Best of US Chess 2017: Meet the Judges and Honorable Mentions

In Best of US Chess, we countdown the top ten articles of the year. Find last year’s contest results and the winning 2016 article by IM Kostya Kavutskiy. Look for the top ten countdown starting this weekend. And now, meet this year’s panel of esteemed judges!
Michael Aigner in Copenhagen
Michael Aigner is an active chess master and coach from Sacramento, CA. He goes by the online moniker "f-pawn," referring to his longtime devotion to chess openings that involve the King's Bishop Pawn, especially the Bird (1.f4) and Dutch (1.d4 f5). In fact, he first registered fpawn on ICC way back in 1994 when the server was still called AICS. Check out his chess website and follow him on twitter.
GM Denes Boros, Photo STL Chess Club
Grandmaster Denes Boros came in third in the Hungarian Junior Championship at the age of 14, and was the U16 Olympic Champion in Denizli. He scored his first grand master norm with 10 out of 11 points. He was a grand master journalist at the 2016 Carlsen-Karjakin World Championship Match in New York. He has provided expert grandmaster commentary for The New York Times. You can follow him on twitter at
Evan Rabin
National Master Evan Rabin is the owner of Premier Chess, which currently runs 15 school programs, camps, and private lessons and more in-person nationwide and online globally. For more information, see For daily chess puzzles, news, photos, pedagogy, etc, like our Facebook page: Check out an exciting volunteer Premier Chess is jointly hosting with Make a A Difference Now in Tanzania June 18-27: Application deadline is February 1.
Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz is an emerging chess writer, player, personality, and advocate for the game's growth. As a resident author at Chess^Summit and blogger at, Dan has focused all his energy on sharing his love of chess and making the fundamentals accessible to everyone while sharing his journey from amateur to competitive player. Dan can be reached on Twitter @danschultzchess
Jennifer Vallens with students
Jennifer Vallens is a chess mom who founded OFF da ROOK Entertainment. She teaches beginning chess and runs scholastic tournaments.  Jennifer is thrilled to be serving as a US Chess judge for a fourth year.  She has a background in marketing and enjoys creating opportunities to unite the chess community.   She has been published in several chess journals including Chess Life and New In Chess Magazine and continues to work with GM Timur Gareyev promoting his Blindfold Chess endeavors.   She is a board member of the SCCF (Southern California Chess Federation) and the Karpov Chess School and chairs Outreach for Chess Journalists of America. For more information on OFF da ROOK events or to inquire about her brand marketing services, please visit and email at Click here to show email address.


“Focus on the Person”: Maggie Luo’s Norfolk Gallery

US Chess Editor Jennifer Shahade's interview with Maggie Luo was the bubble article on Best of US Chess 2017.

"Chess is art, science and of course a sport. Chess players are usually depicted as socially awkward or nerdy, but Maggie Luo’s pictures will show that’s not neccesarily the case! In those pictures you can see, more than people staring at chessboard, you actually meet the people behind the moves! It’s important for us to show the world that every chess player have their own styles and personalities. I believe that Maggie Luo’s photos capture just that. A fascinating read by Jennifer Shahade on Maggie Luo’s artistry."-GM Denes Boros 
 One of Luo's photos (of Emily Nguyen, Jennifer Yu and Annie Wang) is featured on the new USChessWomen twitter page banner.  For more work by Maggie, follow her instagram. 

Lessons from the 2017 SPICE Cup by IM Kostya Kavutskiy

Kostya by Betsy Dynako
IM Kavutskiy covers the SPICE Cup and shares some of the most interesting games and positions for the reader to enjoy. I particularly enjoyed the four puzzles in the article. He makes a keen observation that most strong players don't miss a certain move, but rather incorrectly evaluate one of the possible variations after it.- Michael "f-pawn" Aigner
I’m a big fan of Kostya Kavutskiy’s style. He is quick to point out the most interesting moments of a tournament, and is quick to explain why the grandmasters make decisions. A great article filled with good advice, and of course lots of puzzles!- GM Denes Boros  Kostya, who won last year's Best of US Chess for his Eurotrip story, also wrote about the Super Open, the 2017 Isle of Man International. Find his book on the Open Sicilian here and follow him at and his website

The Youngest at the Largest: The K-1 at SuperNationals VI  by Betsy Dynako

"A better title for this article would have been “My socks stink.  I can’t play like this.”  That line made me laugh out loud.  Having worked with children as young as 5 and 6, I can relate to Betsy’s  “unique” experience and understand the patience, sense of humor and flexibility needed to work with this age group.  Betsy had a universal tip for traveling with kids…….crayons!"- Jennifer Vallens "Betsy talks about a section that is rarely talked about, a unique angle."  Evan Rabin  Find out more about Betsy here.

Mode Beast: Rivalries Resolved at Amateur Team South  by Ben Silva  

What else, besides an alien encounter, would draw men, women and children of all ages and all cultures from all corners to converge at four calculated points on one weekend? There was no prize money; the reward was the shared experience and there will be no better word I write from here on out that better exemplifies the spirit of the Amateur Team tournaments than that. Shared.
"Ben Silva does a great job of transferring the enthusiasm and passion he and everyone involved in the event had." - Dan Schultz  "The introduction immediately drew me in and the article kept me engaged throughout.  This article highlights how chess is not just about competition, but how team events foster collaboration.  Ben has a dynamic writing style.  His use of hyperbole (“That is when stuff went sideways quicker than Usain Bolt strapped to a cheetah riding a rocket.”) and use of Imagery (“like a tissue in a pizza oven”) gave the article pizzazz, interest and depth."- Jennifer Vallens 

Chess Tech University: Philosophy & Game Analysis – Part 1 and Part II By 

"Hartmann’s writing is always fascinating and comprehensive, this article is no exception. The philosophic discussions of Dvoretsky and Botvinnik’s approaches are reverent and important." Dan Schultz
The author follows the advice of Botvinnik and Dvoretsky when he postulates that self-analysis of games is an important step to chess improvement. Alas, one should refrain from blindly feeding the game to Stockfish, but rather to first jot down one's own reflections. Most masters use this methodology and the vast majority of amateurs would benefit from it."- Michael "f-pawn" Aigner
For more information on Hartmann, visit his Chess Book Review Website and his Twitter account: @hartmannchess
Look for the unveiling of the top ten articles starting this weekend.