Monday morning updates

by admin on October 29, 2012

Randall Hough’s report on the Western States Open finally went up at Chess Life Online, a week after the event ended. So I can now finally tell you that Alexander Ivanov won the tiebreaking playoff over Tatev Abrahamyan. I’m also pleased to report that Randy did, in fact, include the full game score of my queen-sac swindle against Colin Chow, along with a little bit of Houdini-assisted analysis. So if any of you were wondering how we got to the position in this post, now you can find out. (Or you can wait a couple months for my ChessLecture.)

I still haven’t had time to study the Chow game carefully myself, but one interesting thing that came out of the Houdini analysis is that the illustrated position is in fact a win for Black. During the game I had thought that White could still hold a draw with 41. Kf1, but Houdini says Black has a mate in 13 (!) beginning with 41. … Rxh2. So White’s losing move was in fact 40. Rf2? Hough asks whether this might have been a time pressure mistake, but it wasn’t; Chow had plenty of time left. Of the other two moves, 40. Kf1 obviously loses the exchange immediately and still leaves White’s king in danger, and 40. Qf2 leads to an immediate draw by repetition after 40. … Qd5 41. Qg2 Qd4+. The blunder 40. Rf2? had nothing to do with time trouble: I’m sure that Chow still thought he was winning and had no idea that this was his last chance to save a draw. The response 40. … Qe3! was pretty subtle, although that is of course no excuse for White failing to see it.

Meanwhile, life goes on, and this weekend brought another tournament (actually, two of them) to the Bay Area: the U.S. Game/30 Championship and the U.S. Game/60 Championship. I did not play in either of them, but I drove my student Linnea Nelson to the Game/60, which was played on Sunday. She played in the Class D section and scored 2-2. She had some interesting games and positions, and I might show you one or two of them in my next post.

It seems to me that the level of play in Class D nowadays (at least in the Bay Area) is much better than it was when I was starting out. I think that may be because there are so many youngsters battling for a limited supply of rating points. It has always been the case that when playing in Class D, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into. Are you facing a true 1300 player, or are you facing a kid who is way underrated and is actually 1500 strength? But in past times and places, you would have some true 1300s mixed in with the rapidly-improving true 1500s. In the Bay Area in 2012, that is not the case. Every one of Linnea’s ten tournament games has been against boys under 14, most of them actually under 12. I’m not sure that she has gotten to play a “true” Class D player yet!

Even so, she did pick up a few rating points, from 1228 to 1253, and we were both excited by her last game, a Dragon Sicilian where she was Black and won with a rook sacrifice on c3. (Note: Normally it’s an exchange sacrifice, but in this case it was a whole rook because her opponent had moved his knight away from c3 and pushed his pawn up in a misguided attempt to give his king more breathing room.) She said it was the first time she has played a rook sacrifice other than in bullet chess. “Which doesn’t count.”

The top section came down, as expected, to a game between the two grandmasters at the tournament, GM Walter Browne and GM Enrico Sevillano. That’s right, Browne, after his long hibernation from chess, now seems to be playing everywhere! I didn’t stick around for the finish, but from the crosstable (already posted at Bay Area Chess) I can tell you that Sevillano won. The really remarkable thing is who came in second: Michael Wang, who crunched Aleksandr Ivanov (no, not that Alexander Ivanov but an expert from the Bay Area) on board two.

I absolutely cannot keep up with all the hotshot kids in the Bay Area, so Michael Wang had previously escaped my notice. But I can tell you it was a shock to see a kid playing on board two in the last round who looked no older than any of Linnea’s opponents in the Class D section! As it turns out, he is the fourth-ranked 10-year-old in the country, and judging from this tournament I think he is not going to be fourth-ranked very much longer. Of course, there is a catch… he also isn’t going to be 10 years old forever!

Just for the heck of it, here are the fourth-rated players of each age according to the USCF website this morning.

  • Age 8: Ajay Krishnan, California, 1820
  • Age 9: Brian Gu, Texas, 1899
  • Age 10: Michael Wang, California, 2095 (after this weekend)
  • Age 11: Albert Lu, California, 2190
  • Age 12: Tommy He, Texas, 2220
  • Age 13: James Black, Jr., New York, 2266
  • Age 14: Christopher Gu, Rhode Island, 2385
  • Age 15: Varun Krishnan, California, 2384
  • Age 16: Atulya Shetty, Michigan, 2441
  • Age 17: Kevin Mo, Pennsylvania, 2332
  • Age 18: Howard Chen, Washington, 2416

It’s interesting to see the plateau that seems to set in at around age 14 and a rating of 2300-2400. I don’t know exactly what it means, except that even hotshot kids don’t keep improving forever.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon October 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I think you missed a possible explanation for the plateau effect here: it wasn’t always the case that there were so many kids improving so rapidly. Rather, that has only been such a huge trend in the last few years. So, the older kids (age 14+, say) weren’t really part of the modern generation of rapidly improving kids. I suspect that the kids who are 4th (or so) in the lower age brackets now will continue to improve at a faster rate than the older kids of today, so they may reach 2500+ by age 18.


admin October 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Very nice, Simon! I believe that statisticians call this the “censoring effect.” My data on the current crop of kids are, in effect, censored because their futures havent happened yet.


Paul October 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I would be interested in reading your opinion on how rare individuals scream past the plateau (with or without the censoring effect)…or is it simply because they are rare? I like your site! Paul


Praveen November 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

It could also be that the 2300 level is an asymptote, so that no matter what your age is, it’s essentially bounded at that level. You simply run out of similar rated opponents to play against and stagnation ensues. I suppose, kids are starting out with chess at an early age nowadays, unlike people who discover the game when they’re half-senile! Still, eventually, everyone has to hit a ceiling at sometime, or else we’ll all be IMs.


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