Friday, May 22

CalChess Champions Over the Years

Since the turn of the century, the CalChess State Scholastic Chess Championship (occasionally misnamed the Super States) has emerged as the single largest annual USCF rated tournament west of the Rocky Mountains, consistently drawing at least 800 eager young chess enthusiasts.  Indeed, the record turnout of 1319 in 2006 compares favorably to the National Championships each spring.  The first weekend of May saw the 40th edition of this Bay Area event.  Two emeritus organizers deserve the lion's share of credit for building up the event during the 1990s and early 2000s: Ray Orwig and Alan Kirshner.

Unfortunately, those 40 years of history are in danger of being forgotten.  Until recently, the champs were honored in the yearly program booklet and online.  Dr. Kirshner diligently compiled lists of individual and school team champions from 1986 to 2011, but the official record at the CalChess website ceases after 2012  Seeing a need, I extended the honor roll of scholastic champions through 2015.

Curiosity drove me to analyze the ranks of individual champions more closely.  For example, Vinay Bhat won the High School division in four out of five consecutive years (1998-2002), but he sat out of the middle year (2000).  Another three masters captured a hat trick of K-12 titles: Andy McManus (1987-1990), Dmitry Zilberstein (1994-1997) and Cameron Wheeler (2013-2015).  Out of this esteemed foursome, only Cameron managed to win (or share first place) in three consecutive years!

Readers may have already mistakenly concluded that winning a scholastic title is easy pickings for a phenom destined to become Grandmaster (like Vinay) or International Master (like Dmitry).  Not true!  Sam Shankland, the strongest player to grow up in the Bay Area during the past three decades, was never crowned champ at the biggest kids tournament.  To his credit, Sam won the adult State Championship at just 16 years old!

To me, the real question was whether anyone achieved a career Grand Slam?  The four pillars of the Grand Prix are the Varsity or Open divisions in Primary, Elementary, Middle School and High School.  Both the K-5 and K-6 sections count for Elementary School.  All players tied for first place are considered co-champions (e.g. five K-5 winners in both 2008 and 2010). 

5-Time Champions
  • Vinay Bhat K-3, K-12, K-12, K-12, K-12
  • Neel Apte K-3, K-5, K-6, K-8, K-8 (needs K-12)
  • Cameron Wheeler K-5, K-6, K-12, K-12, K-12

Since 1986, nobody collected more than five CalChess titles.  However, both Neel (11th grade) and Cameron (10th grade) could break that record next spring..

4-Time Champions
  • Micah Fisher-Kirshner K-3, K-6, K-6, K-12 (missing K-8)
  • Adam Lischinsky K-3, K-3, K-8, K-12 (missing K-6)
  • Daniel Naroditsky K-3, K-6, K-12, K-12 (missing K-8)
  • James Kwok K-3, K-6, K-8, K-8 (missing K-12)

Sadly, all of the quadruple champions have run out of eligibility.

3-Time Champions
  • Andy McManus K-12, K-12, K-12
  • Alan Stein K-8, K-12, K-12
  • Dmitry Zilberstein K-12, K-12, K-12
  • Keith Yost K-6, K-8, K-8
  • Daniel Schwarz K-3, K-8, K-12 (missing K-6)
  • Steven Zierk K-3, K-8, K-12 (missing K-6)
  • Yian Liou K-3, K-6, K-12 (missing K-8)  
  • Kyle Shin K-5, K-6, K-8
  • Tanuj Vasudeva K-3, K-5, K-6

Kyle (11th grade) and Tanuj (9th grade) could still add a High School championship to their bulging trophy cases, although neither has played competitively for some time.

Therefore, the answer to my question is a disappointing no!  Interestingly, eight different juniors managed to score 75% of the Grand Slam (see green color).  And with a small dose of luck, Neel Apte could even complete the career Slam by winning the K-12 division next spring.

Thursday, May 21

Commencement Address By Garry Kasparov

The 13th World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov accepted an honorary doctorate and delivered the commencement address at Saint Louis University.  He spoke of memories from growing up in the communist USSR and contrasted those to the values upon which America thrives, in particular freedom and innovation.  He poignantly shared his life experience and doled out plenty of advice.  For example: "Hard work is a talent. The ability to keep trying when others quit is a talent. And hard work is never wasted."

During his speech, Kasparov wondered aloud if this graduation ceremony would be the happiest day in life of his young audience?  The answer: It does not have to be.

When I won the world championship in 1985 I was 22 years old and it was the greatest
Call him Dr. GM Kasparov!
day of my life. I imagine today is a similar feeling for many of you. You are young, you are strong, and you have a long-time goal in your hands.

On that day in 1985, a strange thing happened. I was standing there on the stage, still with my flowers and my medal, the happiest person in the world, when I was approached by Rona Petrosian, the widow of a former world chess champion from the 60s, Tigran Petrosian. I was expecting another warm congratulations, but she had something else in mind. “Young man,” she said, “I feel sorry for you.” What? Sorry for me? Sorry for me? The youngest world champion in history, on top of the world? “I feel sorry for you,” she continued, “because the happiest day of your life is over.”  .....

There are still new frontiers today, and a limitless number of new inventions waiting to be discovered by people with the curiosity and courage to look for them, and the freedom to do so. It will require belief, hard work, and the values of innovation and liberty. It will require your belief, your hard work, and your ideas. You might say you aren’t ready for a new challenge right away, that you want time to relax, to celebrate, to rest on your new laurels. I’m sorry, but the world will not wait for you. The world needs you now.

Today you have fulfilled one dream, and tomorrow you set course on a new one. If you always have a dream, the happiest day of your life is never over.

 Watch the video above (17 minutes) or read the full text at Kasparov's website.

Tuesday, May 12

Fabiano Caruana Returns to Team USA

Fabiano Caruana (Photo: Best of Chess)
Current World #3 Fabiano Caruana announced today that he will switch federations to represent the United States in international competitions.  Born in Miami and raised in New York City, the 22 year old and his family moved to Europe to further his career as a budding chess professional.  Since he holds dual citizenship, he switched to Italian federation with little difficulty.  In the past two years, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and main sponsor Rex Sinquefield made little secret of their desire to bring Fabiano back home.  The paperwork should be completed by fall, and we can expect to see Caruana at both the 2016 US Championship and the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. 

Starring three of the Top 10 players on the planet, Team USA can expect to be seeded second at next summer's Olympiad, right behind the Russians.  The national team continues to become both younger and stronger.  Check out the following possible lineup.
  1. Fabiano Caruana 2803, age 22
  2. Hikaru Nakamura 2799, age 27
  3. Wesley So 2778, age 21
  4. Ray Robson 2680, age 20
  5. Sam Shankland 2656, age 23
 Average = 2743 FIDE, age 23!

N.B.: Gata Kamsky retired from international team competition, and Alexander Onischuk may step aside too.  Three more young Grandmasters could compete for the final two roster spots, including Alex Lenderman, Daniel Naroditsky, and another newcomer Yaroslav Zherebukh.

Sunday, May 10

Andrew Hong + MSJE Excel at K-6 Nationals

National Champions! MSJE K-6 team with Coach Joe. Photo by Donna DePietro Woods.

The 2015 National Elementary Championship concluded successfully for the 35 player contingent from Northern California.   No fewer than 11 local children earned trophies for finishing in the top 25 or 30; plus another 5 picked up honorable mention.  Nearly everyone who made the trip to Nashville (30 out of 35) finished with a respectable "plus score" of 4.0 or more.  Well done!

This shirt (from 2012) needs an update!
Congratulations to Saratoga 4th grader NM Andrew Hong for sweeping the tough K-6 section with a 7-0 score.  He came, he saw and he conquered!  It is difficult being the top seed, because each opponent has prepared specifically for you.  Andrew took it in stride, vanquishing second seeded Alexander Costello from San Diego in the penultimate round.  Congrats also to 3rd grader Maurya Palusa for finishing alone in second place in K-3, winning six games and drawing one.

Once again, legendary coach Joe Lonsdale guided his Mission San Jose Elementary squad to victory at Nationals.  The K-6 team seized the pole in round 3 and barely held on, nudging ahead of IS 318 from the Bronx on superior tiebreaks.  This is the third K-6 national championship for MSJE since 2009! Competing schools bring along Grandmasters and other professional chess trainers. MSJE has smart kids and the irreplaceable Coach Joe.  The Fremont program garnered trophies in K-3 and K-5 as well, 4th and 8th place, respectively.  Kudos all around! 

Click here for PAIRINGS and RESULTS.
Final scores after Round 7.

  • NM Andrew Hong 2255 7.0 -- clear 1st place
  • David Pan 2087 MSJE 5.5 -- 6th place (tied for 5th)
  • Karthik Padmanabhan 2021 5.5 -- 11th place (tied for 5th)
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan 1656 MSJE 5.0 -- honorable mention
  • Rishith Susarla 1906 MSJE 4.5
  • Daniel Mendelevitch 1643 4.0
  • Kavya Sasikumar 1438 MSJE 4.0
  • MSJE team 1772 19.0/28 -- 1st place on tiebreaks

  • Milind Maiti 1899 5.5 -- 10th place
  • William Sartorio 1814 5.0 -- 26th place (tied for 22nd)
  • Anaiy Somalwar 1887 5.0 -- honorable mention
  • Chenyi Zhao 1815 5.0 -- honorable mention
  • Oliver Wu 1789 5.0 -- honorable mention
  • Jeffrey Liu 1287 MSJE 4.0
  • Atul Thirumalai 1333 MSJE 4.0
  • Abhinav Raghavendra 1167 MSJE 4.0
  • Leo Jiang 1404 MSJE 4.0
  • MSJE team 1298 16.0/28 -- 8th place (tied for 7th)


  • Maurya Palusa 1831 6.5 -- clear 2nd place
  • Kevin Pan 1807 MSJE 5.5 -- 11th place (tied for 7th)
  • Christopher Yoo 1761 5.5 -- 12th place (tied for 7th)
  • Stephen He 1247 MSJE 5.5 -- 21st place (tied for 7th)
  • Aidan Chen 1199 MSJE 4.5
  • Arnav Lingannagari 1211 MSJE 4.0
  • Allyson Wong 1132 MSJE 4.0
  • Nicholas Jiang 1152 MSJE 4.0
  • MSJE team 1366 19.5/28 -- 4th place

  • Sriram Krishnakumar 1323 6.0 -- 3rd place
  • Adrian Kondakov 1500 6.0 -- 6th place (tied for 3rd)
  • Nikko Le 804 5.0 -- honorable mention
  • Nikhil Parvathaneni 1034 4.5
  • Nitish Nath 1067 4.5 
  • Jason Liu 439 MSJE 4.0

Friday, May 8

MSJE Hunting for More Trophies in Nashville

A huge glass roof covers the Opryland Resort.

More than 2200 young chess enthusiasts plus their parents, siblings and coaches have descended upon the Nashville, Tennessee for the 2015 National Elementary Championship.  That total includes 35 kids from the Bay Area, all eager to take home a giant trophy.  Can the California boys (and girls) prove their might once again?  I think so!!

Top rated Andrew Hong
A dozen local youngsters enter the weekend seeded in the top 20 of their section, led by NM Andrew Hong, surprisingly the only master in the tournament.  Unfortunately, it is difficult being King of the Hill when literally everyone in the field is underrated--some more than others.  Watch out for the perennial powers of New York!

The only school team to travel to the Gaylord Opryland Resort was Mission San Jose Elementary of Fremont, fresh off an impressive performance at the CalChess Scholastics last weekend.  Coach Joe Lonsdale speaks highly of his teams in K-6 and K-3; even the weaker K-5 squad could finish well.  We shall see!

Click here for PAIRINGS and RESULTS.
Scores updated on Saturday evening after Round 5.

  • NM Andrew Hong 2255 5.0 -- clear leader
  • David Pan 2087 MSJE 4.5 -- tied for 2nd
  • Karthik Padmanabhan 2021 4.5 -- tied for 2nd
  • Rishith Susarla 1906 MSJE 3.5
  • Annapoorni Meiyappan 1656 MSJE 3.5
  • Daniel Mendelevitch 1643 3.0
  • Kavya Sasikumar 1438 3.0
  • MSJE team 1772 14.5/20 -- tied for 1st

Coach Joe with MSJE K-6 team at States.
  • Milind Maiti 1899 4.5 -- tied for 5th
  • William Sartorio 1814 4.5 -- tied for 5th
  • Anaiy Somalwar 1887 3.5
  • Chenyi Zhao 1815 3.0
  • Oliver Wu 1789 3.0
  • Leo Jiang 1404 MSJE 3.0
  • Jeffrey Liu 1287 MSJE 3.0
  • Abhinav Raghavendra 1167 MSJE 3.0
  • MSJE team 1298 11.5/20 -- tied for 6th


  • Maurya Palusa 1831 4.5 -- tied for 4th
  • Kevin Pan 1807 MSJE 4.5 -- tied for 4th
  • Christopher Yoo 1761 4.0
  • Stephen He 1247 MSJE 3.5
  • Aidan Chen 1199 MSJE 3.5
  • Arnav Lingannagari 1211 MSJE 3.0
  • MSJE team 1366 14.5/20 -- 4th place

  • Sriram Krishnakumar 1323 5.0  -- co-leader
  • Adrian Kondakov 1500 4.0
  • Nitish Nath 1067 4.0 
  • Nikhil Parvathaneni 1034 3.5
  • Nikko Le 804 3.0
  • Jason Liu 439 MSJE 3.0

Best of luck to all of the players!  Bring home the hardware!

Thursday, May 7

Play Team 45 45 on ICC This Summer

The Team 45 45 League on the Internet Chess Club is accepting signups for a new tournament! Every participant plays one game each week for 6 weeks (plus playoffs) against different opponents at a mutually negotiated time. The time control is 45 minutes plus a 45 second increment for every move; thus, a typical game lasts 2-3 hours. The league, which has been active on ICC for over 15 years, offers sections at 200 rating point intervals, allowing everyone the opportunity to play near their own rating.  There is no cost to join the league, but ICC membership is required.  You also must achieve a non-provisional ICC standard rating based on at least 20 games.

I have played in T4545L off and on for a decade, and I also volunteer as a TD. Over the years, many of my students have played in the league--great for tournament practice! There are several local teams. Please email me for contacts. The league is both highly recommended and fun to play!

Don't try this at home!
Before joining, please carefully read the Quick Guide and Player Handbook. The T4545L has a few strict rules that require a modest degree of personal responsibility.  You have 7 days to play each round.  When negotiating a time to play, it helps to be a little flexible in your availability, either after work or school on several days of the week, or on most weekends. If you're busy at a big weekend tournament, or out of town on vacation, you may wish to ask your captain to sit out that week. Feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

T65 Schedule 
  • Team Entries Open May 12
  • Team Entries Close May 26
  • Round 1 Begins on June 2
  • End of Round 6 on July 14
  • Playoffs Begin July 21

Warning: The league takes computer cheating very seriously, and checks all games.

Tuesday, May 5

CalChess Crowns New Scholastic Champs

Playing room for divisions playing on 2-day schedule. Credit: ChessDryad

The 40th CalChess Scholastic Championship drew over 900 participants, their families and coaches to the Santa Clara Convention Center.  Despite the mass of humanity at the start of each round and a country music concert across the street, most of the kids enjoyed playing chess.  Many thanks to Bay Area Chess for organizing this complex event, especially Judit Sztaray plus her most experienced directors Tom Langland and John McCumiskey.

TD Tom and Coach Joe with MSJE K-5 team.
Kudos to top seeded FM Cameron Wheeler for winning the challenging High School division for an unprecedented third straight year!  Incredibly, Cam is just a freshman and could conceivably win another three times.  His school, Monta Vista High School of Cupertino, easily claimed first place, nearly doubling the next best score.

The Elementary School divisions were dominated by well-established chess programs based in Fremont.  Mission San Jose Elementary, guided by veteran coach Joe Lonsdale, swept the K-6, K-5 and K-3 championships for the fourth straight year!  However, crosstown rival Weibel Elementary proved competitive in all three divisions, especially in K-6 where a half point separated first and second.  NorCal House of Chess won the club competition in both K-6 and K-5, but Liu Chess Club pulled ahead in K-3.  I tip my hat to Coach Ted Castro and Coach Wei Liu.

Congratulations to all of the State Champions!

Individual Champions
  • K-12: FM Cameron Wheeler
  • Denker Invitee: FM Vignesh Panchanatham
  • K-8: CM Pranav Senthilkumar
  • Barber Invitee: FM Rayan Taghizadeh
  • Girl's Invitee: Simona Nayberg
  • K-6: Eeswar Sree Kurli and Daniel Cheng
  • K-5: Rishith Susarla
  • K-3: Adrian Kondakov, Aghilan Nachiappan, Joon Kim and Prarthan Ghosh
  • K: Nitish Nath and Vaibhav Krishnan

Team and Club Champions
  • K-12 Team: Monta Vista HS (Cupertino)
  • K-8 Team: Miller MS (Cupertino)
  • K-8 Club: NorCal House of Chess (Fremont)
  • K-6 Team: Mission San Jose Elementary (Fremont)
  • K-6 Club: NorCal House of Chess (Fremont)
  • K-5 Team: Mission San Jose Elementary (Fremont)
  • K-5 Club: NorCal House of Chess (Fremont)
  • K-3 Team: Mission San Jose Elementary (Fremont)
  • K-3 Club: Liu Chess Club (Palo Alto)

Youth Movement for Team USA

Shankland draws with Armenia's top board Levon Aronian at World Team.

The USA National Team for chess is undergoing an extreme makeover, with youngsters replacing the old guard of the past decade.  Just look at the USA Top 10 list.  Start with two players near the pinnacle of the world rankings.  Then ask Who's on Third?  Add to the mix a talented new kid from Ukraine who officially changed federations in the past week.  Now observe that 6 of the 10 are 25 years old or younger.

Indeed, the 2015 US champion Hikaru Nakamura can suddenly himself a veteran at the tender age of 27.  Since former champion Gata Kamsky already announced his retirement from international play, and Alexander Onischuk cannot be far behind, it appears likely that the American squad at next year's Chess Olympiad will average under 25 years

USA Top 10 - May FIDE Rating
    Naroditsky in deep thought at World Team.
  1. #4 Hikaru Nakamura 2799, age 27
  2. #7 Wesley So 2778, age 21
  3. #64 Ray Robson 2674, age 20
  4. #65 Gata Kamsky 2673, age 40
  5. #71 Alexander Onischuk 2662, age 39
  6. #91 Sam Shankland 2656, age 23
  7. #128 Yaroslav Zherebukh 2639, age 21
  8. #131 Alex Lenderman 2636, age 25
  9. #141 Varuzhan Akobian 2632, age 31
  10. #165 Daniel Naroditsky 2622, age 19

Friday, May 1

NorCal Top 20 Junior High + High School

Yian Liou will graduate next month.
Kesav Viswanadha playing at UT-B.

Top 20 JHS and High School
(Age 12-17)

  1. IM Liou, Yian (17) 2501
  2. IM Viswanadha, Kesav (15) 2386
  3. FM Wheeler, Cameron (14) 2386
  4. Vignesh Panchanatham won Denker
    qualifier. (photo from WYCC 2014)
  5. FM Panchanatham, Vignesh (15) 2365
  6. NM Zhu, Jack Qijie (16) 2298
  7. NM Richter, Paul (17) 2278
  8. NM Chow, Colin (15) 2261
  9. NM Banik, Siddharth G (14) 2255
  10. NM Wang, Michael (13) 2249
  11. FM Taghizadeh, Rayan (12) 2226
  12. NM Virtanen, Teemu (15) 2218
  13. NM Iyengar, Udit (15) 2215
  14. NM Beilin, Allan (15) 2205
  15. NM Zhao, Art (15) 2204
  16. NM Nagarajan, Pranav (15) 2200
  17. nm Jirasek, Ladia (14) 2196
  18. Wang, Michael Lei (15) 2183   
  19. Apte, Neel (16) 2180
  20. nm Sun, Jerome (17) 2180
  21. Tao, Jeffrey (14) 2169

Check out this table for rating changes over the past year and FIDE ratings. 
Generated from the USCF Top 100 lists.
Last updated using the April 2015 supplement.

NorCal Top 20 Elementary

NM Andrew Hong. By Chessdryad
nm Josiah Stearman. By Daily Cal

Top 20 Elementary
(Age 11 & Under)

  1. NM Hong, Andrew Zhang (10) 2255
  2. nm Stearman, Josiah Paul (11) 2100
  3. Pan, David (11) 2087
  4. Daggupati, Balaji (10) 2010
  5. Feng, Justin (11) 1993   
  6. CM Chinguun Bayaraa. By Chessdryad
  7. CM Bayaraa, Chinguun (9) 1977
  8. Susarla, Rishith (10) 1906
  9. Maiti, Milind (9) 1899
  10. Somalwar, Anaiy (10) 1887
  11. Chang, Eliam Huai-Yang (11) 1874   
  12. Palusa, Maurya (9) 1831
  13. Peng, Andrew (9) 1831   
  14. Mccarty-Snead, Callaghan (9) 1817
  15. Zhao, Chenyi (11) 1815
  16. Sartorio, William Jiarui (10) 1814
  17. Ho, Stephen R (11) 1813   
  18. Zhang, Jason Shuhe (11) 1810   
  19. Pan, Kevin (9) 1807
  20. WCM Garai, Antara (11) 1804
  21. Yoo, Christopher Woojin (8) 1761   

Check out this table for rating changes over the past year and FIDE ratings. 
Generated from the USCF Top 100 lists.
Last updated using the April 2015 supplement.