 Khachiyan (photo at right by Betsy Dynako), Hess 1-0 Shankland, Kraai 1/2 Shabalov.

Tuesday, May 11

Vini, Vidi, Vishy!

Congratulations to Anand!

This morning, 40-year old Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand successfully defended his world chess title by defeating challenger Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria. The 12 game title match ended in a narrow 6.5-5.5 score after Anand won today's final game as black. This was the only game that the player of the black pieces won; white had already won four games--two by each participant. This title defense solidified Anand's status as the unified 15th World Champion, following a direct line from Fischer to Karpov to Kasparov to Kramnik and finally to Anand.

The final game seemed typical of the entire match. Playing white, Topalov achieved a pleasant middlegame out of the Queen's Gambit Declined opening. Knowing Anand's reputation in rapid and blitz games, Topalov couldn't afford to play a tiebreaker and had to find a way to win today, even risking defeat. Anand, defending patiently, saw his opportunity on move 30 and struck with a dangerous pawn sacrifice f7-f5! After 33... Rd4 and 34... Qe8, white's monarch was in grave danger, a complete reversal of how this match began in game 1. While Topalov escaped the mating web today, the attack cost him the queen. Game! Set! Match!

Final Standings: Anand 6.5 - Topalov 5.5
  1. Topalov 1-0 Anand -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  2. Anand 1-0 Topalov -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  3. Topalov 1/2 Anand -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  4. Anand 1-0 Topalov -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  5. Topalov 1/2 Anand -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  6. Anand 1/2 Topalov -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  7. Anand 1/2 Topalov -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  8. Topalov 1-0 Anand -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  9. Anand 1/2 Topalov -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  10. Topalov 1/2 Anand -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  11. Anand 1/2 Topalov -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
  12. Topalov 0-1 Anand -- replay -- Chessbase report -- ICC video
What is next? According to the World Chess Federation FIDE, eight players will complete a series of knockout matches for the right to challenge Anand in a title match. The players are Topalov, Carlsen, Kramnik, Kamsky, Aronian, Gelfand and two more. These candidates matches are currently penciled in for December 2010 in Azerbaijan, while the next World Championship could be held as soon as the end of 2011. Unfortunately, FIDE has a reputation of not following through on its official commitments, so we will need to wait and see what actually transpires.

Monday, May 10

Three Foot Tall Chocolate Chess Set

The family of Utah chess prodigy Kayden Troff hires a chocolate shop to make a giant chessboard with 3-foot pieces. The store owners use more than 1,100 pounds of chocolate while attempting their biggest project ever. After days of hard work, they deliver the board with 32 solid chocolate pieces at a chess camp run by 11 year old master Kayden, his family and their friends.

Little Chocolatiers is an American reality television series on TLC that airs Tuesday evenings. The show is based on Steve Hatch and his wife Katie Masterson's chocolate shop in Salt Lake City and how they make their chocolate.
  • Part I on YouTube
  • Part II on YouTube (or click on the video player at top)