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 discussed 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, he said that a coach had recommended the line and he liked it and did some independent research on it.

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.

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.

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.

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 chess-db.com and chess.com.

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. 

Comments

  1. This is an extremely disrespectful comment. Whoever is saying this while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity should be ashamed of themselves for attacking a child for no reason. I don’t know Winston Ni personally, but I know that his score alone proves that he is a deserving champion.

    • Yes, he had a streak of wins. There was no doubt that he was the clear winner. He took 1 bye and won every other game. Winston is a very deserving winner of the section and I wish him good luck in his future chess games.

  2. John Doe, all i see is you taking cheap shots at 12-13 year old kids. Also, ratings dont matter that much in Scholastic Tournaments. Kids come prepared, kids have a good day, kids have a bad day. If you look at the team scores. The top schools in K-8 section are still the same ones from last year and have the same players for the most part.

    • This post is under my name, but I never posted anything yesterday. Can someone please notify me about this problem?

        • Never mind about the reply thing, I think I posted the first reply to the guy who @Matan Prilleltensky was talking about. The anonymous user who was downing people. Sorry I just did not know who my comment was directed at until I realized the person it had been directed at had his comment deleted.

  3. First of all, Ni played *two* players above 2000.

    Second of all, looking at the four players who tied for 2nd-5th with 6.0, Ni faced a stronger field than any of them. Ni faced an average rating of 1930. Only Turgut faced a comparable field, his opponent’s averaged 1919. Turgut did however lose to a 1979 player. Dhar’s highest rated opponent was 1979 (Kothapalli, the same player who defeated Turgut), Polovaram’s was 1872, Maiti’s was 1940.

    Finally, to go 6-0 against an average rating of 1930 is over 2300 performance which I would say is no joke.

  4. A New York area player gets trashed on the USChess website? Hardly surprising, but anti-Northeast comments never get pulled. Never.

    Congratulations to Winston Ni. As for the pairings, you can only play and beat the players the tournament gives you. What was he supposed to do, ask for harder pairings? I am sure “John Doe” would have….lol.

  5. All NJPRIN players used the same strategy, taking a bye in early rounds to have an easier pairing combination. Pretty sure other teams will copy it soon.

    • That is definitely not the reason why players were taking byes. They felt that they would have more energy for thenlater rounds. 7 games g/120 in 3 days is grueling and everyone plans for it in different ways. Taking a bye is a huge risk, it hurts your tiebreaks and you usually have to play from behind. If you actually looked at the section k-8 was deep of having players from 1900 and above. With accelerated pairings necessary this year, the first round was a 1700 cut. 7 grueling games!

        • That’s fine if your kid is home schooled but most kids are not. Taking 2-3 days off from this normal middle school is extremely difficult if not impossible,. Plus that means parents would have to take more time off from work – fine if you’re retired but again most people just can’t afford that,. Also you’re talking about adding another night of hotel costs. Attendance would plummet and people would take even more byes,.

          • They could also shorten the time controls. And while they are it, reveal the identities of all anonymous cowards…I mean posters.

  6. Ever since the uscf started allowing anonymous comments there has been an increase in hostility outright trolling, and total lack of civility (See Chris yoo article as well as others). The uscf should bring back member or registered comments only.

  7. We at Princeton Day School, (PDS) are so, so proud of Winston Ni, and his entire team! What an inspiration he and his team is for our younger chess players. He shared and taught a great lesson at our Chess Day celebration at PDS not only to the chess players, but to the parents as well.

    CONGRATULATIONS Winston! You have done a marvelous job and should be so proud of yourself. We are so proud of you!

    Edith and Gio

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