Wednesday, November 18

Meet Team USA

Pranav and Griffin battle at the 2018
World Junior for Players with Disabilities.
Credit: Dora L. Martinez

This article does not introduce the usual suspects named Fabiano, Wesley and Hikaru. While those gentlemen play a mean game of chess, they are not special enough to qualify for this team. The six members of Team USA competing at the FIDE Online Olympiad for People with Disabilities drive wheelchairs, wear limb supports, endure surgeries and therapies, perceive the world from one eye, struggle with social interactions and still thrive amidst a laundry list of unique circumstances.

Without further ado, please meet Team USA:

  1. NM Michael Aigner from California, 2207 USCF, 2006 FIDE
  2. Griffin McConnell (age 16) from Colorado, 2051 USCF, 1823 FIDE 
  3. Pranav Shankar (age 13) from New Jersey, 1914 USCF, 1499 FIDE
  4. Jessica Lauser from Missouri, 1804 USCF, unrated FIDE
  5. Oskar Zoffer (age 11) from Massachusetts, 1680 USCF, unrated FIDE
  6. Nguyen Tran (age 8) from Louisiana, 1132 USCF, unrated FIDE
Team captain is NM Lior Lapid from Colorado, 2302 USCF, 2124 FIDE.

Jessica Lauser won the US Blind
Championship the last three years!
Credit: Mike Dudley of Maine Chess

While the top four boards have an average USCF rating of 1994, the tournament uses an average FIDE rating of 1582 by assigning unrated players as 1000. This leaves the Americans seeded 39th out of 61 teams. Winning a medal seems unlikely given the fierce competition, but this young team aspires to surprise opponents and improve on its initial ranking. 

Stay tuned for updates. The first round begins on Saturday at 6:00 AM Pacific time. All games should be broadcast on Chess24. Go U-S-A!

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