More juniors to watch

by admin on July 13, 2013

I got back after midnight last night from my long trip to southern California. After playing in the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles, as mentioned in my last post, I drove to San Diego to attend a math conference. Yesterday I drove all the way back from San Diego to Santa Cruz in one shot. That’s a really long drive, especially if you’re driving on a Friday afternoon when everybody in the greater Los Angeles area is leaving town. When I went to bed last night it felt as if my head was spinning and the road was vibrating underneath me.

I’d like to mention another player who had a noteworthy tournament at the Pacific Southwest, which I didn’t fully appreciate when I was there. (In fact, I still don’t know what he looks like.) Sixteen-year-old Jonathan Homidan finished with a score of 4½-1½, which is even more impressive when you realize that every single one of his opponents was rated above 2300 (and one of his draws was against IM Jack Peters). Now that is some kind of tournament for an Expert!

In fact, this performance rocketed Homidan past the 2200 barrier and far into Master territory. His rating went from 2194 to 2279, which I think may be the most emphatic crashing of the 2200 ceiling I have ever heard of. Can you think of any other players whose first Master rating (excluding people who came to this country already at master strength) was so far over 2200? Let’s look at some recent examples:

  • Atulya Shetty — first master rating 2200
  • Samuel Shankland — first master rating 2201 (In fact, he got his title in the short-lived Bay Area Chess League, which I also played in. So I saw it happen.)
  • Daniel Naroditsky — first master rating 2202
  • Hikaru Nakamura — first master rating 2203
  • Ray Robson — first master rating 2204
  • Samuel Sevian — first master rating 2206
  • Robert Hess — first master rating 2224
  • Conrad Holt — first master rating 2250

Most masters, even child prodigies, just limp over the 2200 barrier the first time. These days, most of the child prodigies play in so many scholastic tournaments that they never get the kind of dramatic surge in strength that would enable them to zoom past the barrier.

Conrad Holt is the only one of the current top juniors who had a breakthrough tournament like Homidan’s. He scored 8½ out of 9 in the under-2200 section of the 2008 World Open, tying for first place (a point and a half ahead of the next player!) and jumping his rating from 2167 to 2250. Interestingly, the guy he tied for first place with never played another USCF tournament game. Can anybody say, “Suspicious?”

Getting back to Homidan, what’s even more impressive about his performance is that in his last two tournaments he has gone from 2146 to 2194 to 2279. In Homidan’s previous tournament (his only other tournament this year), he went 4-0 and finished first. So in 2013 he has a record of 7 wins and 3 draws (85 percent). I’d say that’s a pretty good year!

Again, the only parallel I can find is Holt, who in his last two tournaments as an Expert went from 2124 to 2167 to 2250, scoring a combined 13 wins and 3 draws (91 percent). I think my head is still spinning …

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Brian Wall July 15, 2013 at 7:38 am

I have played Conrad Holt ( Darnoc ) dozens of 5 minute games on ICC, he doesn’t seem to miss any tactics ever. My ex student Tyler Hughes played tons of blitz games at UTD Dallas with Conrad, both on Chess Scholarships. Those games must have been awesome.


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