Friday, October 21

October Top 100 Lists

Udit Iyengar and Cameron Wheeler
I cannot believe that a full year has passed since my last report on the CalChess juniors ranked among the national Top 100 in each age. Alas, my previous blog post was indeed October 2010. My apologies! Without further ado, here are the PDF links everyone has patiently waited for.
A total of 111 local students earned national recognition for their age, actually 2 less than a year ago. Another 8 girls appeared on the girls-only rankings. The most populous age groups were 11 years old (17 ranked, including 5 of the top 17) and 7 & under (15 ranked, including 5 age 6 and 2 age 5). No doubt this is a credit to the numerous school programs, concentrated in the South Bay.

The CalChess Top 20 lists keep growing stronger each month, despite the June graduation of four of the best high school players. Like last year, 16 kids are rated over 2000 USCF, a number already guaranteed to increase on the December supplement. Even more stunning is that 9 of 11 experts (2000-2199) are in middle school! Specifically, watch out for Kennedy Middle School at nationals, with top four players all currently rated above 2100 on MSA! (That's stronger than most high schools.) Finally, don't forget America's youngest master of all time, NM Samuel Sevian, who less than a year later is knocking on the door to 2300.

Ben Rood
In previous posts about the USCF Top 100 Lists, I created an unofficial medal system to honor the most talented CalChess juniors. Of course, those ranked #1 deserve an extra special mention. 15-year old IM Daniel Naroditsky falls somewhere between Superman and a 600 lb gorilla, considering that he has been at the top for some six years straight. On the other hand, 7-year old Ben Rood is the new kid on the block, winning both the CalChess 1-3 Championship and National K-1 Championship this year on the way to an impressive 1731 rating. Lastly, Chinguun Bayaraa starts off as the highest rated 5-year old in the country! Way to go Danya, Ben and Chinguun!

While only three #1s live in the Bay Area, there still are many star juniors. In fact, someone represents the Top 6 on every age list save two. (The exceptions are 13 and 17 years old.) Moreover, I counted two #2s and three #3s, all but one who reached the top before. With these statistics out of the way, let me announce the gold, silver and bronze medal winners! 14 gold, 17 silver and 9 bronze! (My students appear in bold and italics.)

IM Daniel Naroditsky
GOLD MEDAL (top 6)
Chinguun Bayaraa (#1 age 5)
Agnes William (#2 age 5)
Rishith Susarla (#4 age 6)
Ben Rood (#1 age 7)
Josiah Stearman (#6 age 8)
Michael Wang (#5 age 9)
Rayan Taghizadeh (#6 age 9)
NM Samuel Sevian (#2 age 10)
Cameron Wheeler (#3 age 11)
Jack Zhu (#6 age 12)
NM Yian Liou (#3 age 14)
IM Daniel Naroditsky (#1 age 15)
NM Gregory Young (#2 age 16)
IM Steven Zierk (#3 age 18)

Solomon Ge (#9 age 8)
Anthony Zhou (#12 age 8)
Leyton Ho (#10 age 9)
Jeffrey Tao (#12 age 10)
FM Tanuj Vasudeva (#15 age 10)
Udit Iyengar (#7 age 11)
Vignesh Panchanatham (#11 age 11)
Colin Chow (#14 age 11)
IM Steven Zierk
Siddharth Banik (#17 age 11)
Kesav Viswanadha (#8 age 12)
Allan Beilin (#12 age 12)
Daniel Liu (#10 age 13)
Kyle Shin (#15 age 13)
Neel Apte (#16 age 13)
Paul Richter (#17 age 13)
Taylor McCreary (#17 GirlsU16)
NM Evan Sandberg (#15 age 18)

Zarek Azam (#21 age 7&under)
Jason Zhang (#23 age 7&under)
Arhant Katare (#28 age 9)
Kevin Moy (#22 age 11
Richard Yi (#24 age 11)
Art Zhao (#28 age 11)
James Kwok (#29 age 14)
NM Hayk Manvelyan (#20 age 17)
NM Rohan Agarwal (#19 age 18)

Thursday, September 29

CalChess FIDE Rated Juniors - September 2011

Beware the 5th grade master!
When I earned my first international rating in January 2000, the recognition was more of rare bird than it is today, especially for non-masters and juniors.  Starting out at 2054, my FIDE actually dropped to 2011, barely above the absolute floor of 2000 back then.  My USCF rating bounced around 2100 at the time.

I participated in a handful of "Futurity" events at the Mechanic's Institute, intended for players to earn a published FIDE rating.  Only a handful of elite juniors were invited.  Consequently, I doubt that more than five kids in the Bay Area could boast of their world ranking at any one time.   

Fast forward to 2011...

CalChess FIDE Rated Juniors
(September 2011 FIDE ratings)

  1. IM Daniel Naroditsky 2472
  2. NM Gregory Young 2368
  3. NM Yian Liou 2283
  4. NM Samuel Sevian 2180
  5. Daniel Liu 2063
  6. Kyle Shin 2046
  7. Siddharth Banik 2034
  8. Arthur Liou 2024
  9. Jack Zhu 1996
  10. Cameron Wheeler 1962
  11. Kesav Viswanadha 1938
  12. Udit Iyengar 1917
  13. Ojas Chinchwadkar 1915
  14. Vignesh Panchanatham 1902
  15. Allan Beilin 1899
Things certainly changed in a decade!  An amazing 15 youngsters are currently ranked, even after four graduated this past June.  Eight sport a FIDE rating over 2000.  With fellow World Youth gold medalist Steven Zierk now a freshman at MIT, Daniel Naroditsky lays an undisputed claim to the rank of 600 lb gorilla in Bay Area scholastic chess.

Reigning US Junior champion Gregory Young bounced up 72 points in the first half of 2011 before returning to his retirement due to school and basketball.  Hopefully he will submit the necessary paperwork and fee for the FM title that he duly earned by breaking 2300 FIDE.  Last year's US Cadet co-champion Yian Liou lurks within striking distance of FM as well, needing just one or two good tournaments.

After this trio of talented high school players, 10 of the remaining 12 local kids are in middle or elementary school!  Moving up from just below 2200 is Samuel Sevian, the country's youngest master ever (based on USCF rating).  The bottom six players on the Bay Area rankings may still be below 2000, but I bet they will shoot up quickly considering they all are in 5th or 6th grade (except Ojas Chinchwadkar).

Wednesday, September 21

CalChess Top 20 FIDE

Reigning state champion GM Sam Shankland (see photo) sits on top of the CalChess FIDE rating list for September 2011.  I still remember Sam as a B and C player way back in 2004.  He certainly came a long way since those days, winning three of the last four state titles (2008, 2009 and 2011), playing in three straight US Championships, finishing third this year, and defeating Peter Leko, former World Championship challenger, at the 2011 World Cup.  Although Sam now attends Brandeis University in Boston, he plans to play in one or two Bay Area tournaments each year.

Aside from Shankland's meteoric improvement, there are a couple of other noteworthy changes since my last ranking list in February 2010.  First, former state champion GM Josh Friedel moved to Wisconsin in search of happy cows.  Fair travels!  Secondly, teenage FMs Steven Zierk and Daniel Naroditsky upgraded their titles to IM, both gaining over 120 FIDE rating points in a year and a half.  Steven also moved to Boston for college after being admitted to MITWould the state of Massachusetts kindly stop kidnapping the young chess stars of California?!

CalChess Top 20 FIDE
  1. GM Sam Shankland 2553
  2. GM Jesse Kraai 2514
  3. GM Vinay Bhat 2511
  4. IM Steven Zierk 2483
  5. IM Daniel Naroditsky 2472
  6. IM Dmitry Zilberstein 2403
  7. IM John Donaldson 2390
  8. IM David Pruess 2386
  9. IM Ricardo DeGuzman 2382
  10. IM Vladimir Mezentsev 2369
  11. NM Gregory Young 2368
  12. NM Arun Sharma 2331
  13. FM Andrey Chumachenko 2325
  14. FM Ronald Cusi 2313
  15. FM Robin Cunningham 2295
  16. NM Peter Zavadsky 2294
  17. FM Shinsaku Uesugi 2292
  18. NM Yian Liou 2283
  19. NM Sevan Buscara 2271
  20. FM Bela Evans 2262

Friday, September 9

Study Math or Study Chess? Let's Ask Kasparov.

Hey all ya math and chess nerds! Garry Kasparov was interviewed on TV in Brazil:

I'll give you one example: there was an experience run in Germany by one of the German universities. They had classes, two classes. One had extra hours of mathematics. Another class, the same class, parallel, had extra hours in chess. At the end of the year, they compared the results in... mathematics! The class with chess won. But moreover it's about social integration, because it helps kids to gain some self-esteem, it boosts their attitude, sense of logic.

This sounds all too familiar to me.

Sunday, August 28

2011 FIDE World Cup Begins

Bay Area star GM Sam Shankland (right) stunned super-GM Peter Leko (left) in round 1!

The FIDE World Cup has evolved into the largest and one of the most prestigious chess tournaments. An incredible 128 players arrived in the remote Russian oil town of Khanty-Mansiysk for a Wimbledon style knockout championship. Each mini-match consists of two classical games, one per day. If still tied, the match goes to a third day of tiebreaks, first rapid, then blitz and, if necessary, an Armageddon finale. Only one competitor can advance, meaning the competition is both grueling and nerve-wracking. The field shrinks in half after every round; round 2 has 64 players, round 3 has 32 and so forth.

The participants play for a huge prize fund of $1.6 million and three spots in the next World Championship cycle. Most players qualified either by rating (top 20) or by placing near the top of a country or continental championship (e.g. US Championship). The winner takes home $96,000; each of the 64 losers in round 1 gets $4,800. The two finalists plus the winner of the third place match advance into an 8-player Candidates Tournament (2013) to determine the challenger for a World Championship match (2014).

Considering these stakes, it seems a little surprising that only half of the top 10 rated players chose to participate. Of course, Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand are already busy preparing for a title match in May 2012. Then Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik probably expect to be invited to the Candidates Tournament by rating (top 3). However, the absence of Veselin Topalov and Hikaru Nakamura is more difficult to understand.

Six Americans made the lengthy trip to the middle of nowhere, or more precisely, 500 miles due north of Kazakhstan. Gata Kamsky earned his spot by rating; he actually won the 2007 World Cup. The other five (Alexander Onischuk, Yury Shulman, Ray Robson, Sam Shankland and Alexander Ivanov) all qualified at the 2011 US Championship in St. Louis.

Official website: (very good site!)
Games also available on ICC. Type "/finger WorldCup11" with library links at bottom.

American Results: MAJOR UPSET! Shankland eliminated Leko in round 1!!  Click here to view his win.  Unfortunately, only Kamsky managed to get past round 2.  Kamsky was knocked out by Svidler, who subsequently won the entire tournament!
  • #8 Kamsky - eliminated by #9 Peter Svidler (Russian champ) 0.0-2.0 in round 4
  • #51 Onischuk - eliminated by #14 David Navara in round 2
  • #83 Shulman - eliminated by #43 Vladimiir Potkin in round 1
  • #103 Robson - eliminated by #26 Etienne Bacrot in round 1
  • #111 Shankland - eliminated by #82 Abhijeet Gupta in round 2
  • #112 Ivanov - eliminated by #81 Igor Lysyi in round 2
Schedule:40/90, G/30 + 30 sec/move added from move 1
  • Opening ceremony, August 27
  • Round 1, August 28, 128 players
  • Round 2, August 31, 64 players
  • Round 3, September 3, 32 players
  • Round 4, September 6, 16 players
  • Quarterfinal, September 9, 8 players
  • Semifinal, September 12, 4 players
  • Rest Day, September 15
  • Final + 3rd place, September 16 (two 4 game matches)
  • Closing ceremony, September 20

Friday, August 26

Chess: The Road to College

(Where does this internationally certified chess nut go to college?)

The end of summer brings upon us the annual ritual of starting school. And those who managed to graduate from high school in June now begin a whole new chapter of their lives. Four of the Bay Area's elite scholastic players moved into college dorms this week. I was fortunate to have taught three of the four. They combined to win the past four state High School titles, with each victorious at least once. This post serves as a small tribute.

IM Steven Zierk definitely counts as the star of the class of 2011, both academically and based on chess results. He had many phenomenal results, but three stand out in my mind:
  1. Clear 1st in A section of 2007 People's tournament with a published rating of 1527.
  2. Beat GM Loek van Wely in 27 moves with black at 2009 Western States (Reno).
  3. Gold medal at 2010 World Youth U-18 in Greece, earning the IM title.
While chess played big role in Steven's youth, he had a broad range of interests. As I found out accompanying him at the 2008 US Open in Dallas, he loves math puzzles and devours books of different genres. An active athlete, he played and refereed soccer, earned a second degree black belt in tae kwon do and even joined the school track and field team (shot put). Of course, he also excelled at Los Gatos High School. The photo at the top of this post leaves no doubt where Steven chose to go for college: MIT.

A year ago, NM Evan Sandberg (photo at right) became my sixth student to achieve the rank of master. Yet his greatest achievement came in 2009, when he shared 1st place in the High School section at the CalChess Scholastics (with Yian Liou), thereby earning the right to play in the Denker Invitational in Indianapolis. An active member of the Mechanics' Institute chess club, Evan continued to participate in the Tuesday Night Marathon through this summer. The streak will necessarily end since Evan decided to attend Rutgers University in New Jersey.

NM Rohan Agarwal (photo at left) reached 2200 despite never being one of my students. However, I wrote a tribute to his aggressive playing style titled "The Master Gambiteer". Sadly, he didn't have time for many tournaments over the past two years at Irvington High School in Fremont. He did leave a mark by teaching the next generation at Weibel Elementary. Rohan won't need to go far for college as he decided to attend UC Berkeley.

Expert Nicholas Karas (photo at right) of Rio Americano High School in Sacramento started out with a provisional rating of 395 and then rocketed through the rating scale to a peak of 2159. Much of the teaching credit goes to his first coach--and my longtime student--NM Daniel Schwarz. Nicholas saved the best for his senior year, winning clear 1st in the High School section at the CalChess Scholastics and then attending the Denker Invitational in Orlando. He also became a Golden Bear as he began studying at UC Berkeley.

to Steven, Evan, Rohan and Nicholas! (I admit that I'm a little late.)

Each year, the most talented young chess players typically get admitted to the best universities around the state and nation. Take GM Robert Hess, America's top rated junior, as an example; he just matriculated at Yale University. Among my growing group of ex-students, there's no doubt that Berkeley has become the most popular school, with at least a half dozen: David C, Jeff Y, Kevin H, Charles S, Michael L and now Nicholas. Five of these six reached 2000 at chess, establishing a quasi benchmark for future Berkeley applicants. And I believe three guys remain at Stanford (Marvin S, Aaron G and Adam G) after the June graduation of Daniel Schwarz.

Numbers aside, however... Go Stanford! Beat Cal!

Sunday, July 17

Naroditsky Finds GM Norm in Spanish Mountains

I submitted this article to Chess Life Online. The photo at left was taken at the 2011 US Championship. Congratulations Danya!

Always looking for interesting new places to play in Europe, IM Daniel Naroditsky participated in the XXXI Open International Villa de Benasque on July 7-16.
Located in the Pyrenees Mountains, this Spanish town is less than 10 miles from France, but 200 miles from the nearest large city, Barcelona. The majestic scenery attracted 31 Grandmasters and a total of 471 chess players seeking an excuse for a mountain vacation.15-year-old Naroditsky came to play Grandmasters and chase his first GM norm. ...
Please read the full article at Chess Life Online. There you will find a small sample of his games against Grandmasters.

Thursday, June 30

Rybka Cheats!?

World Champion Chess Program Banned For Cheating (tech web blog) republished from
June 30, 2011

The engine which emerged victorious from the past four World Computer Chess Championships, called Rybka ("little fish"), has been banned for cheating. But, uh, how can a computer cheat unless it's programmed to?

The answer lies not in its programming, but in its construction. The International Computer Games Association, which has both an awesome name and which runs the computer chess championships, has found that Rybka's creator, Vasik Rajlich, essentially plagiarised the work of other existing chess engines in creating his software, and has been stripped of all his titles and ordered to return all his prize money. (Which engines? Crafty and Fruit.)

Funnily enough, the ICGA didn't take the action because Rybka had stolen code. They took it because Rybka had used other people's code and not given credit.

Do you think this story the truth or a fish tale? Perhaps people chose to slander Mr. Rajlich because of his success as an independent programmer!? I expect to hear more about this story in the coming weeks or months. I have not made up my mind yet.

For you kids out there, this article does contain one moral to learn and follow: Always cite your sources and give credit where it is due. If this news holds true, then the new program Houdini will be the undisputed leader in the world computer rankings. Coincidentally, Houdini openly borrows from other engines under an open source license.

Download the UCI engine for Houdini 1.5 (find the button about 1/4 down page) and run it in Chessbase, Fritz, Aquarium, Arena or Winboard. Here's the best part: Houdini is FREE!

Friday, June 24

Bay Area Showdown in St. Louis

(Photo from the website of the St. Louis chess club, host and sponsor for the US Junior.)

FRIDAY UPDATE: Gregory Young won round 8 to clinch clear first! Congrats!!

Thursday's showdown between Bay Area stars IM Daniel Naroditsky (white) and NM Gregory Young was easily the most critical pairing of the US Junior Invitational to date. Gregory took the early lead, 0.5 points ahead of his rival. By winning, Gregory extended the lead to 1.5 points with just two rounds left.

Click here
to play through the moves. Danya set up the Maroczy bind against Greg's accelerated Dragon, deviating at move 11 from Giri - Tiviakov (Unive 2010). The placement of the white rooks (Rad1) is a central theme to this opening. By move 24, black achieved a small tactical advantage on the queenside. Amazingly, the black queen doesn't get trapped! The resulting opposite color bishops endgame was difficult to hold because of white's weaker pawn structure (down a pawn) and black's active pieces.

Despite the lead, Gregory can't rest yet. His final two opponents, FM Warren Harper and FM Victor Shen are both rated over 2400 and eager to play spoiler. In fact, seven of the ten players still have a mathematical chance to win the championship, should the leader slip. 

Final Standings

  • 7.5 NM Gregory Young --2011 US Junior Champion
  • 5.5 IM Conrad Holt, FM Victor Shen and FM Alec Getz
  • 5.0 IM Daniel Naroditsky, FM John Bryant and FM Warren Harper
  • 3.0 NM Kayden Troff
  • 2.0 NM Jialin Ding
  • 1.0 NM Raven Sturt

Saturday, June 18

Bay Area Stars at US Junior

For the second summer in a row, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has hosted and sponsored the U.S. Junior Invitational for 10 of the top American juniors under age 21. This club, generously funded by Rex Sinquefield, has quickly grown into the most exciting new venue in the nation. The past two U.S. Championships were held here, attracting most of the elite players of the country. No doubt, many of the juniors attending this week dream to join the big boys in the near future. In fact, the U.S. Junior champion earns an invitation to both the World Junior and next year's U.S. Championship!

Previous winners of the U.S. Junior include GM Bobby Fischer, GM Larry Christiansen, GM Patrick Wolff, IM Joshua Waitzkin, GM Tal Shaked, GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Robert Hess, GM Ray Robson and last year's winner, GM Sam Shankland. Bay Area talent Shankland made the most of his opportunity at this spring's U.S. Championship, reaching the semifinals before being knocked out by the repeating champion GM Gata Kamsky.

The field of the 2011 Junior features 8 of the top 16 rated on the June Top 100 list for U21. However, the three Grandmasters ranked at the top (Hess, Robson and Shankland) all declined their invitations, perhaps because they each won at least once before. That left 15 year old IM Daniel Naroditsky, rated 2536 USCF, as the top seed. In a bizarre twist, one of the bottom half players actually tied for 1st in the 2008 U.S. Junior (see photo at top of post). The lucky guy holding the trophy was my longtime student NM Gregory Young, now 16 years old. Please join me in cheering loudly for the two Bay Area representatives in St. Louis, Danya and Greg!

My two former students face eight competitors from across the country: three from NY/NJ, two from Texas, plus one each from Utah, Kansas and the host state Missouri. One of the Texans is #2 seed FM John Bryant, formerly from Southern California, but now attending college. One of two Midwestern players, #3 seed Conrad Holt of Kansas, officially became an IM merely two weeks ago. And the youngest participant is 13 year old NM Kayden Troff of Utah, who picked up his first IM norm recently.

Check out the tournament schedule. The rounds begin at 11am Pacific time and are broadcast live on the chess club website using the MonRoi system. Also make sure to listen to the live broadcast by GM Ben Finegold and FM Aviv Friedman. Unfortunately, there is no coverage on ICC.

Saturday, June 11

GRANDMASTER Sam Shankland!

His odyssey lasted a year longer than he hoped. He took a year off before enrolling in Brandeis University to pursue this elusive dream. Frustrated by his inability to pick up one final norm, he threatened to quit chess. Fortunately for his students and many friends, he fought on. Along the way, he shared a World Youth title, won the US Junior Closed, earned 3rd place at the 2011 US Championship and scalped dozens of experienced chess professionals.

Within the past week, our hero Sam Shankland reached the pinnacle. The world governing body FIDE finally approved his Grandmaster title! He joined more than 1300 players at the highest level for a chess player. Sam was officially credited with four norms, needing only three: New York and Philadelphia in 2009 plus Berkeley and St. Louis in 2011. Bravo!

I still remember Sam as a rambunctious 12 year old rated 1750. It was already obvious back then that he had both the talent and enthusiasm to improve rapidly. In 2004 and 2005, he played a whopping 5,000 standard games on ICC. Kids, don't try this without parental permission. :-) Nonetheless, after so much practice, it is no wonder that his USCF rating shot upwards.

Date - USCF Rating
  • 4/2003 - 1086
  • 2/2004 - 1537
  • 2/2005 - 1867
  • 2/2006 - 2106
  • 2/2007 - 2216
  • 2/2008 - 2279
  • 2/2009 - 2441
  • 2/2010 - 2546
  • 2/2011 - 2559
  • current - 2613
Although I never formally taught chess to Sam, I didn't hesitate to chew him out when he needed it. Trust me, he deserved it! Over the years, I came to know Sam as well as my top private students, even though he was in fact a major rival. Yet I cheered him on while he trotted around the globe. The biggest highlight was the trip to Vietnam in October 2008, where he shared 1st place in World Youth U18. Well done master!

Despite his repeated claims to the contrary, I am confident that Sam won't quit anytime soon. He loves the royal game and has achieved so much. He will undoubtedly play during vacations plus in the online US Chess League in the fall, unfortunately for the defending champion New England Nor'easters. Sam also enjoys teaching private lessons and summer camps. Check out his chess website for more information. Don't worry, GM Shanky is here to stay!

Sam is the second Berkeley Chess School alumnus to have earned the Grandmaster title. They're the same age and, quite predictably, are friends. Who is the other?

Wednesday, May 11

Ray Schutt Memorial Blitz Tournament This Sunday!

The Mechanics' Institute will host a special event this weekend. I expect a large number of strong players for this Memorial Blitz Tournament. If you like to play blitz and perhaps face someone really good, this is your chance. Rumor mill: GM-elect Sam Shankland, IM Jacek Stopa, IM Daniel Naroditsky, NM Arun Sharma and defending champion FM Andy Lee. N.B. Some of these players say they won't play, but I don't believe it. Be there to find out!

The time control is traditional blitz. No delay or increment. Digital clocks are preferred, of course.

5th Annual Ray Schutt Memorial Blitz Tournament Sunday May 15
Location: 57 Post Street, San Francisco (Montgomery BART)

This tournament is UNRATED. (Membership in the USCF is not required.)

ENTRY FEE: $10 (free for International Masters and Grandmasters)
The prizes are guaranteed due to the generosity of the Schutt Family.

PRIZES: $750 total (guaranteed)
1st place: $300
2nd place: $200
3rd place: $100
4th place: $75
5th place: $50
6th place: $25

FORMAT: Five double-round Swiss or Round-robin, depending on the number of entries. Each player will probably play ten blitz (fast) games in this tournament.

TIME CONTROL: 5 minutes per player per game (G/5).

REGISTRATION: 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. on May 15, 2010
There will be no registration in advance. Register at the tournament site on May 15.

The tournament will be held between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The entire event will last between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Refreshments will be available during the event. There will be an informal awards ceremony immediately following the tournament at approximately 4 p.m.

Friday, May 6

National Elementary Championships

The Bay Area has performed well at the National Elementary Championships in recent years, including two team titles. Mission San Jose Elementary won the K-6 section in 2009 while Weibel Elementary tied for first in the K-3 section last year. MSJE and Weibel are crosstown rivals in Fremont and compete for top honors at the CalChess Scholastics each year. The photo above shows last year's players.

This year, a whopping 62 Bay Area juniors traveled to Dallas to compete at Nationals. More than a third of the kids, 22 to be exact, represented MSJE while 11 more attended Weibel. MSJE fields teams in all four Championship sections. Weibel put all their eggs in one basket, shooting for the K-6 title. Another strong team this year is Regnart Elementary in the K-5 division.

Several local youngsters have excellent chances to take home big individual trophies. One is the top seed in K-5 (Cameron Wheeler) while another is ranked second in K-3 (Rayan Taghizadeh). Click on this link for the latest results and standings. The tournaments runs seven rounds: two on Friday, three on Saturday and last two on Sunday. GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!!


Allan Beilin 5.5 -- 6th place
Armaan Kalyanpur (MSJE) 5.5 -- tied for 6th place
Kevin Moy (Weibel) 5.0 -- 11th place
Michael Wang (Weibel) 5.0 -- tied for 11th place
Kesav Viswanadha 5.0 -- tied for 11th place
Alvin Kong (MSJE) 4.5
Erik Wong (MSJE) 4.0
Sameer Vijay (Weibel) 3.5
Alex Yin (MSJE) 3.5
Ishas Kekre (Weibel) 3.5
Sharon Lu (Weibel) 3.5
TEAM MSJE earned 2nd place at 17.5
TEAM Weibel finished in 3rd place at 17.0

Cameron Wheeler (Regnart) 7.0 -- NATIONAL CHAMPION!!!
Udit Iyengar (Regnart) 6.0 -- 2nd place
Vignesh Panchanatham 5.5 -- 6th place
Pranav Srihari (Regnart) 5.5 -- tied for 6th place
Alexander Feghhi 5.5 -- tied for 6th place
Amit Sant (MSJE) 5.0 -- tied for 20th place
Abhishek Handigol 5.0 -- tied for 20th place
Joseph Zhang 5.0 -- tied for 20th place
Shalin Shah (MSJE) 4.5
Steven Li (MSJE) 4.5
Eric Zhu (MSJE) 4.0
Pramodh Srihari (Regnart) 3.5
TEAM Regnart is NATIONAL CHAMPION with 22.0, 3.5 points ahead of the field.
TEAM MSJE captured 4th place at 18.0

Rayan Taghizadeh 6.0 -- 4th place
John Chan (MSJE) 5.0 -- tied for 20th place
Om Chinchwadkar 5.0 -- tied for 20th place
Mihir Bhuptani (MSJE) 4.0
Ojas Arun (MSJE) 4.0
Alvin Zhang (MSJE) 3.5
TEAM MSJE finished in 4th place (tied for 3rd) at 16.5

Ben Rood 7.0 -- NATIONAL CHAMPION!!! (two perfect scores)
Milind Maiti 6.5 -- 3rd place as a Kindergartner!
Balaji Daggupati 6.0 -- 10th place (tied for 4th) also as a Kindergartner
Zarek Azam 5.0 -- 24th place
Jason Zhang 5.0 -- tied for 24th place
Rishith Susarla (MSJE) 5.0 -- tied for 24th place
Bryan Wong 5.0 -- tied for 24th place
Chenyi Zhao (MSJE) 4.5
Soorya Kuppam (MSJE) 4.5
Jeffrey Liu (MSJE) 4.0
TEAM MSJE captures 3rd place at 18.0

Important Links
National Elementary website
Results and Pairings
Chess Life Online -- May 6
Cameron photo on US Chess -- May 8
Cameron Wheeler blog
Weibel Elementary blog

Friday, April 22

Shankland Stuns Onischuk to Reach Semis of US Championship

(Shankland at right contemplates his position against Onischuk. To view more photos, click on cover images for each round at St. Louis chess club website.)

Last year's US Junior champion and one of the Bay Area's most talented juniors ever, Sam Shankland did the unthinkable as one of the lowest rated players at the 2011 US Championship in St. Louis. Waiting for FIDE to approve his Grandmaster title, "Shanky" earned a spot in the national semifinals by eliminating the country's #3 player. His reward for dominating GM Alex Onischuk is a mini match against defending US Champion and former World Championship candidate GM Gata Kamsky.

Semis Game #1
Shankland 1/2 Kamsky
Shulman 1/2 Hess

Semis Game #2
Kamsky 1-0 Shankland
Hess 1/2 Shulman

The other semifinal pits 2008 US Champion GM Yury Shulman against GM Robert Hess, the nation's top rated teen. It will be very interesting to watch the nation's top two juniors play against their more experienced opponents. Anything is possible--even a final between Shankland and Hess!

Semis are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with any necessary tiebreaks on Monday. Games begin daily at noon Pacific and will be broadcast live at ICC and on the Saint Louis club website. The final takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday, with tiebreaks and the closing ceremony on Thursday. Each mini match features a pair of classical (slow) games and, if tied 1-1, tiebreaks of G/25 with 5 second delay. This format promises to be exciting!

No doubt Shankland is already a very happy camper! He is guaranteed a minimum check for $15,000 (winner earns $40,000) and he also qualified for the next World Cup (a 128 player knock-out tournament with many top players).

IM Daniel Naroditsky (see photo at right), the other Bay Area representative in St. Louis, castled short with a pair of defeats in rounds 6 and 7. He finished with 2.5/7. We'll have to call it a learning experience, while realizing that few 15 year olds even get this opportunity. Trust me, Danya will be baaaaaaaaaaack!

Thursday, April 7

CalChess H.S. Champion Nicholas Karas

Congratulations to Nicholas Karas for taking clear 1st in High School at the CalChess Scholastic Championships on April 2-3. Although I taught Nicholas (photo at left) for the last few years, much of the credit goes to his first teacher, NM Daniel Schwarz, for inspiring him. Now finishing the final year of high school, Nicholas became my fifth student in six years to qualify for the Denker Invitational held each summer at the US Open. Good luck in Orlando!

Two of my younger students shared top honors in the Junior High division. Kudos to Neel Apte and Kyle Shin for taking home the 1st and 2nd place trophies on tiebreaks. They already tied for 1st in Elementary last year, with Neel also earning 1st place. In fact, Neel (photo at right) has captured three titles in a row, starting with 4-5 in 2009.

Unfortunately, the Saratoga High School streak of consecutive team championships ended at six in a row. Mission San Jose High School won easily this year.

2011 CalChess Scholastic Individual Champions
  • 9-12 - Nicholas Karas
  • 6-8 - Neel Apte, Kyle Shin and Hunter Klotz-burwell
  • 4-6 - Cameron Wheeler
  • 4-5 - Abhishek Handigol, Alvin Kong, Siddharth Banik and Eric Zhu
  • 1-3 - Ben Rood
  • K - Balaji Daggupati
2011 CalChess Scholastic Team Winners
  • 9-12 - Mission San Jose High School
  • 6-8 - Horner Junior High School
  • 4-6 - Regnart Elementary School
  • 4-5 - Mission San Jose Elementary
  • 1-3 - Mission San Jose Elementary
Check out the great photos at ChessDryad by Richard Shorman and Mark Shelton.

Sunday, March 27

Advice to Chess Parents Reprinted

This is one of my all-time favorite posts; I am publishing it for the third time. This advice seems especially relevant now: the CalChess Scholastics takes place next weekend, April 2-3.

The main point is that a parent's behavior is critical for a youngster to feel confident and play well. I have seen many examples of parents discouraging their children, instead of positive reinforcement. Is it any surprise that many of the same juniors quit chess soon?

If you haven't entered the Championships yet, the regular entry deadline is Monday. If you already registered, check out the 747 advance entries here (as of Sunday).

The annual CalChess State Scholastic Championships take place this weekend. As a chess coach, I spend my time preparing juniors for the most challenging weekend of their lives. What role do the parents have? How should a parent behave at a chess tournament? I published this article last year and now is a good time to reprint it.

To start out, you should prepare your child with the necessary food and rest before and during the weekend. Make sure to get plenty of sleep; an extra hour of sleep will help a lot during the last games at the end of each long day. Of course, the kids need something big and healthy to eat for breakfast (very important) and between each game. Those players in the older sections tend to have longer games and may wish to take a bottle of water and a small snack (chocolate, candy, or gum) with them for each round.

Somewhat more challenging is to strike a balance between keeping your child focused between rounds while not draining all their energy. Refrain from chess activities, except for reviewing the tournament games briefly with a coach or a computer. Avoid blitz and bughouse between rounds because both games cause the children to play impulsively instead of carefully thinking about the best move. Older kids may wish to bring a book or a deck of cards to play with their friends. Younger kids may prefer video games. Another idea may be to bring a ball and go outside for a little while—enough to relax but not too much to drain all of their energy.

What should the parent say right before the round? My advice is simple: try your best and have fun! For example, one big aspect to trying your best is to take your time during the game. Of course, when you get to the board, make sure to be respectful to the opponent and parent. While chess is a war game, the battle should take place only on 64 squares.

The hard part about the motto “try your best and have fun” is to stick to it afterward. If your child tried their best, then you must encourage them no matter what the result. Never get angry with your son or daughter simply because they lost, even to a lower rated opponent. A few common and legitimate reasons to get upset include moving too fast, lack of focus by looking at other games or failure to record the moves. Most children will be eager to talk about the game afterward and even parents who aren’t strong chess players may pick up key details (e.g. “I blundered” or “I had a win but I lost” or “I didn’t see his piece”). Be aware that even chess players who try their best might blunder and miss a move that they should have seen.

Let me close by profiling four kinds of parent behaviors that I hope to discourage.

1. Parent measures performance merely by wins, losses and rating points. They become upset when the child draws or loses to a lower rated player, without considering whether the game was well played or the opponent simply had a good day. My response: Chess ratings are based on a statistical formula that predicts your winning percentage. For example, a player rated 200 points higher should win 75% of games and one rated 400 points high should win 90%. We must come to expect an occasional bad result against a lower rated player. Even an improving player may have one bad game or a disappointing tournament. As I’ve told many people, progress typically comes through two steps forward and one step backwards. Look at the big picture instead of every single game.

2. Parent relies on Fritz too much. I have seen many cases where a parent reviews a game with Fritz or another computer program and finds out that the child missed one or more key tactics. The parent will typically quote a computer evaluation, often mentioning scores like +5. My response: No human can play like Fritz and even top Grandmasters sometimes overlook mate in 1 (Kramnik) or hang a piece for no reason at all. Fritz is merely a tool to get better but an impossible standard to measure your performance against. Parents (and even coaches) sometimes forget or never realized how much more difficult it is to play the game with the clock ticking than to review it afterwards with a computer.

3. Parent hates child’s rival(s). Unfortunately, I see all too often when a parent measures his or her own child against the result of the rival. It is important to score more points or achieve a milestone first. The child is often forbidden to socialize with the rival, purely for competitive reasons. My response: In recent years, the best young players in the Bay Area have benefited from the interaction with their closest rivals. Masters Nicolas Yap, Drake Wang and Daniel Schwarz (at right in adjacent photo), who all graduated from High School in 2007, competed for the same trophies at the CalChess Scholastics for an entire decade, yet also forged strong friendships that included many hours of chess analysis and blitz games. The benefits of having friends in the chess community and someone to study with far outweigh any competitive disadvantage. Take the opportunity this weekend meet your child’s rivals and their parents. Set a positive example for the children to follow.

4. Parent lives for their child’s achievements. Most parents are proud of the success by their son or daughter, but a few take it to another level by bragging. They seek success, often even more than the kids. Those same parents become resentful when the result was not quite as good. My response: It is always of utmost importance that your child has fun. Juniors who don't truly enjoy chess (independent of their parents) simply will not improve as rapidly. You can lead a camel to water, but you cannot force it to drink. Unfortunately, these youngsters, who often have been pushed hard for many years, become prime candidates to drop out of chess entirely as they turn 13 or 14.

For another insightful perspective on competitive chess parents, please read two reports on Chess Life Online written by New York parent Mark Schein from the venue of the recent Bert Lerner National Elementary School Championships. Mr. Schein writes about years of experience attending national competitions as a father. Click here for the first article and the second article.

Best of luck to both the thousand players at the CalChess Scholastics and the many equally pumped up parents! Unfortunately, the chances that I will attend seem pretty low due to my severe long term illness.

Monday, February 14

New York Times: One Coach, Many Young Champions

Chess Column - 2/13/11
by Dylan Loeb McClain

In the last five years, two Americans have won world youth championships: Daniel Naroditsky, who took the under-12 title in 2007, and Steven Zierk, the under-18 champion last year.

Both are from Northern California, and at one point or another, they both had the same coach,
Michael Aigner.

They are not the only chess champions who have been trained by Aigner. Others include Gregory Young, who tied for first in the 2008 United States Junior Championship, and Yian Liou, who tied for first in the
United States Cadet Championship (for players under 16) last year. He has also coached Saratoga High School to six straight California chess titles.

Aigner, 36, is a master, and he sees his role as trying to raise his students to his level, after which they often move on to stronger coaches.

Click on this link to read the full article.

Wednesday, January 19

Naroditsky a Finalist for ChessCafe Book of the Year

Thanks to my former student Alan Naroditsky for sharing this article on Facebook.

(15 year old FM Daniel Naroditsky at left is the sole author of the book at right.)

As some of you may know, my brother Daniel is the U12 World Youth Chess Champion (2007) and just recently attained the highly-coveted International Chess Master title. Very few people in the world have achieved as much as my brother has, and he's only 15! In March of 2010, his first book, "Mastering Positional Chess" was published by New In Chess, one of the world's largest chess publishers. It has been extremely popular among chess enthusiasts, receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews, and after a first round of voting, has been selected as one of three finalists for the ChessCafe Book of the Year.

Out of three finalists, the book that receives the most e-mail nominations by January 31st will be named Book of the Year. If you would like to support my brother, please send an e-mail to with the following text:

"I would like to vote for Daniel Naroditsky's book, "Mastering Positional Chess" for ChessCafe's Book of the Year."

This award is extremely prestigious, and your help is greatly appreciated!!

Here are links to my brother's personal website and his book on Amazon. As a side note, if you would like to purchase the book, I would be happy to have my brother sign it for you!

Addendum from fpawn: I had the pleasure of teaching both Alan and Daniel. Of course, Daniel is far too good for me now with a USCF rating hovering just below 2500. His book is brilliant! If you haven't bought a copy, I highly recommend it. Please also send an email to ChessCafe. Somehow, Daniel reached the final three and squares off against two big names in the chess world: GM Yasser Seirawan and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. We definitely must support our Daniel as much as we can!