Arthur Guo and Winston Ni Win Big in Atlanta

FM Arthur Guo, a 6th grader playing in his hometown of Atlanta, won the National K-9 Junior High Championship. This was not Arthur's first victory on the big National stage. When he was a 4th grader, Arthur won the National Elementary. But in this case, Arthur's win was even more impressive, being three years off the maximum grade level.

Executive Director Carol Meyer with Arthur Guo. Photo Jim Doyle

 Grandmaster Michael Rohde (and co-writer of this article) interviewed Arthur, asking if he knew who the first 6th grader to win the National Junior High was. When Arthur was stumped, GM Rohde told him – it was me! Then Arthur asked if, since then, anyone younger has won the National Junior High. Rohde was then stumped. Arthur scored 6.5/7, coming in clear first. However, Arthur had a small hiccup in the last round of the tournament, threatening that sole status. He mistakenly thought that Ricky Wang had 5.0/6 going into the last round when in fact, Ricky had 5.5. This meant that should Ricky win his last game, he could be co-champions with Arthur. Therefore, the 6th grader went for a draw instead of fighting for a win. Arthur received his sole champion title anyway when Ricky drew NM Aristo Liu in the last round. Arthur showed a great knowledge of chess history when GM Rohde asked about his 5th-round game against Vincent Baker, in which he tried to play the Gothenburg Variation of the Najdorf – so named because three Argentinians played it simultaneously against three Russians at the 1955 Gothenburg Interzonal (although Baker exchanged off his bishop rather than face 9 Bh4 g5). When asked how he knew all of this, Arthur said that a coach had recommended the line and he liked it and did some independent research on it.

[pgn] [Event "2018 K-9 National Championship"] [Site "Atlanta"] [Round "?"] [White "Baker, Vincent"] [Black "Guo, Arthur"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B98"] [PlyCount "74"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [SourceDate "2018.04.11"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.04.11"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Be7 8. Qf3 h6 9. Bxf6 Bxf6 10. O-O-O Qb6 11. Nb3 Qc7 12. Qd3 Be7 13. f5 Nc6 14. Be2 Ne5 15. Qg3 O-O 16. Rhf1 Bf6 17. h4 b5 18. a3 Qe7 19. Rh1 Bb7 20. Qf2 Rac8 21. Na5 Ba8 22. Qb6 Nc6 23. Bf3 Nxa5 24. Qxa5 Bb7 25. Rd3 Bxh4 26. Kb1 Bf6 27. a4 bxa4 28. Qb4 Be5 29. Nxa4 Rb8 30. Rb3 Qc7 31. Qd2 Bc6 32. Nc3 a5 33. g4 a4 34. Ra3 Qb6 35. Ra2 Qb4 36. g5 Bxc3 37. Qc1 Bd2 0-1[/pgn]
Arthur did not refer to having a favorite player, but in the notes he provided to his decisive 6th-round game against Marcus Miyasaka, he emulated a great win by Fabiano Caruana with the mysterious 9. Bd2 in the Ruy Lopez in the Candidates. That victory brought Arthur to a score of 6-0.
[pgn] [Event "2018 K-9 National Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.04.08"] [Round "?"] [White "Guo, Arthur"] [Black "Miyasaka, Marcus"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C88"] [WhiteElo "2322"] [BlackElo "2284"] [PlyCount "115"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] {Notes by Arthur Guo} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. Re1 O-O 9. Bd2 {This new move (but not novelty) comes from two games of the recent Candidates tournament in Berlin. Grischuck played this move and drew Aronian and then Fabiano used it to beat Aronian right in the next round. I chose this move to surprise my opponent.} Be6 {My opponent spent a long time for this move.} (9... Bg4 {is how Aronian proceeded against Caruana.} 10. c3 d5 11. h3 Bh5 12. Qe2 Rb8 13. Bg5 dxe4 14. dxe4 h6 15. Bc1 $2 Bg6 16. Nbd2 Nh5 17. Nf1 Bc5 18. g3 Kh7 19. Kg2 Qe7 20. Bc2 Rfd8 21. b4 Bb6 22. a4 Nf6 23. Nh4 Qe6 24. Bd3 Bh5 25. g4 Bxg4 26. hxg4 Nxg4 27. Nf5 Nxf2 28. Bc2 g6 29. N1e3 gxf5 30. exf5 Qf6 31. Qxf2 e4 32. Rh1 Rd6 33. Bxe4 Rg8+ 34. Kf1 Ne5 35. Qf4 c6 36. axb5 Rg5 37. bxa6 Qd8 38. f6+ Ng6 39. Rxh6+ {1-0 (39) Caruana,F (2784)-Aronian,L (2794) Berlin 2018}) 10. Nc3 Nd4 11. Nxd4 exd4 12. Ne2 c5 13. Nf4 Bc8 14. Nd5 (14. c3 $5 {breaking up the center.} dxc3 15. bxc3 Bb7 16. a4 $14) 14... Nxd5 15. Bxd5 Rb8 16. Bf4 Be6 {the right move. No allowing white to have the d5 square for the queen.} (16... Bb7 $2 {during the game I thought this move was bad because the d5 square could open for my queen.} 17. Bxb7 Rxb7 18. Qh5 $14) 17. Qf3 Bg5 18. Bg3 Bxd5 19. exd5 Bh4 20. Re4 Bxg3 21. Qxg3 { Now white uses the d6 as a target.} Qd7 22. Rae1 Rbe8 23. h4 {Making luft for the king and signifying h4-h5.} Rxe4 24. Rxe4 h6 25. h5 Rd8 26. Rg4 {Provoking another light squared weakness, e6.} f6 27. Re4 Qb7 28. Qg6 Qf7 29. Re6 $16 a5 30. g4 a4 31. Qe4 Kf8 32. Qh7 b4 33. Qh8+ Qg8 34. Qxg8+ Kxg8 35. Re7 { Objectively this endgame is equal, but black's next few moves have to be precise. It's even harder when you're down on time.} b3 36. cxb3 axb3 37. a3 c4 $2 (37... f5 {could still hold the balance.} 38. gxf5 Rf8 {only move.}) 38. dxc4 $16 Rc8 39. Rb7 Rxc4 40. Rxb3 f5 41. gxf5 Rc5 42. Rd3 Rxd5 43. b4 Kf7 44. Kf1 Ke8 45. Rg3 Rxf5 46. Rxg7 Rxh5 47. Ke2 Rh3 48. a4 {the rest is simple.} Rb3 49. a5 Ra3 50. b5 Rxa5 51. b6 Rb5 52. b7 Kd8 53. f4 h5 54. f5 h4 55. f6 h3 56. b8=Q+ Rxb8 57. Rg8+ Kc7 58. Rxb8 1-0[/pgn]
In round 7, Arthur played carefully against Brandon Yan Xia, and won the event with 6.5 out of 7. On weekdays, Arthur tries to get in an hour of study a day, but makes up for this on those weekends which can either involve travel to the most competitive tournaments, up to five hours of chess study per day on Saturday and Sunday. Arthur’s dad Mike Guo explained their learning philosophy as follows: In terms of coaching, I would say his main coach is himself. I believe the most important way to improve is to get into the habit of studying by yourself as EARLY as possible. I learned this from "Chess Child"  by Gary Robson; the book is about his son Ray Robson's chess journey. In fact I think every chess parent should read this book! So most of the time he studies by himself, he would sit there five, six hours straight following super GM tournaments, even by skipping meals. Chess is no different from other competitive sports - passion is the ultimate motivation and can take kids very far. I hope the above would help some other chess kids and parents out there who are looking to improve. Rohde agrees: While coaching can provide unique value at many different stages of chess development, there is nothing that makes up for individual initiative, and curiosity about the game. Next, Arthur is aiming to achieve IM-norm performances, and will again represent the USA at the upcoming World Youth this fall. By the strength of his performance in this tournament, though, one has to wonder: in what grade will he win the National High School Championship? A “Bittersweet” Victory

Carol Meyer with Winston Ni, K-8 Champion, Photo Jim Doyle

 In the last round of the K-8 championship, there were many players who could possibly win the title of champion. If Alex Chen drew his game against NM Aydin Turgut and Winston Ni drew his game against Daniel Cheng, there would have been multiple people with six points, tying for first. Winston Ni fought hard in his last game, though, and came out on top, with clear first. He scored 6.5/7, winning all his games, as he took a bye in round 4.  The K-8 Championship culminated in round 7 in a close ending between Winston and Daniel Cheng, as both players had a queen and five pawns. Winston’s patience and persistence in that game enabled him to secure the victory and the Championship. Although Winston Ni and his father celebrated his big championship win happily, it was apparently still a “bittersweet” victory. Hong Ni, Winston’s father, uses such an adjective because “it has been such a hard fought tournament as well as the tough road leading up to the tournament.” He must have seen and appreciated how hard Winston worked for his championship title. Currently, Winston is at his peak, adding points to his rating almost every tournament.  After he tied for third at the Grade Nationals in December and only scored 4/6 in the Greater New York Scholastic Championship, he was gunning for this tournament’s national title. Since those scholastic events, he has impressively scored 5.5/6 at the U.S. Amateur Team East in February and recently played in the Liberty Bell and Philadelphia Open. Winston also enjoys the quicker events at the Marshall Chess Club in NYC and the Westfield (NJ) Chess Club, along with the big open tournaments and scholastic championship tournaments. Winston’s hard work and tournament playing paid off this past championship. We can see Winston’s dynamic style at work in his round 5 game against Shreyas Reddy, in which he forces a transition to a favorable Sicilian ending, which he later converted.

[pgn] [Event "K-8 Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.04.07"] [Round "?"] [White "Shreyas Reddy"] [Black "Winston Ni"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B83"] [Annotator "Rohde,Michael"] [PlyCount "86"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [SourceDate "2015.07.11"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Be2 e6 7. O-O Be7 8. Be3 O-O 9. Qd2 {It is more traditional to play 9 f4 with the idea of Qd1-e1-g3. } a6 10. f4 (10. a4 {may be a better companion move to 9 Qd2. Then} Bd7 (10... Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bd7 12. Qe3 Bc6 13. b4 {seems pleasant for White.}) 11. Nb3 b6 { and the bishop will recycle itself back to b7.} ({Definitely not} 11... Na5 12. Nxa5 Qxa5 13. Nd5)) 10... Bd7 11. a4 ({If} 11. Nb3 b5) 11... Nxd4 12. Bxd4 Bc6 13. Bf3 (13. Qe3 Nd7 14. Qg3 e5 {gets the Black knight comfortably to e5.}) 13... d5 (13... e5 {looks preferable here. Then} 14. Be3 exf4 15. Bxf4 Nd7 16. Nd5 Ne5 {is about even.}) 14. Qe3 {This runs into an effective exchanging sequence.} (14. e5 Nd7 (14... Ne4 15. Bxe4 dxe4 16. Qe3 {leaves White in control.}) 15. Qf2 b6 16. f5 Bc5 {is one very complicated possibility.}) 14... dxe4 15. Nxe4 Nd5 16. Qd2 Nxf4 17. Bxg7 Qxd2 18. Nxd2 Kxg7 19. Bxc6 Nh3+ 20. gxh3 bxc6 {Black emerges with the much better endgame.} 21. Rf3 Rad8 22. Nc4 Rd5 23. Raf1 f5 24. Kg2 Kf6 25. b3 h5 26. Kh1 Rfd8 27. Kg2 Rd1 28. Re3 Rxf1 29. Kxf1 Bc5 30. Re2 f4 31. Kg2 Rd5 32. Kf3 e5 33. Re1 Kf5 34. Re2 Bd4 35. Nd2 Be3 36. Ne4 Rd4 37. Ng3+ fxg3 38. Rxe3 gxh2 39. Re1 Rd2 40. Rc1 e4+ 41. Kg3 h4+ 42. Kxh4 Rg2 43. Rh1 e3 0-1[/pgn]
He also showed an aggressive handling of the quiet London System in round 3 against Ambica Yellamraju; Winston was particularly complimentary of his opponent’s play in that hard-fought battle.
[pgn] [Event "2018 K-9 National Championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "2018.04.08"] [Round "?"] [White "Ni, Winston"] [Black "Yellamraju, Ambica "] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A47"] [PlyCount "105"] [EventDate "2018.??.??"] [SourceDate "2018.04.11"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.04.11"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Bf4 e6 3. e3 Be7 4. Bd3 b6 5. Nf3 Bb7 6. Nbd2 d6 7. e4 d5 8. e5 Ne4 9. Qe2 Nxd2 10. Bxd2 c5 11. c3 Nc6 12. a3 a5 13. h4 Qc8 14. Rc1 Ba6 15. h5 Bxd3 16. Qxd3 c4 17. Qe2 h6 18. g4 Qd8 19. Rg1 Qd7 20. g5 O-O-O 21. gxh6 gxh6 22. Bf4 b5 23. Qc2 Nb8 24. Ke2 Rde8 25. Rce1 Nc6 26. Rg7 Reg8 27. Rxg8+ Rxg8 28. Bxh6 Rh8 29. Qd2 Qe8 30. Rg1 Rh7 31. Qf4 Nd8 32. Nh2 Bf8 33. Bxf8 Qxf8 34. Rg5 b4 35. axb4 axb4 36. Ng4 bxc3 37. bxc3 Qh8 38. Nf6 Rh6 39. Qd2 Rxf6 40. exf6 Qxf6 41. Re5 Qg7 42. Qg5 Qh7 43. Re3 Kd7 44. h6 Qc2+ 45. Kf3 Nc6 46. Qg7 Qf5+ 47. Kg2 Ne7 48. Rf3 Qe4 49. h7 Ng6 50. h8=Q Nh4+ 51. Qxh4 Qxh4 52. Qxf7+ Kd6 53. Qf4+ 1-0 [/pgn]
Often in the 7-round Nationals events, players may schedule a half-point bye in round 5, the Saturday night round. This is often a good idea for players who have arrived at the host city on the Friday morning (rather than Thursday night) or if the player is not used to late games. However, Winston took the novel approach of taking a strategic round 4 bye (the middle round of the 3-round Saturday). Hong Ni commented on the need for this bye: “I just think 3 rounds of G/120 is too much for him since he tends to play long games. I’d rather he play 6 rounds of solid chess. This is not a Championship strategy, just a compromise given the schedule.” The bye created the self-imposed pressure of needing to win every single game that he played to get to the winning score of 6.5, which is of course exactly what happened! Perhaps the bye was truly what he needed after all. Currently, Winston is working through the first volume of Kasparov’s “My Great Predecessors”, and for tactical training, two of his favorites are “Calculation” by Jacob Aagaard, and “Imagination in Chess” by Paata Gaprindashvili. Particularly for scholastic events, Winston relies, for database and openings preparation, on and The Junior High Nationals kicked off soon after the resounding victory by Fabiano Caruana in the Candidates, and coincided with Fabiano's win at the Grenke Chess Classic in Baden-Baden. US Chess offered players the opportunity to sign massive cards to Caruana, as captured by Jim Doyle. ED Carol Meyer said that the reaction to the announcement was resounding, "Players cheered enthusiastically in support of Fabiano Caruana, and jumped at the chance to wish him well in his quest for the crown."

Signing cards to Fabiano Caruana, Photo Jim Doyle

Highlights from Twitter and our Photo Album The Girls Room was another popular feature of this year's Junior High School Championships, which I wrote more about in the first report.   It is great to see the presence of girls and women at these National events is growing in both numbers and prominence. Nastassja ended up with 4.5/7.

WIM Carolina Blanco giving a simul, Photo Vanessa Sun Rochelle scored 5.5/7.

Rochelle Wu by Jim Doyle
Pre-game nap, Photo Jim Doyle

Side Event Awards   The Guests

FM Robby Adamson was a special guest. US Chess thanks Robby for his generous sponsorship of the 2018 All-American team.

  Team Winners IS 318, famously featured in Brooklyn Castle, won the K-9 Championship team competition by four points.

IS 318, Photo Jim Doyle

Princeton Day School, led by individual champion Winston Ni, took down the K-8 Championship title. Masterman School in Philadelphia won the K-9 Under 1250, while Henderson Middle School from Texas won the K-8 Under 1000 and the K-8 Under 750. Highland Oaks Middle School won the Unrated section. Find a full list of winners here, and look for more information on our next National Championships, the All-Girls Nationals and the High School National Championships in Columbus, Ohio.