Sunday, December 30

Hunting for Norms

The Las Vegas Strip facing south from Bally's.
FM Yian Liou
Congratulations to my long time student FM Yian Liou for earning his second IM norm at the 2012 North American Open in Las Vegas!  The high school sophomore scored 6.0 in nine rounds with an impressive performance rating of 2560 FIDE, good enough to share 7th place overall in the open swiss section.  He faced six higher rated opponents, including four Grandmasters, and lost just once.  Twice he held a draw versus a GM from the black side without much difficulty.  That feat alone takes nerves of steel!  Having clinched the IM norm before the final round, Yian played confidently and aggressively against an International Master to cap the eventful tournament with an exclamation mark (see game below).

  • Wins: NM Viswanadha, NM T.Shaw, NM Colas, IM Yankovsky
  • Draws: GM Shabalov, GM Lenderman, IM Krush, GM Gurevich
  • Loss: GM Ramirez

FM Sam Sevian
Yian was not the only Bay Area junior to qualify for a valuable norm this month.  Only a week ago, FM Sam Sevian tied for first place at the 23rd Metropolitan Chess Invitational in Los Angeles.  The reigning World U12 gold medalist has become accustomed to winning tournaments, but certainly not as the lowest rated invitee!  Magically, the precocious master scored an undefeated plus-3 in a round-robin against three experienced GMs and five strong IMs, for a 2575 performance.  Days shy of his 12th birthday, Sam completed the three norms for the IM title!  He stands to become the youngest IM in American history, but narrowly missed the world record set by Ukrainian superstar Sergey Karjakin,  It would, however, be premature to call him an IM-elect until he meets the final requirement: a FIDE rating above 2400.  That appears to just be a matter of time.  Well done Sam!
  • Wins: IM D.Yang, IM Yankovsky, IM Amanov
  • Draws: IM Kiewra, IM Matikozyan, GM Chibuchchian, GM Ramirez, GM Khachiyan, IM V.Shen
  • Loss: none

Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas To All!

Merry Christmas

Feliz Navidad

Frohe Weihnachten

Joyeux Noël

Buon Natale

Vrolijk Kerstfeest 

God Jul

Maligayang Pask

Miilaad Majiid 

Tuesday, December 11

FIDE Rated NorCal Kids - December 2012

NM Cameron
NM Kesav

Back in the dark ages, or even at the turn of this millennium, earning an official FIDE rating served as a rite of passage for a rising young chess player.  Few opportunities existed to play internationally rated games in the Bay Area, and the old rating floor of 2000 FIDE meant only the best had a shot..  IM John Donaldson and Anthony Corrales at the Mechanics' Institute organized a series of rating tournaments designed to meet this need.  Most of the elite juniors from that generation picked up their international rating this way.  Still, the number of local kids with a published FIDE rating never exceeded a handful at a time.

Times change!  At the end of 2012, more than 30 NorCal juniors are rated, with 3 above 2300 and another 13 over 2000.  On average, a player's USCF rating exceeds the FIDE by 50 to 100 points.  Since FIDE rates only slow games, someone who performs better at G/45 or G/60 will be ranked lower.  Indeed, many masters believe the FIDE rating holds more meaning than USCF, in part because faster games do not count.


1 IM Naroditsky, Daniel 2483 + GM norm
2 SM Young, Greg 2367
3 FM Liou, Yian 2352 + IM norm
4 SM Sevian, Sam 2343 + 2 IM norms
5 NM Wheeler, Cameron 2165
6 NM Viswanadha, Kesav 2130
7 Liu, Daniel 2095
8 Apte, Neel 2086
9 Tong, Benjamin 2064
10 Chow, Colin 2062
11 Zhu, Jack 2047
12 Shin, Kyle 2046
13 Panchanatham, Vignesh 2033
14 Klotz-Burwell, Hunter 2026
15 Beilin, Allan 2018
16 Nagarajan, Pranav 2009
17 FM Vasudeva, Tanuj 1999
18 Iyengar, Udit 1988
19 Richter, Paul 1957
20 Moy, Kevin 1945

Please contact me at michael(at)fpawn(dot)com if I overlooked someone.

Monday, December 10

Carlsen on Top of the World

Carlsen on top of the London Eye.
The Norwegian conqueror of chess arrived at the London Chess Classic determined to assert his dominance over his closest challengers, and to stake out a place in history. After celebrating his 22nd birthday on the day before the first round, Magnus Carlsen won five games, drew three and lost none. He started explosively, winning the first two rounds and scoring 5.5 out of 6! Alas, a pair of fighting draws at the end of the event dropped his performance rating from an astronomical 3146 to a merely mortal 2994.

Book published in 2004
Perhaps most significantly, Carlsen smashed the all-time highest official rating of 2851, a record credited to his former teacher Garry Kasparov. The new mark is 2861, and will no doubt continue to rise as the Wunderkind keeps improving.  He extended the lead over his nearest challenger to 51 rating points; .half a year ago, the gap was just 10 points.  Former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, now rated second, finished with an impressive result himself, but he was eclipsed by someone even greater.

We can only imagine how high Carlsen could go once he stops needing luck to escape from a losing position (against Luke McShane) or when he finds the critical move order to convert all pleasant advantages into victories (against Hikaru Nakamura and Viswanathan Anand).  Indeed, he has plenty of room for improvement compared to a computer programs like Houdini.  Regardless, the always opinionated Kasparov already conceded that Carlsen has the necessary talent to reach 2900, only as long as he continues to work hard.

Can he do it?  Maybe it is just a question of when?  Vote in the poll on right side panel.

Sunday, December 9

Reprint: How to Get from 1600 to 2000?

12 year old master Yian
This post is a reprint of a popular article written three years ago by one of my star students, Yian Liou.  At that time, Yian had just broken 2200 and, as a 6th grader, won the High School section at the 2009 CalChess Scholastics.  Today, he earned the FM title, has one IM norm and a USCF rating above 2400.  Yian shares his own experiences about what it takes for a promising 1600 to reach 2000.

As a talented young 1600, it is never easy to become a 2000 player. For me, getting to 2000 meant that I had to be able to beat 1800s when I was 1600. By 1900, I needed to win almost all games against lower rated while earning good results against 2000s. That is much easier said than done!

Foremost, are the aspects of your game. You have to work on your openings with books or Chessbase and prepare them to face specific opponents. Playing on a chess server against stronger opponents helps you get used to the opening traps, ideas and so on. You should work on tactics just in case your opponent doesn’t see a trick to win material. I recommend a program like CT-Art or an Internet tactics site. Also work on the positional aspects of the game, meaning where to put your pieces and how to find ideal squares for your pieces and pawns. Do exercises from a book for that. It helps to develop a good intuition, which means you know where in general you should move. Finally, since you have your opening and middlegame done, go to the ending. You should study theoretical positions like rook and pawn vs. rook. Get Silman’s endgame course, or if you are very serious, Dvoretsky’s endgame manual.

Since you can do well against higher rated opponents with the advice I have above, now turn to the next challenge: beating lower rated players consistently. Lower rated players, in general, will blunder material and you can win easily. However, what happens if they don’t? In this case, you have to outplay them, make them more and more uncomfortable until they finally blunder. The technical aspects of the game are now good, but now we move on to the psychological part of the game.

What I mean by psychological is the skill to stay focused during a long game and not get tired. To keep your physical strength during a game, I suggest some type of physical activity that requires you to exercise your whole body. For me, it is soccer and tennis; other sports like swimming and running are good too. These sports will help you stay sharp as a game progresses. To focus during a chess game, you must also be patient and take your time. These skills take time and cannot be learned immediately. Once you learn those, you are ready to be a 2000 chess player.

Yian reached 1600 USCF during Labor Day weekend in 2006 (at age 9) and became an expert within two years at the 2008 Pacific Coast Open. Exactly a year later, he earned his master certificate at the 2009 Pacific Coast Open. Apparently, Yian did something right over the years! Thank you (again) for sharing your thoughts with the readers. --fpawn

Monday, December 3

NorCal Top Players - December 2012

World U12 gold medalist Sam Sevian
The following two lists show the top masters who are currently active and live in Northern California.  I exempted local juniors who attend college out of state from the residency requirement.  Both USCF and FIDE ratings are official as of December 2012.  Please contact me if I may have overlooked someone.

Here are some broad observations.  Not surprisingly, the twin rankings include almost all of the same players.  In fact, the only exceptions are SM Gregory Kotlyar (#19 USCF) and IM Elliott Winslow (#15 FIDE).  Nobody can doubt who the most active titled player is on the Bay Area scene: IM Ricardo DeGuzman.  Now that former World U18 champions GM Sam Shankland and IM Steven Zierk attend college in Massachusetts, only four star juniors remain: former World U12 champion IM Daniel Naroditsky, former US U20 (Junior) champion SM Greg Young, current World U12 champion SM Sam Sevian and former US U16 (Cadet) champion FM Yian Liou.  All four are concentrating on earning GM/IM norms and none has played locally in half a year.  However, Greg, Sam and Yian all participated in the Metropolitan Chess International in Los Angeles last August.



1 GM Shankland, Sam 2684
GM Shankland, Sam 2595
2 GM DeFirmian, Nick 2575
GM DeFirmian, Nick 2510
3 IM Naroditsky, Daniel 2553
IM Naroditsky, Daniel 2483
4 GM Browne, Walter 2524
IM Zierk, Steven 2477
5 IM Zierk, Steven 2519
GM Browne, Walter 2448
6 FM De La Cruz, Alfredo 2488
IM DeGuzman, Ricardo 2400
7 IM Zilberstein, Dmitry 2468
SM Sharma, Arun 2391
8 SM Sharma, Arun 2467
IM Zilberstein, Dmitry 2390
9 SM Young, Greg 2467
IM Donaldson, John 2390
10 SM Sevian, Sam 2451
FM Strugatsky, Vladimir 2390
11 FM Chumachenko, Andrey 2435
SM Young, Greg 2367
12 FM Liou, Yian 2432
IM Pruess, David 2363
13 IM Pruess, David 2431
FM Liou, Yian 2352
14 IM Mezentsev, Vladimir 2429
IM Mezentsev, Vladimir 2352
15 IM DeGuzman, Ricardo 2423
IM Winslow, Elliott 2348
16 IM Kaufman, Raymond 2422
IM Kaufman, Raymond 2345
17 FM Strugatsky, Vladimir 2421
SM Sevian, Sam 2343
18 IM Donaldson, John 2408
FM Chumachenko, Andrey 2327
19 SM Kotlyar, Gregory 2402
FM De La Cruz, Alfredo 2318
20 NM Ishkhanov, Tigran 2364
NM Ishkhanov, Tigran 2306

New National Champions In Our Midst

Orlando World Center Marriott Hotel
The National Grade Level Championships took place last weekend in Orlando.  A total of 1300 players flew in from around the country to play chess and visit the House of Mouse.  The main tournament went 7 rounds over 3 days, with competitors divided into grades K through 12th.

Thirteen Bay Area juniors and their parents made the trek to Florida.  The trip proved successful, and the local delegation brought home 11 trophies: six top 10 places, two honorable mentions, two rating class prizes and one big team trophy. 

Special congratulations to the two individual national champions: Chinguun Bayaraa in 1st grade and Andrew Hong in 2nd grade!  Andrew is the new kid on the block, attending his first chess tournament merely five months ago.  By comparison, Chinguun proved himself as a veteran, playing chess since age 3 and winning his second nationals after Kindergarten last year.

The 7th grade team from Kennedy Middle School earned two individual prizes and picked up a nice team trophy to store alongside the first place K-8 award from last April.  Indeed, they finished ahead of national power IS 318 from the Bronx.  Check out reports and photos at Cameron's blog.

Northern California Scores
USCF Rating Report
  • Gr 1 - Chinguun Bayaraa 6.0 - co-NATIONAL CHAMPION 
  • Gr 1 - Maurya Palusa 5.5 - 8th place
  • Gr 2 - Andrew Hong 6.5 - co-NATIONAL CHAMPION
  • Gr 2 - Rishith Susarla 6.0 - 4th place
  • Gr 3 - Chenyi Zhao 5.0 - honorable mention
  • Gr 5 - Jason Hong 4.0 - 1st 1000-1199
  • Gr 5 - Simona Nayberg 4.0
  • Gr 6 - Amit Sant 5.0 - honorable mention
  • Gr 7 - Cameron Wheeler 5.5 - 5th place
  • Gr 7 - Art Zhao 5.5 - 6th place
  • Gr 7 - Kingsly Wang 4.5 - 1st 1200-1399
  • Gr 7 - Pranav Srihari 4.0
  • Gr 7 - Kennedy Middle (Cameron, Kingsly, Pranav) - NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
  • Gr 9 - Joshua Cao 4.5