Monday, April 30

6th Ray Schutt Memorial Blitz on Sunday!

GM Browne faces the Fpawn in 2011. Yes, that's a Caro Kann!
Over the past half decade, the Ray Schutt Memorial has become the largest and most prestigious annual blitz tournament in the Bay Area$750 prize fund, include $300 for 1st!  The 2011 edition saw 50 players, including 19 masters, notably Grandmasters Vinay Bhat, Jesse Kraai and Walter Browne, plus International Masters Jacek Stopa, Daniel Naroditsky and Vladimir Mezentsev.  The veteran Browne and teenager Naroditsky shared top honors.

The time control changed to 4 minutes plus 2 second increment. Digital clocks preferred. 

6th Ray Schutt Memorial Blitz Tournament Sunday May 6

Location: 57 Post Street, San Francisco (Montgomery BART)
ENTRY FEE: $10 (free for International Masters and Grandmasters)
This tournament is UNRATED. (Membership in USCF not required)

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

Every player wins a book prize from Ray's library.

The Schutt family puts on a tremendous spread of food and drink each year. Even if you don't play please come and enjoy the atmosphere as we pay respect

FORMAT: Five double-round Swiss

TIME CONTROL: 4 minutes per player per game plus 2 second time delay from move one.

REGISTRATION: 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. on May 6

There will be no registration in advance. Register on-site on May 6th. The tournament will be held between roughly 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.

Note from Fpawn: I would love to attend again, but the date makes a visit unlikely.

Saturday, April 28

JHS Nationals Day 2

Lots of kids play chess.  Photo credit: San Diego Union Tribune.
The players, parents and coaches keep busy on the middle day of the Nationals, with three full-length rounds.  The grueling evening round will make or break the tournament for a lot of top players.  Some parents end up feeling even more exhausted than the children.  For the coaches, this day brings 15 hours of analyzing games, starting soon after 9am and often continuing until midnight.   
Team Kennedy occupies top K-8 boards.

Round 3 brought all five members of Team Kennedy together, from boards 3 to 7.  Three won, two lost.  In K-9, Colin drew with one of the masters.  All told, five CalChess kids earned perfect 3-0 and another five have a solid 2.5.  So far so good! 

After round 4, three Bay Area stars continue to share the lead in K-8 with perfect scores.  They will play on boards 1-3 tonight.  Neel seems to have the most difficult pairing against top seed Christopher Wu (2293).  Three more local kids sit with 3.5 going into the evening round.  Colin squares off in another tough pairing against Varun Krishnan (2292). I counted 13 more local players with either 2.5 or 3.0. Kennedy modestly expanded its lead to 2.5 points.  I began tracking Horner Middle School, currently tied for 4th place.

Almost all good things come to an end.  Round 5 was the hour of reckoning for Team Kennedy.  Although four of the five players lost, the team somehow maintained its 2.5 point lead.  Unfortunately, I found no local kids among the leaders going into the final day, but eight have a solid score of 4.0/5.  Good luck!!

Colin Chow pulled off the upset in round 6 to move into a tie for 2nd in K-9 at 5.0!  With an undefeated 2.0/3 against masters, Colin faces a fourth one for all the marbles.  Four Bay Area kids reached 5.0 points in K-8. They could tie for 1st, 2nd or 3rd simply by winning their final games! Team Kennedy recovered in with 3.5 points in round 6, expanding their lead.  They essentially clinched 1st place K-8 team with a round to go!  Horner moved up in the standings and could finish as high as 2nd with a strong final push.

Northern California Watch List (after round 6 of 7)
  • Colin Chow 5.0 - win against a master and draws with two other masters
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 4.5 
  • Hemang Jangle 3.5 - draw with master
  • Russell Bik 3.5 
  • I.S. 318 TEAM 17.5/24 (Leading by 2.5 over Masterman of Philadelphia PA)
K-8 Championship
  • Neel Apte (Kennedy) 5.0
  • Udit Iyengar (Kennedy) 5.0
  • Allan Beilin 5.0
  • Art Zhao 5.0
  • Kesav Viswanadha (Kennedy) 4.5
  • Cameron Wheeler (Kennedy) 4.5 
  • Gabriel Bick 4.5
  • Daniel Ho 4.5 (Horner)
  • Naveen Janarthanan 4.0
  • Pranav Srihari (Kennedy) 3.5
  • Michael L. Wang 3.5
  • Justin Wang (Horner) 3.5
  • Audrey Zhao 3.5
  • Amit Sant 3.5 
  • Kory Hui (Horner) 3.5
  • Nikhil Jaha (Horner) 3.5
  • Bryce Wong 3.5
  • KENNEDY M.S. TEAM 19.0/24 (Expanded lead to 3.5 over IS 318's weaker players.)
  • HORNER M.S. TEAM 15.0/24 (Tied for 3rd place and only 0.5 out of 2nd.)

Friday, April 27

National Junior High in San Diego


The 2012 National Junior High School Chess Championship is underway at the Town and Country Resort in San Diego.  Players compete for national titles in both K-9 and K-8 sections.  There are ten rated masters in attendance--nine in the much stronger K-9 division.  The overall turnout seems disappointingly light at only about 650 kids, owing both to the weak economy and the location at one corner of the country.  People complained about the attendance of nearly 1000 at the same tournament in Sacramento in 2007.  This year, a modest local delegation of 64 players traveled south, a week after 840 youngsters descended on Santa Clara for the CalChess Scholastics

I don't expect to find many chess tourists in San Diego, certainly not among Bay Area kids.  In fact, seven are rated over 2000, led by newly minted master Cameron Wheeler (photo at left).  Fielding four of the top eight seeds, including Cameron and two-time CalChess 6-8 winner Neel Apte (photo on right), Kennedy Middle School from Cupertino plans to Occupy San Diego.  Can they pull off national honors, both as individuals and as a team?  I believe!!

However, national attention will focus on Intermediate School 318, an inner-city Brooklyn public middle school that took 1st place at the National High School Championship two weeks ago.  As a reward, World #1 Magnus Carlsen (see photo below) visited their school on Monday!  Readers may be disappointed that the top players of I.S. 318, including two masters above 2300, switched from K-8 to K-9 at the last moment.  Did the High School champs duck the challenge from 2136 average rated Kennedy?  Maybe!!  They probably hoped to split their masters and win both sections, just like last year, but coach Elizabeth Spiegel realized that she would need her team's full strength 2162 rated lineup just to win K-8.  While K-9 is more competitive with nine masters at the top, the Brooklyn team has a much easier path to victory.
Saturday AM Update: The first day passed well.  Most Northern California participants are 2-0.  Kudos to Hemang for drawing a master in round 2.  All five Kennedy Middle players are seated at consecutive boards this morning in round 3.  Good luck everyone!  Check out Cameron's blog for a first-hand account and Chess Life Online for a TV news report.

Northern California Watch List (after round 2 of 7)

K-9 Championship
  • Colin Chow 2.0
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 1.5
  • Hemang Jangle 1.5 - draw with master
  • Taylor McCreary 1.0
  • I.S. 318 TEAM 8.0/8 (Next best teams have 5.5.)

K-8 Championship
  • Kesav Viswanadha (Kennedy) 2.0
  • Cameron Wheeler (Kennedy) 2.0
  • Neel Apte (Kennedy) 2.0
  • Udit Iyengar (Kennedy) 2.0
  • Allan Beilin 2.0
  • Art Zhao 2.0
  • Gabriel Bick 2.0
  • Naveen Janarthanan 2.0
  • Pranav Srihari (Kennedy) 2.0
  • Michael L. Wang 2.0
  • Vikram Vasan 1.5
  • Daniel Ho 1.5
  • KENNEDY M.S. TEAM 8.0/8 (I.S. 318 is 2nd, but way back at 5.5.)

Thursday, April 26

CalChess Scholastic Champions!

The 37th annual CalChess Scholastics took place last weekend at the traditional venue, the Santa Clara Convention Center.  A total of 844 youngsters played in one of 14 different sections, ranging from Kindergarten and K-3 Unrated up to the competitive 6-8 and 9-12 Championships.  Thanks to organizer Salman Azhar, CalChess President Tom Langland, Chief Tournament Director John McCumiskey and the rest of the staff for putting this event together.

Without further ado, here are the 2012 State ChampionsCongratulations to all!!

High School 9-12: Joshua Cao and Sudarshan Seshadri
Middle School 6-8: Neel Apte
Elementary 4-6: Siddharth Banik
Elementary 4-5: Ben Rood
Primary 1-3: John A. Chan 

Click here for crosstables.

I focused mostly on the High School section, headed by a quintet of experts and several former students.  While most of the top seeds struggled in 9-12, two surprise winners emerged: 8th grader Joshua and 1835 rated Sudarshan!  Joshua took home the 1st place trophy on tiebreaks, but Sudarshan earned the biggest prize: a ticket to the Denker Invitational this August in Vancouver, WA. 

Three of the top four seeds in Middle School attend Kennedy Middle in Cupertino, and predictably, two squared off in the final round.  My longtime student Neel finished strong to clinch his second straight 1st place trophy.  In fact, he became state champion for the fifth time in six years (K-3, 4-5, 4-6 and 6-8 twice).  Actually, nobody has ever won all of the major sections in the long history of this tournament.  Neel and another of my students, 9th grader James Kwok, only need to win 9-12 to achieve this record.

The Elementary section winners both finished with perfect 6-0 scores.  Siddharth went coast-to-coast as the favorite in 4-6, defeating his closest challenger in the final round.  Ben knocked off the top two seeds in 4-5, including one rated nearly 400 points higher.  After winning K-3 as a 1st grader last year, Ben won 4-5 as a 2nd grader!  Way to go!!

The team competition was rather anticlimactic this year.  National power Mission San Jose Elementary easily won all of the Primary and Elementary sections while Mission San Jose High earned a second straight 9-12 title.  See the embedded photos for a few of the victorious kids at MSJE.  Props to Coach Joe Lonsdale for directing such a successful program over so many years!  Unfortunately, one reason for the lack of team competition was a boycott by rival Weibel ElementaryI find it really sad that certain adults choose to teach their young children the wrong way to resolve their conflicts.

Normally my report would include photos of winners in each section, sometimes from my own camera   Due to ongoing health issues, I could not attend.  Alas, I have only seen one album from Saturday by Richard Shorman, plus a handful of photos from Sunday's awards presentation.  If you can share additional photos, please send them to michael (at) fpawn (dot) com.  Thanks!

Tuesday, April 24

Magnus on TV Tonight!

The highest rated chess player in the World, 21-year old Magnus Carlsen, will appear tonight on the political satire show The Colbert Report.  Since he ascended to the top of the ranking list, the Norwegian Grandmaster has marketed his talents both on and off the board, including a stint as a model for G-Star and an interview earlier this year on the popular CBS program 60 Minutes.

Watch or record the show tonight at 11:30pm on Comedy Central.

Thursday, April 19

Good Luck at CalChess Scholastics!

(2011 top trophy winners in 6-8 on left and 4-5 on right.
The man in the red is chief organizer Dr. Salman Azhar.)

Here's wishing all players the best of skill this weekend at the 37th CalChess Scholastic Championship. If you're not experienced enough to win by skill alone, I also wish you an extra large serving of luck. Remember my favorite bit of advice: try your best and have fun!

For the many adults in attendance--directors, coaches and parents--I offer a generous potion of patience. You will need it! Don't forget to check your personal biases at the front door and let this weekend be filled with cheerful competition.

Frankly, I am a bit disappointed with the turnout to date. The advance entry list shows 762 entries, far less than the standard of 1000 achieved every year from 2001 to 2008. The attendance record of 1319 was established in 2006. I have heard many sad explanations for the downward trend, ranging from the economic recession to petty politics. Sigh! Addendum: The more I find out about a partial boycott, the sadder I become. What lesson do the kids learn from these adults who are acting like immature teens?

The five championship sections (9-12, 6-8, 4-6, 4-5 and 1-3) certainly could be a lot stronger, with only 12 out of 24 masters and experts signed up. What is wrong with this picture? This is the state championship, for Pete's sake! While I understand that 2300+ rated masters have bigger fish to fry, there's no excuse for nine experts to sit at home. Sigh!

I fondly remember 2006, when the final round pairings in 9-12 featured four masters on the top two boards (Drake Wang def. Matthew Ho and Daniel Schwarz def. Nicolas Yap). Those stuck on lower boards included future titled players Sam Shankland and Daniel Naroditsky. Last year, expert Nicholas Karas (photo at left) took clear first.

Still, there are sufficient elite players signed up to make anyone sweat! The strongest section seems to be 6-8, featuring the defending champion, a master plus six experts, two former national champs and a former continental champ! I doubt I could win 6-8 even if they let me play. Note: The top high school student in 9-12 qualifies for the prestigious Denker Invitational and all co-champions in 6-8 earn a spot in a separate qualifier for the Barber Invitational. Both events take place at the US Open this August in Vancouver, WA.

9-12 High School Championship
  • Colin Chow 2053 (now 2117 after beating two IMs in Reno)
  • Joshua Cao 2050
  • Paul Richter 2048 (was 2010 CalChess High School co-champion)
  • Ted Xiao 2033
  • James Kwok 2009
6-8 Middle School Championship
  • NM Cameron Wheeler 2126 (now 2204 after beating three masters in Reno; photo at right)
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 2103
  • Neel Apte 2093 (defending champ and 2011 Barber rep)
  • Udit Iyengar 2069
  • Siddharth Banik 2051
  • Allan Beilin 2044
  • FM Tanuj Vasudeva 2014
4-6 Elementary Championship
  • Art Zhao 1976 (rated nearly 400 points above field)
4-5 Elementary Championship
  • William Li, Jr 1819
  • Anirudh Seela 1770
  • Amit Sant 1677
1-3 Primary Championship
  • Ben Rood 1654
  • Solomon Ge 1551

Friday, April 13

Timely Advice to Chess Parents

(2010 CalChess High School Team champions from Saratoga High School.
The Falcons won a record sixth consecutive state title.)

This is one of my all-time favorite posts; I am publishing it for the fourth time. This advice seems especially relevant now: the CalChess Scholastics takes place next weekend, April 21-22.

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 Wednesday. If you already registered, check out the 578 advance entries here (as of 4/14).

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 several years ago 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.