Thursday, May 31

Interview with GM Nakamura

This video is an interesting interview of Hikaru Nakamura by Chess Life Online. Shortly after the final round ended, CLO editor Jennifer Shahade asked the new US Champion "about his victory, the travel lifestyle and the influence of Garry Kasparov."  Happy and relaxed after a successful tournament, "Naka" tells all.  For example, he believes that the popularity of chess is increasing.    17 minutes long.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 24

World Championship Goes to the Wire

Gelfand(W) and Anand (B) play on stage in front of large glass windows.
After the first 10 games, the 2012 World Chess Championship in Moscow is knotted at 5-5.  Only two classical games remain between 15th World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand of India and Challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel.  At this point, the stress on the combatants is high, as even one bad move would spell disaster.  Who will blink first? 

World Championship Games
  1. Anand 1/2 Gelfand -- Gruenfeld (24) - opening surprise leads to small edge
  2. Gelfand 1/2 Anand -- Semi-Slav, Meran (25)
  3. Anand 1/2 Gelfand -- Neo-Gruenfeld (37) - White has chances with passer
  4. Gelfand 1/2 Anand -- Semi-Slav, Meran (34)
  5. Anand 1/2 Gelfand -- Sicilian, Pelikan (27)
  6. Gelfand 1/2 Anand -- Semi-Slav, Meran (29)
  7. Gelfand 1-0 Anand -- Semi-Slav, Meran (38) - beautiful positional squeeze
  8. Anand 1-0 Gelfand -- King's Indian (17) - Black missed 17.Qf2, trapping Q
  9. Gelfand 1/2 Anand -- Nimzo Indian, Gligoric (49) -- fortress with R+N for Q
  10. Anand 1/2 Gelfand -- Sicilian, 3.Bb5 (25)
  11. Gelfand 1/2 Anand -- Nimzo Indian, Gligoric (24) 
  12. Anand 1/2 Gelfand -- Sicilian, 3.Bb5 (22)
Update May 28: Match is tied 6-6 after 12 classical games.  Tiebreaks on Wednesday.
Make sure to check out the official website for excellent live coverage of the games and daily press conferences.  You may also view the videos later in the day.  Highly recommendedChessBase News has great post-game reports.  (All photos in this post come from ChessBase.)  Finally, check out the articles at Chess Life Online, thorough analysis of games 7 and 8 by Grandmaster Ian Rogers and a first-hand account from Moscow by 14-year old master Daniel Gurevich
Regardless of the result, both players attend daily press conferences.
The main story of the match to date has been the lack of action.  Eight games were drawn, five in under 30 moves.  In fact, the average length of all 10 rounds was only 31 moves.  While these short games may be of theoretical interest to Grandmasters, only three draws gave the typical chess fan anything worth cheering about (rounds 1, 3 and 10).  Critics may point to a "draw death" of chess due to the high level of opening preparation, especially for Black.  On the other hand, it is always the responsibility of the player who moves first (White) to use the inherent small advantage to the fullest. 

After six draws in a row at the start, White did indeed win two games.  First, Gelfand took advantage of several inaccuracies by Anand to win an instructive positional squeeze.  Just 24 hours later, Anand scored on a terrible mistake by Gelfand, who resigned after 17 moves because the Black Queen got trapped by the unexpected move Qf2.  Alas, the match was tied once again!  Game on!

Garry Kasparov, always blunt in his opinions.
This match appears strange in other ways too.  The 42-year old Champion seems to be beyond his prime after mediocre tournament results pushed him down to #4 on the rating list.  None other than 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov bluntly assessed that Anand has been "sliding downhill these years."  Ouch!!  Perhaps fans will be more understanding when they realize that Anand has stayed near the top of the rating list for 20 years, and coincidentally, played his first title match in 1995 against Kasparov himself! 

The 43-year old Challenger is even older and lower rated.  When was the last time that the #20 player in the World came this close to being the Champion?  In his defense, Gelfand did eliminate an impressive lineup of 2700+ Grandmasters en route to the final: Sergey Karjakin, Ruslan Ponomariov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Gata Kamsky and Alexander Grischuk.  However, top rated Magnus Carlsen and other elite players decided to withdraw from the Candidates Matches due to frequent changes in schedule and conditions imposed by the World Chess Federation FIDE

While it cannot be the fault of Anand or Gelfand that they square off for the World Championship, would not a match between #1 Carlsen and #2 Levon Aronian be more exciting?  Methinks yes!

This brings us back to the final two rounds of Anand against Gelfand.  In the old days, title matches required combatants to fight to six wins--and draws didn't count!  Challenger Kasparov and 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov played 48 games in 1984 (including 17 draws in a row).  Controversially, FIDE President Florencio Campomanes aborted the 1984 match because the players were allegedly too tired to continue!  Youth finally prevailed, when Kasparov won the 1985 rematch in 24 games.

The World Championship matches have shrunk ever since.  Kramnik vs Kasparov (2000) and Kramnik vs Topalov (Toilet Gate in 2006) were only 16 games each.  Anand vs Kramnik (2008) went 12 games.  As the matches become shorter, the role of tiebreaks keeps growing.  Check out the battery of rapid and blitz games set for Wednesday, if nobody wins in the last two rounds.  

Tiebreaks if match ends 6-6
(Wednesday starting at 1:00am PDT)
  • 4 games of rapid G/25 + 10 second increment
  • If still tied, 2 games of blitz G/5 + 10 second increment
  • If still tied, repeat blitz up to four more times (10 games total)
  • If still tied, play one Armageddon game: White gets 5 minutes, Black gets 4 minutes + draw odds (3 second increment begins at move 61)
While Anand and Gelfand have both demonstrated success at faster time controls, I believe the tiebreak would heavily favor the well-respected speed skills of Anand.  Nonetheless, for the sake of classical chess, I hope that the World Championship does not come down to a blitz or (shudder) Armageddon game!

Tuesday, May 22

US Champion Hikaru Nakamura!

2012 US Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, ranked #7 in the World, won the 2012 US Chess Championships in St. Louis.  As a three-time champion (2005, 2009, 2012), Nakamura joins an elite group of triple national champions.  Alas, he still has far to go to match Bobby Fischer and Samuel Reschevsky, who both won eight championships.

By his own admission, Nakamura struggled at times.  He scored 8.5 out of 11, drawing five games, several from favorable middlegame positions.  He actually found himself in second place with just two rounds left to play.  At least Nakamura won the only game that really mattered, black against main rival Gata Kamsky in the penultimate round.  On the final day, he placed an exclamation mark on his performance by defeating four-time champion Yasser Seirawan with surprising ease.

GM Gata Kamsky
Kamsky, the defending champion, had to settle for runner-up this year.  He matched the winner's six victories, but also lost twice to finish with 7.5 points.  Alexander Onischuk confirmed his rank as #3 in the country by placing third at 6.5.  Tied for fourth at 6.0, Yury Shulman became the only participant other than Nakamura to avoid losing.  In fact, 55% of all games proved decisive, including a dozen wins for Black.  Finally, the two youngest players, Ray Robson and Robert Hess, both gained valuable experience from their results of 5.5 and 5.0, respectively.

US Championship 

  • 8.5 Hikaru Nakamura
  • 7.5 Gata Kamsky
  • 6.5 Alexander Onischuk
  • 6.0 Varuzhan Akobian, Aleksandr Lenderman and Yury Shulman
  • 5.5 Ray Robson 
  • 5.0 Robert Hess
  • 4.0 Gregory Kaidanov and Alejandro Ramirez
  • 3.5 Yasser Seirawan and Alexander Stripunsky 

Thank you to Rex Sinquefield and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis for sponsoring and hosting yet another spectacular event.  The $166,000 prize fund attracted 12 of the top 14 chess players in the country, including the two super-GMs.  For us spectators who could not attend, the multimedia coverage and photo albums on the website were second to noneThe photos in this post come from these albums.

Personal note: I have known Nakamura for a long time, well before he turned into one of the top players in the World.  The first time I remember was at the 1999 US Open in Reno, when the 2350 rated 11-year old rising star drew a 2700 and beat a 2600.  I played Nakamura several times on ICC, but only once face-to-face.  While waiting for the first round pairings at the 2007 North American Open in Las Vegas, he asked me if I knew whom he might play in round 1.  I was only half serious when I replied that he might face me, but my prediction rang true.  Unfortunately, our game was pathetic; I lost in 38 moves.
2012 Women's Champion IM Irina Krush

The Women's Championship also featured a showdown between the top two seeds: defending champion Anna Zatonskih and former champion Irina Krush.  They quickly drew their main tournament game and ended up tied for first, both undefeated at 7.0 out of 9.  The rules called for a playoff of two games at G/25 + 5 second increment.  With some help from the clock, Krush won both rapid contestsKrush now has three titles to her name, still one less than rival Zatonskih.

IM Anna Zatonskih
US Women's Championship 

  • 7.0 Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush
  • 5.5 Rusudan Goletiani
  • 5.0 Viktorija Ni 
  • 4.5 Sabina-Francesca Foisor, Tatev Abrahamyan and Iryna Zenyuk
  • 3.5 Alisa Melekhina
  • 2.0 Camilla Baginskaite
  • 1.5 Alena Kats
Each day, I picked my favorite game(s) from the men's championship.  Enjoy!!

Round-by-Round Games

Monday, May 14

Nakamura Leads US Champ at Halftime

Hikaru Nakamura
Halfway through the 2012 US Championship in St. Louis, the top seed stands alone in the lead.  Hikaru Nakamura (2775) leads defending champion Gata Kamsky (2741) by half a point, with the rest of the field another 0.5 down.  Both the top Grandmasters have already faced veteran Gregory Kaidanov (2594), alas with opposite results: Nakamura won while Kamsky lost.  However, Kamsky mitigated his misfortune by beating third seeded Alexander Onischuk (2660).  The highly anticipated showdown between America's two 2700+ stars is scheduled for the penultimate round on Friday, and Kamsky gets the White pieces.  

Update: Both Nakamura and Kamsky won with black in round 8 to remain tied as their showdown draws nearer.  Defending champion Kamsky took the lead in round 9!  Nakamura outplayed Kamsky with black in round 10 to leapfrog him in the standings.  Congratulations to Hikaru Nakamura for winning his third US Championship (2005, 2009, 2012)!
Gata Kamsky
US Championship 
Final Standings
  • 8.5 Hikaru Nakamura
  • 7.5 Gata Kamsky
  • 6.5 Alexander Onischuk
  • 6.0 Varuzhan Akobian, Aleksandr Lenderman and Yury Shulman
  • 5.5 Ray Robson 
  • 5.0 Robert Hess
  • 4.0 Gregory Kaidanov and Alejandro Ramirez
  • 3.5 Yasser Seirawan and Alexander Stripunsky 
Please enjoy my list of favorite games at the bottom of this article!

Like in the men's tournament, the defending champion in the 2012 Women's Championship occupies second place, half a point down.  International Masters Irina Krush (2457) and Anna Zatonskih (2510) square off on Wednesday, with Krush currently holding the lead, but Zatonskih playing the White pieces.   

Update: The critical game between the two leaders was drawn without any excitement.  Zatonskih and Krush will determine the champion in a rapid playoff on May 20 starting at 11:00am PDT. 

US Women's Championship 
Final Standings
  • 7.0 Anna Zatonskih and Irina Krush
  • 5.5 Rusudan Goletiani
  • 5.0 Viktorija Ni
Daily rounds begin at 11:00am PDT through May 19.  The time control is 40/90, G/30 with a 30 second increment from move 1.  If necessary, a playoff for 1st place will take place on May 20.  For exciting live video coverage and daily reports, make sure to check out the official website or the Internet Chess Club.

Round-by-Round Games to Enjoy!

Western Invitational Chess Camp

Robby Adamson on cover of Chess Life, March 2009.
I am writing this post on behalf of my friend FM Robby Adamson.  Readers may have met him at West Coast chess tournaments, where he's always one of the most popular players.  Robby actually started out as a scholastic national champion in the 1980s.  Today he confidently sports a 2400 USCF rating, and even loftier ratings on his ICC account BLITZMASTERYes, Robby loves blitz and bullet!  He lives in Tucson, Arizona and coaches many talented juniors, including the perennially powerful Catalina Foothills High School team. 

Robby also organizes one of the premiere chess camps each summer.  Now in its ninth year, the camp has attracted some of the strongest youngsters around the country.  Invitees are rated at least 1500, and the top group is over 2100!  Last year, they had 5 masters and an incredible 30 attendees rated 1900+!  Of course, such talented students are taught by highly qualified instructors, including Grandmasters Josh Friedel, Melik Khachiyan and Alejandro Ramirez.  The camp schedule includes 35 hours of serious chess over 5 days, plus a variety of fun activities in the evening. 

The 2012 Western Invitational Chess Camp runs from July 15 to 19, with an optional weekend tournament at the end.  If this sounds interesting, don't take my word for it--just check out the website!

If you end up going, please beat Robby at blitz or bullet for me.  Thanks!

Sunday, May 13

Panchanatham, Moy and Fremont Schools Victorious at Elementary Nationals

Vignesh Panchanatham
Kevin Moy

Update on Sunday midday.  Heading into the final round, only one NorCal player has a chance to win his or her section.  Vignesh and his 1945 rated opponent from New York have the only two 5.5s in K-6.  Winner takes all!  Seven local kids check in at 5.0 and can earn a nice big trophy simply by winning the last game.  In team competitions, all eyes are on the 1st graders from MSJE, who remain in 1st, barely ahead of New York powers Hunter and Dalton.  Good luck!!

Final results Competing at the Nationals is a challenge for even the very best.  Indeed, the best player may not win.  I tell juniors and their parents that they might score 5.5 or 6.0 by skill, but need luck to finish in the top-3.  By this standard, I offer my kudos  to Rishith, Milind, Agnes, Edwin, Balaji, Chenyi, Jason Z., Michael W. and Abhishek!  Vignesh and Kevin M. finished at an even higher level, sharing first place in the K-6 division (photos by Shorman).  All told, the Northern California delegation combined to win 15 individual trophies in the championship sections!

Here is a special round of applause for the players, coaches and parents at MSJE.  They dominated the CalChess Scholastics across the board.  Three weeks later, the team flew to Nashville and earned a trio of top-7 trophies at National Elementary, including the highest honors in K-1.  Year in and year out, the Mission San Jose chess community is simply amazing!  Way to go Coach Joe Lonsdale!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention another school that (sadly) sat out the CalChess Scholastics.  The highly rated Weibel Elementary team struggled for much of the weekend.  Needing to pull a rabbit out of the hat in the last round, Coach Alan Kirshner gave his best motivational speech.  The four players all won, and the team squeaked into first place on tiebreaks, ahead of two New York City programs.  

Northern California Final Results
Click here for standings and trophies.

K-6 Championship
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 6.0 - CO-CHAMPION and 2nd on tiebreaks
  • Kevin Moy 6.0 - CO-CHAMPION and 5th on tiebreaks
  • Michael Wang 5.5 - 8th place
  • Abhishek Handigol 5.5 - 12th place
  • Shalin Shah 4.5
  • Alvin Kong 4.0
  • Anthony Zhou 4.0 
  • Sayan Das 4.0
  • Eric Zhu 4.0 
  • Weibel team - CO-CHAMPION and 1st on tiebreaks
  • MSJE team in 6th place
K-5 Championship
  • Amit Sant 5.0- 28th place
  • Drake Lin 4.0
K-3 Championship
  • Chenyi Zhao 5.5 - 13th place
  • Jason Zhang 5.5 - 17th place
  • Ben Rood 5.0 - 25th place
  • John Chan 4.5
  • Anvi Surapaneni 4.5
  • Mihir Bhuptani 4.0
  • Tommy Koh 4.0
  • Daniel Mendelevitch 4.0
  • Atri Surapaneni 4.0
  • MSJE team in 7th place
K-1 Championship
  • Rishith Susarla 6.0 - 4th place
  • Milind Maiti 6.0 - 8th place
  • Agnes William 6.0 - 9th place
  • Edwin Thomas 5.5 - 16th place 
  • Balaji Daggupati 5.5 - 17th place
  • Louis Law 5.0 - 30th place
  • Zhiyi Wang 5.0 - 46th place
  • Amulya Harish 4.0 
  • Oliver Wu 4.0
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan 4.0
  • Vincent Wang 4.0
  • Xander Del Bosque 4.0
  • Kevin Pan 4.0
  • MSJE team -- CO-CHAMPION and 1st on tiebreaks

Saturday, May 12

A Long Saturday in Music City

Back of Mission San Jose Elementary t-shirt.
The Saturday schedule at any of the Nationals is always a battle against fatigue.  For younger kids, it is just a r-e-a-l-l-y-l-o-n-g-d-a-y.  Older juniors test their stamina with up to 12 hours at the board.  The brutal third round for the day, and fifth round in the tournament, starts at 7:00pm.  The final weary warriors set up their pieces at 11:00pm, well after bedtime for most elementary school participants.

Update on Saturday early eveningAfter round 4, two California children were still perfect in K-1, but everyone else has a pocket score.  Vignesh and Michael drew in K-6 to join Kevin and Abhishek, all at 3.5.  Five local players have 3.0 in K-3.  The state champions from MSJE are tied for 1st in K-1 and sit at 5th and 6th, respectively, in K-3 and K-6.  Good skill to all!

Update on Saturday night. The long day has mercifully come to an end.  The Bay Area will "occupy" the top boards in the K-6 and K-1 sections tomorrow.  Three players have 4.5 in K-6: Vignesh, Kevin and Abhishek!  Go guys!  In K-1, a pair of 1400 rated 1st graders find themselves in a group of seven perfect 5-0 scores.  Go Rishith and Agnes! The MSJE K-1 team also moved into 1st place, tied with Hunter College from New York.

Update on Sunday midday.  Heading into the final round, only one NorCal player has a chance to win his or her section.  Vignesh and his 1945 rated opponent from New York have the only two 5.5s in K-6.  Winner takes all!  Seven local kids check in at 5.0 and can earn a nice big trophy simply by winning the last game.  In team competitions, all eyes are on the 1st graders from MSJE, who remain in 1st, barely ahead of New York powers Hunter and Dalton.  Good luck!!

Northern California Watch List
(round 6 of 7)
Click here for standings and pairings.

K-6 Championship
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 5.5 (playing on board 1 against the only other 5.5)
  • Kevin Moy 5.0 
  • Michael Wang 4.5 
  • Abhishek Handigol 4.5 
  • Shalin Shah 4.0
  • Alvin Kong 4.0
  • Anthony Zhou 3.0 
  • Sayan Das 3.0
  • Eric Zhu 3.0
  • MSJE team in 6th place
K-5 Championship
  • Amit Sant 4.0
  • Drake Lin 4.0
  • Anjan Das 3.5
K-3 Championship 
  • Ben Rood 5.0 
  • Chenyi Zhao 4.5
  • Jason Zhang 4.5
  • Daniel Mendelevitch 4.0
  • John Chan 4.0
  • Atri Surapaneni 3.5
  • Anvi Surapaneni 3.5
  • MSJE team in 9th place
K-1 Championship
  • Rishith Susarla 5.0
  • Agnes William 5.0 
  • Milind Maiti 5.0
  • Louis Law 5.0
  • Zhiyi Wang 5.0
  • Balaji Daggupati 4.5
  • Edwin Thomas 4.5  
  • Oliver Wu 4.0
  • Amulya Harish 4.0
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan 4.0
  • Vincent Wang 4.0
  • MSJE team in 1st place, 0.5 ahead of Hunter and 1.0 ahead of Dalton

Friday, May 11

National Elementary in Nashville!

The spacious interior of the Gaylord Opryland Resort.
The largest chess tournament in America starts today at the humongous Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville.  No, it is not World Open, but rather the National Elementary Championships.  Over 2,200 players have registered in one of nine sections based on age and rating. 

A total of 47 NorCal kids (plus their parents, siblings and coaches) flew to Nashville for a wild weekend of chess and fun.  About three-fourths of this grand delegation represents two elementary schools from the city of Fremont.  The roster ranges from two 6th grade experts, Vignesh Panchanatham (2127) and Kevin Moy (2015), all the way down to a pair of kindergartners.  Almost all of the Bay Area players entered in the highly competitive "open" sections, meaning no rating restriction.

Stage with trophies lined up in back.
The format is a 7-round swiss with two games today, three on Saturday and the final two on Sunday.  The time control is G/2 hours, meaning someone could potentially play for 12 hours on Saturday.  I will try to follow the top players on my blog at least once a day, which will be challenging given the ongoing US Championship and the World Championship (Anand vs Gelfand).

Update on Friday eveningBy my count, 13 NorCal juniors finished the first day with a perfect score of 2-0.  The three stars in K-6 (Vignesh, Kevin and Michael Wang) all remain in contention for a possible national title! 

Update on Saturday morning:  Most of the top players are still perfect, but that will change as Vignesh is paired against Michael W. in K-6.  CalChess champion MSJE team demonstrates balance across all sections, holding on to three different top-4.

Northern California Watch List
(round 3 of 7)
Click here for standings and pairings.

K-6 Championship
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 3.0 (paired against Michael W.)
  • Kevin Moy 3.0
  • Michael Wang 3.0 (paired against Vignesh)
  • Abhishek Handigol 2.5
  • Alvin Kong 2.5
  • Anthony Zhou 2.0
  • Shalin Shah 2.0
  • Eric Zhu 2.0
  • MSJE team in 4th place
K-5 Championship
  • Amit Sant 3.0
  • Anjan Das 2.0
  • Drake Lin 1.5
  • MSJE team in 10th place
K-3 Championship
  • Ben Rood 3.0 (playing on board 1)
  • Daniel Mendelevitch 2.0
  • John Chan 2.0
  • Chenyi Zhao 2.0
  • Jason Zhang 2.0
  • Luke Zhao 2.0
  • Soorya Kuppam 2.0
  • Mihir Bhuptani 2.0
  • Tommy Koh 2.0
  • MSJE team in 3rd place
K-1 Championship
  • Rishith Susarla 3.0
  • Agnes William 3.0
  • Oliver Wu 3.0
  • Milind Maiti 2.0
  • Balaji Daggupati 2.0
  • Louis Law 2.0
  • Zhiyi Wang 2.0
  • MSJE team in 2nd place

Thursday, May 10

US Championship Underway in St. Louis

The tallest chess piece ever was unveiled in St. Louis! 14 feet, 6 inches
The 2012 US Chess Championships kicked off this week at the world class Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.  After a decade that saw a different format almost every year, the organizers wisely went back to the traditional Round-Robin (all-play-all).  Instead of inviting up to 64 participants, they picked only 12 this year, mind you, 12 of the top 14 by USCF rating.

Defending champion Kamsky opens with a win as White.
Top to bottom, the field is fully  stocked by strong Grandmasters.  The two favorites must be top seed Hikaru Nakamura (2775) and defending champion Gata Kamsky (2741), both rated in the top 14 of the World.  They both take a break from battling the elite in Europe to compete against their compatriots at home.  In my opinion, only one other player holds a realistic chance at winning: third seed Alexander Onischuk.  That being said, two other participants carry the distinction of being a former US Champion: Yasser Seirawan (1981, 1986, 1989, 2000) and Yury Shulman (2008).

The St. Louis chess club is second to none in luxury.
In recent years, one big story at each US Championship has been the development of young players, most notably Josh Friedel (4th in 2008), Robert Hess (2nd in 2009) and Sam Shankland (3rd in 2011).  Only Hess, now rated fourth best in the country, earned an invitation, while Shankland tragically ended up as the first person below the final cut.  Bay Area readers may recall that 16-year old Gregory Young actually qualified by winning last year's US Junior, but his academic obligations got in the way.  Consequently, the youngest player (no pun intended) in the tournament is 17-year old Ray Robson, who claimed his spot with a lofty USCF rating approaching 2700.

US Championship 
Standings Rd 6 of 11
  • 4.5 Hikaru Nakamura 
  • 4.0 Gata Kamsky
  • 3.5 Alexander Onischuk, Aleksandr Lenderman and Yury Shulman
  • 3.0 Gregory Kaidanov and Alexander Stripunsky
  • 2.5 Robert Hess, Varuzhan Akobian and Ray Robson 
  • 2.0 Yasser Seirawan
  • 1.5 Alejandro Ramirez

The 2012 Women's Chess Championship runs concurrently as a 10-player Round-Robin.  Analogous to the men's event, two women are heavy favorites: defending champion IM Anna Zatonskih (2510) and IM Irina Krush (2457).  They split the last six years, but Zatonskih has won four times.

US Women's Championship 
Leaders Rd 5 of 9
  • 4.0 Irina Krush
  • 3.5 Anna Zatonskih
  • 3.0 Sabina-Francesca Foisor, Rusudan Goletiani and Iryna Zenyuk

Daily rounds begin at 11:00am PDT through May 19, except for May 14.  The time control is 40/90, G/30 with a 30 second increment from move 1.  If necessary, a playoff for 1st place will take place on May 20.  For exciting live video coverage and daily reports, make sure to check out the official website or the Internet Chess Club.

Round-by-Round Games to Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9

9-12 champ Joshua Cao
Denker qualifier Sudarshan Seshadri

Held just two weeks ago, memories of the 2012 CalChess Scholastics have quietly faded into the past.  Fortunately, you can revisit the weekend through the lens of ace photographer Richard Shorman.  
2-time 6-8 champ Neel Apte
4-6 champ Siddharth Banik

Click to view a Facebook album of 225 photos, many of smiling young chess players.

Thousands of photos from many dozens of other events are available at

4-5 champ Ben Rood
Trophies!!! :-)

Tuesday, May 8

Kennedy Middle Wins K-8 Nationals

Kennedy team: Cameron, Pranav, Neel, Udit and Kesav, photo by Rob Wheeler.
Congratulations to the National K-8 Champions from Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino!!  With a final margin of 4.5 points ahead of the nearest competition, the team practically wrapped up top honors one round before the end.  Always hungry for more, the young Cougars bravely clawed through the top of the leaderboard.  Alas, they could not grab a share of the individual title.

Nonetheless, Kennedy earned four of the top 15 place trophies.  Udit Iyengar led the way with 3rd place at 6.0 out of 7.  Kesav Viswanadha and Cameron Wheeler took 7th and 8th, respectively, at 5.5.  Last, but not least, two-time CalChess K-8 winner Neel Apte scored 5.0, unfortunately falling to both of the national co-champions.

Five other Bay Area juniors also finished in the top 20 of the K-8 section, for a grand total of nine individual awards and two big team trophies!  Amazingly, Horner Junior High School in Fremont was the second best team in K-8.  Led by Daniel Ho at 13th place with 5.5, the Horner team muscled its way past IS 318 in the last two rounds.  Way to go!!

Finally, kudos to Colin Chow of Sacramento for a strong result in the K-9 division.  He beat one master, drew two more and lost just once, unfortunately on board 3 in the final round.

Check out Chess Life Online and CalChess for a pair of additional reports written by Randy Hough and Alan Kirshner, respectively.

Northern California Final Results 
  • Colin Chow 5.0 - 7th place
  • Vignesh Panchanatham 4.5 
  • Hemang Jangle 4.5
  • Taylor McCreary 4.0
  • Russell Bik 3.5 
K-8 Championship
  • Udit Iyengar (Kennedy) 6.0 - 5th place
  • Kesav Viswanadha (Kennedy) 5.5 - 7th place
  • Cameron Wheeler (Kennedy) 5.5 - 8th place
  • Gabriel Bick 5.5 - 11th place
  • Daniel Ho (Horner) 5.5 - 13th place
  • Neel Apte (Kennedy) 5.0 - 15th place
  • Allan Beilin 5.0 - 17th place
  • Art Zhao 5.0 - 18th place
  • Naveen Janarthanan 5.0 - 19th place
  • Pranav Srihari (Kennedy) 4.5
  • Kory Hui (Horner) 4.5
  • Sameer Vijay 4.5
  • Audrey Zhao 4.5
  • Amit Sant 4.0
  • Vikram Vasan 4.0
  • Amarinder Chahal (Horner) 4.0
  • HORNER J.H.S. TEAM 17.5/28 - 2nd place

Friday, May 4

FIDE Rated Juniors from NorCal

Coach Ted, Vignesh, NM Cameron, NM Daniel and IM Enrico at House of Chess.
The Bay Area has witnessed an explosion of highly talented chess juniors.  Within the past two years, so many of these kids, 9 to 13 years old, began playing in the Open or Master sections at adult tournaments.  Imagine a room half-full of preteen opponents, all rated above 2000!  Indeed, a decade ago we saw no more than a half dozen experts or masters under 18.  Today that number stands at 24!!

Any improving player rated above 2000 becomes a prime candidate to earn an international (FIDE) rating. There are two common routes to a published rating: participate in the top section of major adult tournaments or attend the annual World Youth Championships.  They must play at least 9 FIDE rated opponents, usually over two or three events.  Only games against internationally rated players count.  On the May FIDE rating list, I found 23 local juniors, up from 15 just eight months agoThere's no stopping this trend now!
FM Tanuj, always smiling. (Shorman)

CalChess Top 20 FIDE Rated Juniors
  1. IM Naroditsky, Daniel    2479
  2. NM Liou, Yian    2312
  3. NM Sevian, Samuel    2247
  4. NM Liu, Daniel    2105
  5. Chow, Colin    2072
  6. NM Wheeler, Cameron    2066
  7. Apte, Neel    2066
  8. Tong, Benjamin    2064
  9. Shin, Kyle    2046
  10. Viswanadha, Kesav    2031
  11. Klotz-Burwell, Hunter    2025
  12. Liou, Arthur    2024
  13. Zhu, Jack    2023
  14. Iyengar, Udit    2005
  15. FM Vasudeva, Tanuj    1984
  16. Panchanatham, Vignesh    1964
  17. Richter, Paul    1960
  18. Beilin, Allan    1953
  19. Banik, Siddharth    1930
  20. Wang, Michael    1857
Remarks:  1. Please contact me if I missed anyone.  2. FIDE ratings tend to be 50 to 100 points lower than the corresponding USCF ratings.  3. Those who participated at World Youth start even further underrated, because their ratings are based on young opponents, who are themselves underrated.  4. Both House of Chess March Qualifier and Larry Evans Memorial in Reno made the list.

Top rated in the World at 11!  (Shelton)
Congratulations to those who earned an international rating since last September: Colin, Neel, Benjamin, Hunter, Tanuj, Paul and Siddharth!  Daniel and Cameron made strong gains to go along with their brand new USCF Master titles.  While chasing IM norms in Los Angeles and Fremont, Yian Liou recently broke 2300 and will be designated a FIDE Master as soon as the paperwork gets processed.

And finally, here is a shout-out to Samuel Sevian for being rated #1 under 12 in the entire World!  Wow!!  It reminds me of a quote by Viswanathan Anand about future World Champions: "Nowadays, if you're not a Grandmaster at 14, you can forget it."  No pressure Samuel!

Tuesday, May 1

CalChess Top 20 Masters -- May 2012

GM Shankland

The CalChess Top 20 Masters list reveals a mixture of rapidly improving juniors and capable veterans.  Grandmasters Josh Friedel, Jesse Kraai and Vinay Bhat no longer live and play in the area, and therefore cannot occupy the top spots in these rankings.  Taking their place are Grandmasters Sam Shankland, Nick DeFirmian and teenage IM Daniel NaroditskyAll three grew up in Northern California and rose through the chess ranks in the Bay Area.

Shankland and Naroditsky, both products of the area's youth movement, were invited to the 2011 US Championship, which "Shanky" almost won!  Two more juniors pop up further down the list: soon-to-be FM Yian Liou and America's youngest master Samuel Sevian, now 11 years old and approaching 2400. 

GM DeFirmian
Fresno born DeFirmian recently returned home after spending years in New York and Europe.  A 3-time US Champion, he now works at the Mechanics' Institute chess club, teaching and giving weekly lectures.

The most active veteran is #5 IM Ricardo DeGuzman, the veritable 800 lb gorilla of Bay Area chess.  Two other IMs who show up at some tournaments are #6 Vladimir Mezentsev and #10 Ray Kaufman.  Perhaps the strongest Northern California resident in his prime is 6-time US Champion Walter Browne.

IM Naroditsky
CalChess Top 20 Masters (USCF rating, FIDE rating)
  1. GM Shankland, Sam    2656    2581
  2. GM DeFirmian, Nick    2574    2510
  3. IM Naroditsky, Daniel    2546    2479
  4. GM Browne, Walter    2501    2449
  5. IM DeGuzman, Ricardo    2476    2400
  6. IM Mezentsev, Vladimir    2472    2368
  7. IM Zilberstein, Dmitry    2467    2402
  8. IM Pruess, David    2462    2390
  9. FM Chumachenko, Andrey    2436    2327
  10. IM Kaufman, Ray    2420    2336
  11. SM Kotlyar, Gregory    2412    2306
  12. IM Donaldson, John    2408    2390
  13. NM Ishkhanov, Tigran    2374    2324
  14. NM Liou, Yian    2374    2312
  15. NM Arun Sharma    2366    2331
  16. IM Winslow, Elliott    2365    2337
  17. FM Cusi, Ronald    2341    2316
  18. NM Schwarz, Daniel    2339    2251
  19. NM Sevian, Samuel    2333    2247
  20. NM Pearson, Michael    2330    2212
N.B. This list is based on state rankings at the USCF website.  In general, players must participate in at least one (local) tournament within the past year.  Those who move out of state will be dropped.  I reserve editorial judgement to make exceptions for players with well-established ties to Northern California.