Christopher Yoo Breaks 2500 FIDE; Becomes GM-Elect

It will be a very happy 15th birthday indeed for Christopher Yoo.

With GM three norms under his belt — the Memorial Day 2021 CCCSA GM Norm Invitational, the Labor Day 2021 CCCSA GM Norm Invitational, and the 2021 US Masters — Yoo found himself five rating points shy of the 2500 barrier required to become a Grandmaster after his performance at the US Masters in Charlotte.

Yoo’s father, Young-Kyu Yoo, asked Facebook friends to suggest possible events where Christopher might be able to hunt down those five final points, allowing him to become a GM-Elect before his fifteen birthday. William Graif suggested the Edward Lasker Memorial / Marshall Chess Club Championship, held over two weekends at the historic Marshall Chess Club in New York City.

Only able to play the first weekend due to scheduling conflicts, the pressure was on: could Yoo avoid any “Botez gambits” and pick up those five final points in just five rounds?

This happy face tells the tale better than words ever could:

Christopher Yoo
Image Caption
courtesy subject


Scoring 4½/5, including wins over two FMs and a draw with GM Brandon Jacobson, Yoo appears to have gained 5.2 rating points, putting him just over the 2500 mark, and earning him the GM title at 14 years and 51 weeks — subject to FIDE confirmation, of course.

Here are two games from the event. The first, against veteran FM Konstanin Dolgister, features a tactical flurry worth of a new grandmaster, while the second, against Zachary Tannenbaum, gave him the final point needed to earn his title.

[pgn][Event "Marshall Chess Championship"] [Site "New York"] [Date "2021.12.12"] [Round "2"] [White "Yoo, Christopher"] [Black "Dolgitser, Konstantin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B22"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c3 Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. d4 cxd4 6. cxd4 d6 7. Bc4 b6 8. O-O Bb7 9. Nc3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Be7 11. d5 dxe5 12. dxe6 f6 13. Qc2 Qc8 14. Bb3 O-O 15. Nh4 Na6 16. Rd1 Nc5 17. Nf5 Re8 {[#]} 18. Rd7 $1 Be4 (18... Nxd7 $4 19. exd7+) 19. Nxe7+ Rxe7 20. Qe2 Qe8 21. Ba3 $1 Bc6 22. Bxc5 bxc5 23. Qa6 Be4 ( 23... Rc8 $2 24. Rxe7) 24. f3 Bf5 25. Qb7 Rxe6 (25... Kf8 $2 26. Rxe7 Qxe7 27. Qxa8+) 26. Bxe6+ Bxe6 27. Rxg7+ Kf8 28. Rxh7 1-0 [Event "Marshall Chess Championship"] [Site "New York"] [Date "2021.12.13"] [Round "5"] [White "Yoo, Christopher"] [Black "Tanenbaum, Zachary"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C58"] [Annotator "Hartmann,John"] [PlyCount "59"] [EventDate "2021.??.??"] [EventCountry "USA"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3 Nd5 9. h4 h6 10. Qh5 Qf6 11. Nh7 Rxh7 12. Bxh7 g6 13. Qe2 Nf4 14. Qf3 Qg7 $6 (14... Bb7 $142 15. Nc3 c5 16. Ne4 Qg7 17. d4 O-O-O 18. Bxf4 exf4 19. O-O-O f5 $2 (19... cxd4 $1) 20. dxc5 Rxd1+ 21. Rxd1 Bxe4 22. Qa3 $16 {1/2-1/2 (74) Popov,I (2608)-Moskalenko,A (2535) Moscow 2018}) 15. Qc3 Nxg2+ $2 (15... Bf5 $1 16. Qxa5 Bxc2 17. Nc3 Bd3 $13) 16. Kf1 Nf4 17. Qxa5 Qf6 18. d3 Bh3+ 19. Rxh3 Nxh3 20. Be3 Rb8 21. Qc7 Qd6 22. Qxd6 Bxd6 23. Nd2 Kd7 24. h5 Rxb2 25. hxg6 fxg6 26. Bxg6 Nf4 27. Bf5+ Kc7 28. Bxf4 exf4 29. d4 Bb4 30. Nc4 1-0 [/pgn]

Congratulations to GM-Elect Christopher Yoo!

For those interested in following in the Yoo’s path to the top, here’s some advice from Christopher’s father, Young-Kyu Yoo:

Here is my advice to parents. You might have a coach of master strength or lower until about 2000. We had Wei Liu, who as far as I know has never played tournament chess, but who coached his own son and daughter to master strength, until Christopher was about 1800/2000.

Then, if your kid is ambitious, transition to a coach of GM strength. GM Khachiyan was that coach for us. If your kid makes master and seems to be on track to get to GM, consider adding an openings coach (GM Avrukh for Christopher) until your child can do openings on their own. Sometimes, however, your regular coach can also be the openings coach.

If the child becomes an IM or stronger and seems capable of even higher levels, find a coach who can best guide them to the upper levels. That was GM Aagaard and then (on GM Aagaard's suggestion) GM Shankland for Christopher.

Along the way, if your child shows promise, your child may become eligible for free training. In the U.S., we have the US Chess School that provides free chess camps to strong juniors. The Kasparov Chess Foundation provides free training to a few select kids in the US and, more recently, in Europe and elsewhere. Through the KCF we've been lucky to get training from GM Chernin and GM Onischuk.

Recently, the FIDE Online Academy has become available to strong kids around the world. Unfortunately, their class hours don't work for us here in California and Christopher will likely have to drop out.