Christopher Yoo Breaks Record for Youngest Ever Master

img_93739-year-old Christopher Yoo made US Chess history at the 9th David Elliott Memorial on November 19th, when he broke the 2200 barrier, 30 days shy of his 10th birthday on December 19th.

Yoo broke Max Lu’s previous record for the youngest American master by two days. The event, which was just confirmed on US Chess’s MSA, was held in Allentown, PA and won by GM Bryan Smith.

This victory over Antonio Scalzo (2225), put Christopher over the top. Yoo told US Chess that he stopped notating when he got down to five minutes, at which point he had a winning position.

And here is one of Christopher’s favorite games:

Christopher’s upcoming plans include playing in the US Amateur Team West for the Bay Area Chess team and participating in the SuperNationals.

When asked about advice for other aspiring US Chess masters, Yoo advised players to focus on tactics till they reached 1500, and “do them in your head without moving pieces around.” Specific recommendations include, CT-ART and lots of repetition on relatively simple tactics, like the ones in Susan Polgar’s book.


Christopher’s father Young-Kyu Yoo said, “IM Emory Tate once told us “all chess is good chess” and though we try to avoid having Christopher, say, play bullet chess right before a big tournament, we do let him play all forms of chess in general as it encourages his love of the game.  Curiously however, though he loves blitz and bullet now, he did not use to enjoy them because he hated blundering and making what he called “hand slippers.””

The Yoo family wants to thank all of his coaches and supporters, including:

  • Coach GM Melikset Khachiyan for helping Christopher earn these last hard couple of hundred rating points.
  • Coach NM Bruce Pandolfini who has given us a lot of wise counsel on both chess and life over the past couple of years.
  •  The Bay Area Chess Elite Team for their support and training.  The team is led by GM Cristian Chirila and GM Daniel Naroditsky and organized by Abel Talamantez and Judit Sztaray.
  •  His first coach, Wei Liu, who got him to A/Expert level with his emphasis on drilling on tactics and calculation.
  •  The Berkeley Chess School, whose programs first introduced Christopher to chess and chess tournaments.
  • img_9712 The US Chess School and Greg Shahade for their camps and support.
  • Many other people have helped and taught Christopher along the way, including IM Steven Zierk, NM Richard Beale, Dave Ceponis, Bill Skog, GM Jesse Kraai, Stephen Shaughnessy, GM Gregory Kaidanov, the late IM Emory Tate, NM Cameron Wheeler, Lauren Goodkind, Rochelle Ballantyne and others we may be forgetting.

Christopher’s dad also gave some insight into his son’s early development:

“I’ve always loved chess (played some tournaments in college) and read books on chess history before Christopher was born, and I remember stories of prodigies like Capablanca learning the game at unbelievably young ages from simply watching others play.  This wasn’t the case for Christopher.  I tried to teach him chess at age 5 but he couldn’t remember the names of the pieces let alone how they moved so I gave up.  A year later, when he was 6 years and 9 months old, we enrolled him in a once-a-week after-school chess program at his elementary school and after a couple of weeks I thought, great, I can now sit down with him and play a game.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  He didn’t know how the knight moved and his bishop refused to remain on one color.  So I taught him how those pieces moved myself, but it wasn’t easy.  But once he got the hang of it, he really took off.  Within four months he was 1st grade champ of California.  In another 7 or 8 months he was at 1700/1800.  A couple of years after that, master.  He is often slower than most to learn simple, basic stuff.  But once he gets it, there is no stopping him.

In general, he seems to learn differently than most kids.  My son and I watched the “Magnus” movie together tonight at a theater in NYC and I was struck by something Magnus’s father said early in the film…something to the effect that he was worried about his son’s early mental development because he had trouble following simple physical directions.  That’s so true of Christopher. “


  1. Congratulations to Christopher and his family. Their dedication to their son’s chess career is something rare to see and glad to see that it has paid off. It is a pleasure watching him play attacking chess. Looking forward to more achievements from him.

  2. Next, GM at 11?
    Fantastic how younger they are getting as they ascend to chess greatness!!

    To ‘beat’ this achievement to Master level before age 10, the parents would
    possibly have to be GM level and the fetus after eyes develop would likely
    need to get a microsurgically implanted microchip with wireless Chessbase interface installed including a micro projector installed in the area positioned near the fetus face, then the developing chess ‘wizard-to-be’ will watch videos of GM level games before birth… who knows??? i hear violin and piano prodigies are born after their musician parents have played classical music between their chikd’s fetal growth commencement and postpartum infancy! If the parents also read verbally to their infant starting at prebirth from then on, it is likely the child will be achieving great reading with such an early start.

  3. He’s so cute and innocent. It’s hard to imagine that he’s so deadly over the chessboard! 🙂

  4. I love to show Christopher’s games to my classes with all the electronic arrows and icons to make matters clear. That’s not hard. His games have a clarity that makes them very instructive of expected goals achieved in unexpected, often spectacular ways. His current style reminds me of Fischer, Alekhine, and Morphy.

  5. Congratulations!

    It was a very nice touch to see the effort the Yoo family put in to recognize everyone who helped along the way. As a chess coach myself, I appreciate this very much. Also the humility shown by dad in the anecdotes at the end is a very good and healthy sign.

    Christopher will go far (playing main line openings like he apparently does also helps!). I have never met him, but I will be rooting for him to achieve whatever chess goals he may have.

  6. I was in NYC having lunch with Pandolfini when he was on the phone with Christopher’s father. In order to break the record, he needed to defeat a 2050 player that day. Just a reminder that even the greatest of players don’t do it alone. Everyone will monitor his progress.

    • Christopher got a 2225 instead and rose to the occasion. The luck of the draw. We only told the TD afterwards that Christopher was trying to reach 2200. The 9th Annual David Elliott Memorial Cup in Allentown, PA was an excellent event. The Elliott family provided a free lunch for everyone. Though we live in California, Christopher will try to visit them again some day.

      Speaking of the luck of the draw, the 2225 apparently had a very bad day, losing to several lower rated players, while the 1300 Christopher faced earlier had a great day, beating an expert and a A-player, and gaining nearly a couple of hundred rating points in the process. Just goes to show, ignore ratings and play good, solid chess regardless.

  7. Let me start by stating that I have no doubt that young Christopher Yoo is a very talented young boy with a bright future ahead of him on the chess board and outside.
    What troubles me is the way this record has been achieved. In G30 d5 tournament which is a speed chess anywhere outside the US, and where kids significantly outperform adults he beats 2 players 500 -600 rating points lower, than hits a jackpot by beating a master (who appears to have a bad day, I am not convinced that position on the diagram is really that hopeful for black) and withdraws from the tournament to secure the record.
    BTW, previous record holder achieved his record in G25 d5 quad, went under 2200 the very next day and then spent 8 months chasing the 2200 rating again.

    The question I am asking is the following: Are parents and coaches of those very talented young fellows are trying to cash on their chess accomplishments prematurely?

    If we to assign any significance to those records and provide them with publicity (and perhaps other goodies) I believe there should be some rules in place to make this record meaningful and achieving it real accomplishment. I propose the rule that record like this cannot be archived in any time control faster than Game 60 and withdraw to secure the record should not be allowed.

    • I’m Christopher’s father and let me try to address your concerns.

      1. The TD of the event did not know Christopher was trying for the master record until we told him after the fact. The pairings were made without any bias and in fact the pairings did not really work out as we might have liked. We did look for events where he would face strong opponents and gain rating points, but that’s a pretty normal practice for many players.

      2. In the tournament, he needed just one game against a 2050+ to secure 2200 by our calculations. We were hoping that might happen by the second round. Unfortunately, because of the luck of the draw he got paired with a 1600 and 1300 in the first two rounds, which would not help if he won but had the potential of scuttling his chances if he had lost either of those games. The 1600 played a good game against Christopher and the 1300 upset an expert and two B players in the tournament but did not play well against Christopher. Ultimately, Christopher had to beat the 2225, who was not having a good tournament, but we had no control over that.

      3. Christopher played in a lot of rapid events in the last two weeks of his quest because we were trying to squeeze in as many events as we could in a short time span to improve his chances. That meant weeknight events that were invariably rapid events, and one-day weekend events that were also at fairly fast time controls. He had to squeeze a lot of events into that short time frame because he spent Oct. 15 – Oct. 30 overseas for the World Cadets Championships and could not play in USCF events during that period. Christopher did not like playing rapid chess prior to this and had played in relatively few rapid events in the past couple of years. As a result, he experienced a lot of time trouble in all of these recent rapid tournaments and even in the last game when he beat the master. Just a few days prior, Christopher had a completely won position against a master, but he hung his rook under severe time pressure and then flagged to lose the game. If he had won, he’d have made master right then and there. He was devastated but recovered like a champ.

      4. That position in the diagram is indeed pretty bleak for black. White is winning according to Stockfish and Christopher’s GM coach. Christopher, with white, stopped keeping score because he was under 5 minutes and well behind on the clock to his opponent. Christopher ultimately had to fend off his opponent’s queen counterplay and then made his own a-pawn unstoppable. I think the game lasted another 15-25 moves. Christopher remembers a few moves beyond the moves given here but not the whole game. He seldom remembers whole games though he’s gotten much better at it recently as he’s been working on blindfold play.

      5. We (his coaches and I) think Christopher is significantly stronger than his 2205. He’s done well recently against 2300s and 2400s at both rapid and long time controls (as well as blitz). He is taking a little break now and may be rusty when he resumes tournament play in a few weeks, but there is nothing to indicate he’s going to have a big drop. On the other hand, ups and downs are normal for young kids so who really knows.

      6. The whole purpose of this record attempt was to have Christopher meet a goal he really wanted to achieve and give him a sense of real accomplishment, as well as achieve something that can never be taken away from him, a small place in chess history.

      7. We did withdraw from the tournament early to secure the master title. It’s the same thing many who’ve pursued this record or even simply pursued the rank of master *at any age* have done. We don’t think this takes away at all from his accomplishment or anyone else’s attainment of the master title. Moreover, people withdraw early from tournaments for many different reasons. Christopher normally withdraws early when he’s tired or we have somewhere else to go to.

      8. Given that these rapid time controls count towards your normal rating, it’s doesn’t make much sense to exclude them from counting towards records like this. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if only Game/60 or above counted towards normal ratings and Christopher much prefers longer time controls, but I think the trend in chess in general is towards the shorter controls.

      Finally, we (his coaches, his family, his friends) are very proud of Christopher. He has worked very hard for this and earned his small place in US chess history. We think he was master strength before this and achieving the rating just puts a stamp on it.

    • Christopher had white in both games given above. Were you thinking he had black in one of them?

      • My mistake. But it looks like you sat out the last round. So, the result shouldn’t count towards the master title?

        • You are trying to be defensive (you should not) and attack the messenger. I do not feel I have to explain to you or anyone else my path to NM at the age of 42 and argue it’s validity. It is also not a record of any kind.
          You are missed my point, which is the following : for the record to be meaningful, it should be clean of any manipulations.
          I would equate your son’s record with the following situation:
          Suppose someone who is a talented student is preparing for an SAT exam and wants maximum score for a chance to get into IVY League School. He learns a rumor that tests in a particular world region maybe re-used this year, he legally obtains all the previous tests from that region, studies and solves them all for many months. Finally on the test he gets one of the tests he studied and aces it to a maximum score. Now, suppose he is in 6th grade (or earlier) and wants this to be recorded as a record of youngest student to achieve maximum score.
          Legal?- I thinks so as long as all materials were in the public domain and legally obtained. Record of any kind? possible, but How is this record of any significance?

          We can argue this all day long, but based on your previous rhetoric, we would just need to agree to disagree.

          So let me put my $$$ where my mouth is.

          From the WIKIPEDIA article :
          At 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days, R. Praggnanandhaa became the youngest ever person to hold an IM title.
          It is also my understanding that R. Praggnanandhaa did this by conventional way, by scoring 3 IM norms in several different tournaments.

          If Christopher beats this record using the same conventional way (3 IM norms), I will personally issue my apologies for doubting “his youngest US NM record” and will also contribute $600.00 in the form of US Educational bonds to his future college education.

          • We’re not supposed to defend ourselves when we’re attacked unfairly?

            Your analogy is silly. How does it apply to this situation? Getting a copy of a previously administered SAT test that they will re-administer is cheating and is regarded as such. As people who’ve talked with me will tell you, I have no tolerance for cheating and cheats. I think cheating should be punishable with a 3-year (or more) suspension from tournament play and publication of their names online, which is what the National Scrabble Association does with cheaters.

            Manipulation? It’s like saying you can’t get the IM or GM age record if you seek out tournaments that are conducive to getting norms and try to play in as many of them as possible given your schedule and the deadline for the record? Perhaps FIDE should institute a rule that says you can’t get the age record for IM or GM unless you inadvertently stumble into norm events while you play your normal schedule of tournaments?

            Now, if there were norm event requirements for the master title we wouldn’t complain, though probably many others would. But that has not been the standard for master and we met all standards for the master title and did it in an aboveboard manner. Others in the past have organized special tournaments or rated matches and some have even been accused of bribing players to help obtain records or titles, but we immediately rejected the former idea when someone suggested it to us and the latter is unthinkable.

            You quit the event you got your master title in early. You’ve played in a far greater proportion of rapid events than Christopher. You dropped below 2200 in the event immediately after you made master and didn’t get above it again for 20 months…apparently something to be knocked as you knocked the last record holder who dropped below 2200 and spent 8 months getting back over 2200. I know, you’d say what you did wasn’t a record so it doesn’t matter. But why should an entirely different standard be applied? There should be and is one standard for all. That standard says you earned and deserve the NM title, as does Christopher.

  8. Mr. Yoo,

    I tell the things how I see them. For me the record of your son is among other things is an example on how to take advantage of the weakness in the current rating system. This weakness is the fact you can become a master by playing daily rapid events only. (Theoretically, you do not even need to play other masters -I am not saying you son did that).
    You are mistaken with regards to USCF title norms, those exist for several years already, but are very poorly publicized by USCF.
    For NM you need five of those norms and 2200+ rating.
    Those are tough to get (3 games tournaments do not cut it) and by norms your son is still a Candidate Master. Same as myself by the way, if you want to continue to drag my personal record in.
    To clarify the situation with my personal record as you keep bringing it in for some reason. I crossed 2200 rating in a team event. Schedule was 2 classical time control games per day. By the last round team lost chances for any prize places. I had a plane ticket for next morning and asked the team if I can leave earlier to get ready for my flight. They agreed. My result was enough to cross the 2200. I honestly would care less if it wasn’t.
    I went beyond 2200 in the next tournament where I played 3 top GMs in a row : Kudrin Kacheishvily and Rodhe. I made a very nice draw vs Kudrin and lost all my other games.
    It did take me a while to get back, but I was not chasing rating points. I do not need to prove any points or set any records.

    • Mr. Koganov,

      I had a real problem with the clear implication in your original post that Christopher played in those rapid events to get an unfair advantage somehow or that we somehow gamed the system. As I said, we played in rapids to get in as many events and games as possible because his schedule was interrupted by the World Cadets Championship (three full weekends where he couldn’t play in USCF events). In those rapid events, Christopher beat two 2300+ rated, both highly ranked *juniors*, not octogenarians. He did draw a older 2400 in one of those events, but I don’t think the IM in question could be considered a pushover and the game came down to a time scramble in an entertaining rook and pawn endgame where Christopher missed a win. Christopher also drew an IM and beat another IM in long time control events in the run up to the record. He also lost to a GM in rapid, but got some payback in blitz as well as another GM he played blitz with informally. Finally, we played in Allentown despite the warning from another parent as well as one of our coaches that PA players have a reputation for being underrated and tough.

      By the way, we have never pre-arranged a draw or any kind of result in any tournament, even where that’s considered legitimate. It is hard enough to get my son to accept a draw under normal circumstances. He too often stubbornly plays for a win when a position is drawn and he loses as result. In this run to the record, we had to continually remind Christopher that taking a draw was perfectly fine.

      There are perfectly good reasons for why Christopher played in what he played or why the previous record holder might have dropped in rating after breaking there record, just as there was a perfectly innocuous explanations for why you did what you did. I’m not questioning the legitimacy of your NM title but am questioning the double standard you seem to want to apply to juniors and/or record breakers.

      The record Christopher broke is the same record with the same or very similar standards established for it over the years. If you want to change the standards, then change them for anyone trying to attain the NM title. Why discriminate because of age or merely because there is a record at stake? And why try to de-legitimize what others have worked so hard and with integrity for?

      We played by the rules and tried very hard to play by both the letter and the spirit of the rules.

  9. i would note the the recent World Chess Championship was decided by a G25 game. Magnus Carlsen is World Champion because he won a G25 game.

  10. True, but what does it prove? To settle even scores in matches you need some kind of tie-break system. In the past – Champion had draw odds, this way Botvinnik retained his title in the match vs Bronstein. Karpov-Korchnoi played until 6 wins and that system proved to be inefficient in the first Karpov-Kasparov match, which was stopped after 48 games.

    It is well known there is no perfect tie-break system.
    This time it was decided in a rapid play-off. It could have been decided in a single Armageddon game or mini-match of two blitz games. I am convinced that would produce an outcry that would change it going forward.

    To stay relevant, imagine all 12 games Carlsen-Karjakin have been played with G25 d5 over the weekend with a blitz tie-break if necessary. Would this match have received prestige and recognition from a chess world?

  11. Mr. Koganov – i would note that at least the record was achieved in a tournament and not a match, like this G30 match you played in in which your opponent and presumably friend, got a NM and promptly dropped to 2050. reference the jun 4 2013 match you played. i don’t think NM’s should be granted from match play, what do you think?

    Pair | Player Name |Total|Round|Round|Round|
    Num | USCF ID / Rtg (Pre->Post) | Pts | 1 | 2 | 3 |
    1 | ALEX EYDELMAN |2.5 |W 2|W 2|D 2|
    CT | 12553018 / R: 2188 ->2209 | | | | |
    | Q: 2101 ->2122 | | | | |
    2 | MIKHAIL KOGANOV |0.5 |L 1|L 1|D 1|
    CT | 12656022 / R: 2224 ->2205 | | | | |
    | Q: 2111 ->2090 | | | | |

    • Mr. Walsh,

      You brought a very good point.

      I dug out some old internet postings and I refer you and other readers to the following blog entry by IM Mark Ginzburg :

      This entry is more relevant to the current discussion as it relates to youth rating records that we are debating here.

      To clarify on the issue of my match with Alex Eydelman. We are both adults in our late 40s -early 50s and live in a close proximity from each other. Alex asked if we can play a match. I agreed. We played. Alex won. Alex worked hard on his chess, studying with a top GM for over a year by the time of the match, had good results in tournament play and his victory and resulting title are well deserved.
      Alex is currently #50 best senior in USA in blitz play. Feel free to reach out to him (I can provide contact information) if you have any additional questions.

      • You accord yourself and your friend explanations and excuses, but assume the worst in others?

        We wouldn’t and didn’t stoop to rated matchplay to attain the NM title.

        If you want to reform the system, I’d suggest starting there.

    • SMH

      This is the kind of thing we rejected when it was suggested to us. It is legal, but pretty questionable. But now we know where Mr. Koganov got those ideas from…play G/30 to get to NM, expect a drop in rating soon afterward because you’re not really that strong, game the system to get a title. Maybe Mr. Koganov is right and the system does need some protection from people like himself and Mr. Eydelman.

      It’s a shame that full grown adults should spoil it for the kids.

      • I see this thread quickly degenerated into personal attack, so I am guessing some nerve has been hit and perhaps deservedly.

        I am not interested in participating in any discussion where personal attacks are used to shut down people who raise a concern.

        This is my last message here and I would like to summarize my thoughts once again:

        1. I personally believe that Christopher Yoo is a talented kid, whose main chess victories are ahead of him if he keeps working hard on his chess.
        2. I believe the record of Youngest US NM that he recently achieved was not necessary at the very least. It may even send a wrong message to young fellow that can be damaging in a long run.
        3. If USCF to continue publicize such records, perhaps it should switch to using norm based titles. Norm based titles are harder to get and require at least four rounds of play, making it less likely that someone would withdraw from a typical single day tournament.
        4. I reject personal attacks on my chess record and my character as way to deflect the discussion from a real issue.

        Finally my offer to Mr. Yoo and his son still stands. In fact if Christopher is to beat record of R. Praggnanandhaa for the youngest IM, I would consider this very positive outcome of this discussion and it would be my best and well spent $600.00

        • Mr. Koganov,

          You began with personal attacks and you continue with personal attacks and now you run when your character and shady practices have been revealed by someone else, not me. Look up the term “projection” in a psychological dictionary.

  12. Also Awonder dropped out of his las round as did Hikaru Nakamura. Further Hilary made master in…..g25. See tournament 1998 February 28 1998, 4 rated games tonight. Titled NM Hikaru. Note Hikaru did not play the last round.

  13. Congratulations Christopher! Now I can say I once lost to the youngest Master record holder.

  14. Nakamura broke the record in G25 2-27-1998. Perhaps mr Koganov would like to offer his father Sunil 600 for his Gm

  15. There are many rotten things going on in this world. The story of Christopher’s accomplishments helps to remove a little of the darkness. Well done to him, his family and all who worked with him, and also well done to all who previously held this title. Perhaps in the future the USCF will change the rules for achieving national master status, but for doing what he did –and clearly abiding by the letter and the spirit of the laws–Christopher and crew deserve nothing but praise.

  16. Thanks, Chess Dad and others

    I think Mr. Koganov makes some valid points in that maybe rapid shouldn’t count towards a standard rating and that a norms-based master record might not be a bad idea.

    Where he’s completely off-base though is in the double standard he seems to be applying to juniors and record breakers as opposed to ‘regular’ adults. Given that rapid time controls DO count towards a standard rating, it is silly to say it is unfair for juniors to play rapid events because they’re too good at it. It’s like saying you should avoid playing tournaments with time controls that you’re particularly good at because it’s unfair to the competition. Really? Secondly, he’s assuming all juniors or at least the juniors who’ve recently pursued the youngest master record are particularly good at rapid. That was not the case for our son, as he’s always disliked rapid time controls (25 to 45 minutes in particular) and gets into time trouble way too often with them.

    Mr. Koganov disparages practices like withdrawing early from an event to secure a title or a rating when he’s done it himself…but it’s okay because:

    1. He had an excuse
    2. An adult did it
    3. There was no record at stake

    It’s either okay or it’s not okay. It should count or it shouldn’t count.

    Moreover, Mr. Koganov apparently finds little wrong with an adult playing in rated matchplay with a friend to obtain an NM title. Apparently, if you’re in your 50s that’s okay. Sadly, Dr. Mark Ginsburg, the author of the article disparaging the practice of rated matchplay appears to agree with Mr. Koganov, because his recommendation at the end of the article is that CHILDREN be not allowed to engage in rated matchplay to gain rating points and/or titles. I would agree, but only if we were to add “AND ADULTS” to the rule.

    Sadly, I see this double standard with respect to kids all too often in the competitive chess world. Juniors represent something like 80% of the USCF membership but attitudes like Mr. Koganov’s still persist.

    I’m a 50-year old chessplayer and USCF member, albeit a lowly C player. I’ve been playing chess for about 40 years. I played in tournaments in college though very little rated chess since. I’m an adult and I don’t need anyone to make special rules to protect me from strong little chess kids or to make sure my path to master (which, unfortunately, is non-existent at this point) is paved a little easier than it is for the little ones.

    Everyone should play by the same rules and meet the same standards: adults, kids, record breakers, non-record breakers. Chess is ultimately an egalitarian game. Presidents can sit across the board from nobodies and play on equal terms. So, fair play to all.

  17. I agree with Mr. Yoo: there should be no double standards applied to kids because some adult players/coaches/parents are jealous of others’ achievements.

    If a time control is regular rated, it counts. It’s on the USCF to change this if it wants to.

    There have been “suspicious” cases of young players going after certain records, but that absolutely does not seem to apply here. I think it’s pretty clear that the Yoo family did not want to leave any doubt (credit to them for that!), and may have become aware of the (loud) whispers in previous cases, and didn’t want to be tainted in such a fashion.

    Rated matches to get over the line? Early withdrawals? Special tournaments? This stuff is par for the course. I can understand someone not liking these things, but glass houses, and all that.

    I personally know MANY players who have withdrawn from events after the 2200 threshold has been reached. My own rating is 2137, and I hope to achieve Master myself soon. Would I withdraw from an event if I had secured 2200? Yes. Without thinking twice.

    • IMHO, only G/45 and above should count towards your standard rating. However, G/25 and G/30 are very popular for both juniors and adults who play evening events or one-day weekend events at places like the Marshall Club so I doubt the USCF will be changing things anytime soon.

  18. There is a lot of innuendo here. I don’t think this is a productive topic and not an apppropriate forum for this discussion. People don’t have to tear people down to make themselves feel better.

  19. On another note, there seems to be a suggestion that if a child achieves some major milestone and then doesn’t go onto further greatness that this milestone isn’t that impressive or may not have been deserved. If I am drawing the correct inference, I would like to say that is completely and utterly absurd. We are writing about very young children here who have their own lives. Everyone is familiar with burnout in sports or other activities, and, being young, children often change their minds as to what they want to do. Whether Christopher plays another game of chess or not saying zippo about what he has done. There is no question that he is bright and has the capability for very hard work. Being selfish–something I am very good at–I hope that he stops playing chess and concentrates on an activity that is likely to help me several years from now. For example, perhaps he can start studying biology today so that fifteen years from now he will be able to sell me a pill that will let me drop those extra pounds with no harmful side effects. Were I his father, I hope that he pursues his dreams so that he is both happy and a beneficial member of society, but I would certainly hope that he realizes he has done something that is truly special and for that we should all rejoice. But for him and his loving family, now is the time to decide how he should spend today–and that decision should not be burdened in any way but what he has done yesterday.

    • I agree with most of what you have to say, but disagree that playing chess doesn’t contribute to society in a meaningful way. I was a software engineer and worked on accounting software that benefited millions if not tens of millions of small businesses and ultimately allowed me to retire early. However, I would have traded that all in for a gig at an animation or special effects studio to be able to create the kind of movies that transported me to another world every time I watched them and relieved me of the stress of the daily world. Doing something like that I thought influenced the whole world person by person in often deeply personal ways. The only thing holding me back was my complete lack of artistic ability. 🙂 So, IF Christopher chooses chess for his adult life, I’ll be proud not only in his accomplishments but in the knowledge that he’s doing something that benefits others.

      • I was trying to make a joke. His chess playing has already benefited me and others. It made me feel good. But as much as I like that, I would rather lose those 15 pounds! Were I his father, I would be very, very proud of him.

  20. Mikhail Koganov, what bothers me about your comments is they are inappropriate. This is an article for NM Yoo and his parents. It is in a way laughing at a funeral.
    As for NM Yoo; he once came and did a simul for a family chess night I had helped organize. Men women of all ages looked on with euphoric awe of him. People were rushing outside to call their friends to get them to come and witness it.
    When there were sign ups for the after school class filled up within a day. Teenagers wanted his autograph and picture. We lost some of our best chess students who wanted to focus on their top skill after playing him. Others started to study hard and improved their ratings.
    Chris is a really good kid to boot. When you meet him you instantly root for him.
    On a side note, If you are ever paired up against him run for your life. I couldn’t imagine the horror he would inflict on you.

    • Thanks, Bill

      And thanks to both you and Dave for encouraging Christopher so much and arranging the simul which he got a real kick out of.

      Sorry to hear you actually lost some of your best chess students, presumably because they realized there were other kids much stronger than them?

      Everyone has to start somewhere and some start slower than others. Even Christopher in a sense started slow because he had a tougher time than many kids simply learning the moves of the game. Other kids don’t really bloom until they are past ten or in their early teens. Look at the example of Nikhil Kumar or even Jeffery Xiong, who was always strong perhaps but has zoomed past others who were initially more precocious.

  21. In general, I agree with the father. However, it does seem unusual to have people flying from the west coast just to play 3 action games on the east coast. But if you make NM it doesn’t matter in terms of this record if you go back to being Expert or not. The time control, the frequency of games played, are two factors players always try to tweak to their advantage since they have control over these factors and may spot a trend if for example they track their tournament performance ratings closely. He/she risks their rating arguably more at the faster time control since the results are made more random by introducing more errors into the games. Withdrawing is OK if it’s a swiss but the USCF could solve the problem by tracking mid-tourney ratings for purposes of making NM. He missed an opportunity to lose to a brilliant GM which may have helped him long-term. He might want to choose his future tourneys with care. I took 5 months off after making NM. The comments indicate that even a few weeks off is somehow bad for the kid’s chess progress. Time off actually helps chess strength by making your play fresh.

  22. Mark,

    We were on the East coast (Manhattan) for most of November for the following reasons:

    1. Christopher was invited to the US Chess School camp in Manhattan that ran from Nov. 11-15. If you’re not familiar with this great and free program run by IM Greg Shahade, read about it here: We took one afternoon off from camp to participate in a tournament with Greg’s approval.
    2. We wanted to attend the Carlsen-Karjakin match. We got to watch about 7 or 8 of the games live, including the tiebreaks, and had a fantastic time.
    3. We wanted to squeeze as many events as we could into those last couple of weeks available to break he record. The weeknight events at the Marshall Club were great for that. On weekends, we strayed a little further afield, including playing in a G/75 quad in NJ and the Allentown rapid swiss event.

    We are homeschooling Christopher and I am retired so both of us had the time. My wife joined us in New York for Thanksgiving week and got to attend one of the Carlsen-Karjakin matches as well.

    On the advice of his coaches, Christopher is going to be playing in a lot of events with very strong fields. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to play GMs. Christopher will be playing in the North American Open at the end of December where he may face a GM or two if he plays well.

      • Sounds like you have excellent plans! The rating system can be stressful to navigate since you can go down as well as up. Or it can be too stable; for example the tournament winner beats all types of tough opponents, finishes 1st, yet only goes up 2 points! Other annual, awesome, strong events with great playing conditions are World Open (Open Section), Washington International, US Masters, and 1st Saturday (Budapest; monthly). For a one-day, 5 round event, my area uses G/45 since it reduces errors compared to G/25 or G/30. For G/25 or G/30, the USCF should not require you to keep score perhaps? That takes up half my time it seems.

        • In the past year and a half, we’ve generally avoided rapid events (anything under G/60 other than blitz and bullet) just because Christopher doesn’t like them. He, as well as his GM coach, were concerned that he was going to be playing in so many short time control events in these last few weeks. He did well enough in them to break the record, but it’s unlikely he’ll be playing in many of them going forwards because he really likes to take his sweet time in the late opening and middlegame. He loves blitz and bullet and does very well in them, but he says he has an entirely different mindset in those games.

          He used to play in a lot of one-day G/45s at the Mechanics in SF (five games, but he’d usually only play four), but we stopped going because he didn’t like the time control.

          He’s played in the World Open, DC International, the US Open, and other big open events. He generally does well in them. He got a big boost in his rating at the last World Open. He generally plays well against very strong players but plays sloppily against weaker opponents. Low A/B players for some reason give him particular trouble. Every time he’s matched with a 1800, 1700 or even 1600 it’s nail-biting time. We assume this will take care of itself as he matures.

          Sorry, for spamming this discussion with so many posts. But I’m retired and have a lot of free time on my hands.

  23. I still don’t get it. Why isn’t Mr. Koganov attacking Hikaru Nakamura who made his record in G25 and dropped out of the last round? Maybe he knows he can’t bully Hikaru or Sunil?

  24. Our original plan was to try to break the record at home (in California) and then spend Thanksgiving week in NYC and attend the World Championship match in celebration or consolation. Nov. 20 was the deadline for the record. Christopher broke the record on Nov. 19. However, when the US Chess School invited Christopher to their Nov. 11-15 camp in Manhattan to be held in conjunction with the World Championship match, we changed our plans and the idea of playing in NYC and area events and attending much more of the Championship match clicked into place. Upon the suggestion of another parent, we actually looked at the schedule of the previous record holder who lived in that area to figure out Christopher’s East Coast tournament schedule. Everything kind of fell into place. It almost seems like it was meant to be.

  25. There is no jealousy here.

    Yes, Chris and previous record holder did break the record in terms of the time it took them to get to 2200, it is perfectly legal according to current imperfect USCF rules. But does it mean those “records” can hold up to scrutiny and add significance to US chess history, I don’t think so, neither do many of my friends, the parents who have strong chess playing kids, who are either currently expert level player or who already made master.

    Making master title is not easy, it is especially hard to go from 2100 to 2200, but the hardest part is to try to get the last 40 or 50 rating points if the player chooses to only play in classical games. Nothing stops people (the parents usually) from trying some shortcuts mentioned below as these are perfectly legal. I just hope whoever breaks the record next time will break it with higher standard like Awonder did, not by just chasing rating points. Otherwise it won’t be healthy for your kids’ chess growth. I also believe such shortsighted behavior should not be further encouraged and promoted by USCF.

    It is well-known that there are a few places young kids can go to get easy rating points. All you need to do is to look up those kids’ tournament history. At those places/clubs the kids will play short time controlled games, G25, G30 or G45 and very often they will got paired with adults or senior (old) chess players. You can guess what would most likely to happen. It is relatively easy to get plus score (which means rating increase plus bonus points) from those tournaments, as those adults or seniors usually are slower in terms of calculation and more likely to blunder under time pressure when compared with their much younger opponents.

    Awonder Liang is a true prodigy and his youngest master record is indisputable. He also held youngest U.S. record for beating IM and GM. When his dad (Will) mentioned those records in USCF article, he emphasized that Awonder beat those GM and IM all during regular classical time controlled games, why? because classical game is simply much harder. So let’s go back to breaking USCF master record, it took Awonder 1 year and 4 months to go from 2100 to 2200. With his talents, he can easily do it in two to three months if he chose to chase points by playing short time controlled games as some of the kids did on the way to 2200. Did he want to make a record nobody can ever break? I believe anyone in his shoes wanted, but he and his parents chose not to, for the simple reasons I mentioned above.

    For other “record breakers” or would be record breakers, you need to ask yourself, did or will you REALLY “break” Awonder’s record? To see if you’re even close to Awonder’s level when he broke the record, please stick to high quality classical games as he did so people can compare apple to apple. Please also show us if you got any World Youth medals or at least a good final standing, any continental Youth medals, any National champions (not grade level) or at least top three finishes. Why? because there is no shortcut for the success in those tournaments. I don’t want to sound too harsh, as a record breaker in US chess history, people will expect you to have similar performance as Awonder did in those hard tournaments.

    In chess, there are too many good young chess players, simply because their parents can afford GM training for them and these kids can work on chess from one to as many as 6-8 hours a day. But most of them are just good players, not much more than that. REAL talent or prodigy is rare. When a real star is born, people who REALLY know about chess will notice. Nikhil Kumar is the next rising star for U.S. Chess. It only took him four years to go from absolute beginner to a player of at least IM Strength. Be able to win Gold in his first World Youth try, and to win strong tournament such as National Congress as a 2210 player one month later, that’s really talent, that’s the one other young kids should look up to. Of course, there is Jeffery, but he is in a entirely different league now.

    • Yet the prior record holder Hikaru Nakamura, one of the best US chess players of his generation broke the record like this. for those who don’t know, 4 rated games tonight was g25.

      199803055700 ORIGINAL 4 RATED GAMES TONIGHT (NY)
      1: 3 GM’S! 2161 => 2183
      199803014670 IST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH QUADS (NJ)
      2: 2203 => 2161
      199802260100 ORIGINAL 4 RATED GAMES TONIGHT (NY)
      1: NM HIKARU! 2183 => 2203
      199802219180 NY FEB. GAME/60 OPEN! (NY)
      1: HIKARU_DAY 2176 => 2183
      199802199190 ORIGINAL 4 RATED GAMES TONIGHT (NY)
      1: SAM IS GON 2125 => 2176

    • Since you brought up Nikhil Kumar, and in the vein of this thread, i think Nikhil Kumar is interesting to watch for sure but he basically had just 2 good tournaments. Who gains 200 points from 2150 to 2320 in two tournaments out of nowhere? Definitely interesting to watch very very carefully.

    • This just makes me sad. We would never take anything away from Awonder. Breaking this record doesn’t mean our son is “better” than Awonder or Nakamura or Caruana or anyone else who has held this record or anyone who will never break this record. Kids develop at different rates. Kids start at different ages. I always tell other parents the crucial period is often between ages 10-13 and not the period Christopher is in now. Furthermore, the fact that Magnus Carlsen never won World Youth doesn’t mean he didn’t have talent. Maybe it was a bit more difficult for him as he had a birthday late in the year, like Christopher, and was usually one of the younger kids in his age category at World Youth?

      We’re not saying Christopher is a Magnus Carlsen, but that’s what he wants to try to become. Christopher’s goal is to become a top-10 grandmaster and perhaps world champion some day. Junior titles are great and would help build his confidence towards that goal, just as achieving this record helps build his confidence…which was one of the biggest reasons for trying to break this record, to give him a sense of accomplishment he can build on. But his main focus for his chess is on that bigger goal.

      It’s a very tough road and it remains to be seen whether Christopher has either the talent or the dedication to achieve it. And it’s perfectly possible he’ll find another path in life. But we believe in our son’s chess. We believe in the GMs, like Giorgi Kacheishvili and Maxim Dlugy, who are not his coaches but who’ve played with him and say he has true talent. Maybe they were just being kind, but it didn’t seem that way. We believe in GM Melik Khachiyan, who is his coach and who taught Levon Aronian from Category C to IM, who believes Christopher has the talent. We believe in our other coach, NM Bruce Pandolfini, who taught Caruana as a child and sees real talent in Christopher.

      I am retired and have plenty of time to help my son with chess. But I’m only a C player and Christopher gets 1 to 2 hours of coaching from GM Melik per week. NM Pandolfini coaches him about an hour each month. Christopher does 2-4 hours of chess training by himself each day, but likes to goof around on lichess playing horde, crazyhouse and bullet/hyperbullet in his free time. When people hear we homeschool Christopher they often assume that’s how he got so good in chess. But we only started homeschooling when he was around 2000 (exactly 1985 when the school year started in our area). Up to that time he was doing 1-3 hours of chess a day and going to school and after-school care full time.

      We are lucky that we do have the time now, which often is a more precious commodity than money. But we also know that the strongest kids out there, particularly in other parts of the world, are spending much more time on their chess than Christopher, but we want Christopher to become well-rounded and so we have him take sports classes nearly every day and enroll him in things like creative writing and choral music (piano being added soon).

      At any rate, I’m extremely sad that I have to defend our son and his talent in this manner, particularly against other parents who hide behind an anonymous handle. But when I meet the parents of other young, strong chess kids, I’m going to assume that they are the ones with the more generous spirits and not a member of a small minority who’ve let competitiveness overwhelm them.

  26. All this reminds me a little bit about folks arguing who climbed a mountain the fastest. “But he did it without oxygen. These new records aren’t the same.” I mean, the USCF rules are what they are. So again, when one child breaks the previous record, let’s just be happy for them and those who helped in the journey. It doesn’t take away from previous record holders. If we want to change the rules to make it more like getting IM or GM norms, that’s also fine, but let’s not merge the two discussions. Also, if a child who sets this new mark never again plays in a tournament, again, who are we to judge? The child may have found something else to do with this life. But that is the child’s decision and I certainly hope that he doesn’t feel that he has to “prove” his chess accomplishments to a bunch of adults he has never met.

  27. You are missing one important change that has happened since Awonder’s record. The USCF rating formulas have changed significantly. The K factor between 1900 and 2100 went up by about 40% which means a young player can gain rating much faster. Not only can a player gain rating points faster but so can those around him which makes it much easier to gain points. I doubt Awonder’s record would be beaten without if the old calculations had been applied.

    Comparing this record to Awonder’s NM is like comparing apples and oranges. The same goes for FIDE rating these days.

    • Let’s exalt Awonder, but let’s not naysay the achievements of other kids. As we all know, it takes a little luck, but a lot of hard work and talent as well to achieve anything like this. Think about how you would feel if someone naysayed your child’s big tournament win or attainment of a title or record.

      I would not want my 9-year old son to read some of the things written in this thread, but I will save this off somewhere for the adult Christopher to read when he’s achieved what he’s wanted to in chess or in whatever he’s aspired to as an adult to show him how there were doubters and naysayers but that personal belief and strength were what mattered.

    • Yes, I missed that change. Considering the change you mentioned it further shows how “GOOD” those recent records are and what Good these have brought to U.S. Chess. The kids are 100% innocent here, I’m just surprised why the parents are continuing to follow one and another to push their kids to “break” the supposed to be PRESTIGIOUS record in such a way.

      I think the debate here is very healthy for other young chess kids (the future of U.S. Chess) and their parents. If our kids are aiming high, they should have a high standard starting now, not later.

      • I would be more concerned about the examples parents are setting for kids by posting the kind of negativity we see here. Christopher is one of the nicest kids you’d ever want to meet. He is a better person than me and apparently many adults in that regard. I hope he as well as any other juniors who wander across this discussion do not become jaded by the kinds of things posted here.

        We didn’t ask the USCF to change the K factor. We didn’t ask them to start including rapid events in their regular rating calculation. Christopher has played in fewer rapid events than many if not most of the top juniors his age and if we didn’t have three critical weekends taken away from us by the World Cadets Championship he’d likely have broken the record at a long time control event. But not because we believed rapid chess has any less validity than long time controls, but simply because Christopher likes longer time controls much more than rapid.

        Finally, if you have any doubts about Christopher’s strength, ask Brandon Jacobson, Aaron Jacobson, and Aaron Shlionsky, all masters and all strong juniors Christopher played and either beat or drew in the last week of his record attempt.

    • While the K-factor went up, the compensation was the bonus went down. The bonus going is more of a depressing factor as it only works one way, whereas the K-factor works up and down. so arguably the net effect of the bonus going down and higher k-factor was a depressing effect overall.

  28. There is no question Nakamura broke the record playing G25s and he is among the greatest chess players in U.S. history. I’m fully aware of that. But that was eighteen and half years ago, and so the way he did it become less relevant. Nowadays kids are equipped with latest chess software and engines and have access to a lot more GMs for training, there are also many folds of chess tournaments either classical or rapid/blitz every week than what Naka had 18 years ago. Also don’t forget Internet. All those are the main reasons young kids are progressing more rapidly than players 18 or 20 years ago, but it doesn’t mean those kids are more talented than Nakamura was.

    Now if Nakamura were a 9 year old today, do you think the recent record breakers stand a chance of breaking his record? I seriously doubt so. Maybe Awonder could.

    I and many other parents who have strong chess playing kids agree that it is very hard to achieve master rating in regular time controlled tournaments. That’s why we highly respect Will (the dad) and Awonder set up such a good example (for young kids) on his way of breaking the record, by playing high qualify classical games. Over the years I know there are at least a dozen kids who were capable of breaking the record if playing short time controlled games in those clubs, but their parents chose not to for the same belief Awonder family had. I have an expert son, who is working hard towards master title, we also decided not to shortcut to chase points, which means it will take much longer for him to get there. I believe it is the right thing to do, no matter long it takes, because it will benefit his chess in the long run.

    Being the youngest USCF master and making chess HISTORY brings glory but it also comes with burdens and responsibilities. The burden is to open up for other people’s scrutiny and criticism. The responsibility is to set a high standard and a good example for other young kids to follow. This is true for any other competitive sports. Otherwise the “title” is much less meaningful! Awonder did his part, but it is sad that the other two record breakers failed to follow his lead. I’m not criticizing the kids, it’s all about parents. So the question for the parents is, can your kids break Awonder’s record in the similar fashion he did? If they can’t, what’s the point of rushing to harvest points from “those” club for the sole purpose of “breaking” the record? Yes, it is perfectly legal according to USCF rules, but what’s the REAL point, especially the kids so far haven’t shown good performance in any of the HARD tournaments I mentioned in my previous post.

    Just take a close look at the previous record breaker’s tournament history. In order to beat Awonder’s record, he played all those short time controlled games at “those” clubs, many times against same adult or old chess players, this was how he got to 2200 from 2100 in one month (then he spent close to a year trying to get back to a real 2200 rating). Also notice every time the kid played in strong tournament with classical time control, he would lose rating points, but the parents immediately withdrew him and then rush to a club on the SAME day to play those G25, G30s in order to make up the point deficit. What kind of example is this for other young kids? As chess parents, do you want your kids follow his example or you’d rather follow Awander Liang’s. If you decide to follow the former, then I really doubt your judgement. Also a question for USCF, what kind of example you want to promote for next generation of young kids?

    Whoever breaks the record next time, please make it meaningful as people are watching. If you want the record not just for yourself but also for U.S. Chess, then make it good for U.S. Chess as other young kids will look up to you and try to follow you. Remember great things come with great responsibilities.

    • As I said in an earlier reply to you (I think it was you but it’s hard to tell with anonymous handles), this achievement does not let us compare the talent of Christopher vs. Awonder vs. Hikaru, just as winning a national or world youth title is only an indication of promise and achievements to be praised, but not a measure of ultimate strength.

      I’m a student of chess history and both played chess and studied its history well before any of the current crop of top juniors were born, and I agree with you that Nakamura was of another era. It was an era where the junior competition and competition in general was not as strong because of the lack of the modern tools you mention as well as the overall understanding of how to develop young talent and the quality of chess books available, which many people seem to ignore as a factor. One thing was basically the same though: G/25 was G/25. Time flowed just as swiftly back then as it does now…though it did flow a little faster when there was no delay or increment.

      As for your apparent low regard for rapid chess, it’s not a viewpoint shared by all. My son doesn’t like to play rapid, but his coach has said that the best players have to play it and get good at it. I’ve also talked to a GM who said that he’s bothered by the reluctance of some American coaches and parents to play in short time controls (blitz and rapid) because all of the greats, including Fischer and Carlsen, played a lot of short games as kids and that it’s an important part of a chessplayer’s development.

      We can’t control how much regard or disregard you have for rapid chess or how much regard or disregard you have for our son’s achievement or the achievement of his predecessor. But we’re going to try to set an example for others by not naysaying the achievements of those who break our son’s record, something we are pretty sure will happen within the next few years and perhaps multiple times.

      This explosion in junior chess strength in America is to be celebrated. We should also celebrate when our strongest chess kids get the wherewithal to spend more time on their chess and have the advantage of the latest modern tools. All of this will only be good for American chess, which has been waiting for another Bobby Fischer moment for over four decades.

      Let’s encourage all of our chess kids, not tear them down.

  29. I wish “Another Chess Parent” and “yet another chess parent” would use their real names.

    The record is “Youngest player to reach 2200.” That is all. There is no requirement about strength, or action games versus slow games, or how many tournaments played, or opponents’ average rating. And yes, there is no requirement to do so much as continue playing after the record has been achieved.

    The amount of JEALOUSY on this thread is sad, but not surprising, unfortunately.

    I for one have no dog in this fight: I am not going for any records (I played my first tournament at 12 which was, incidentally, won by Hikaru Nakamura); also I have no children, nor any current students near Expert or Master.

    What I see, in my opinion and 20 years of experience, is a young man who earned one of the most celebrated records in American chess (whether this should be the case is a different question), fair and square. That’s all.

    Once again, congratulations Christopher. I really hope you don’t read any of these comments.

    • Well said Andre Harding. where’s the like button. i think this should be the end of discussion.

      let’s turn our discussion to who’s better, batman or superman.
      i vote for superman

    • Just to be fair, the parent who wrote the two long posts said repeatedly that Christopher’s record and the previous kid’s are perfectly legal according to current USCF rules. He or she was just questioning the way the records were broken, which does make people think of those records differently. The parent seems to blame more on the parents who instructed their kids to break the records in such a way, which may not have set a good example for other kids to follow. For this part I have to agree. I don’t think JEALOUSY is the issue here. After all, we all want those young talented kids to succeed, to be able to bring World Championship home as great Bobby Fisher did, to do that requires very hard work in addition to pure talent.

      There is nothing wrong with the two kids. Congratulations to young Christopher on his amazing chess career so far.

      • I would add there is nothing wrong with rapid chess or with the parents of those kids either. I do find something wrong with parents though who would denigrate the accomplishments of others.

    • It’s par for the course. It doesn’t matter what the achievement is and who did it, I’ve heard it denigrated by some parent somewhere. And I’ve also caught myself saying things like, “Oh, but that boy does chess X hours a day.” But reading all this here makes me realize how silly and demeaning to our own selves that kind of talk is. I’m not a saint but I’m definitely going to check myself carefully before I ever talk that way about anyone, particularly a kid. It’s a dirty business, being a chess parent, but I guess someone’s gotta do it.

  30. This would be a good record to keep track of: unrated to NM in fewest # of games (age doesn’t matter)!

    • Magnus got to 3001 in his first USCF event. 🙂

      As for the kids, I just looked up the tournament records of my Christopher, Hikaru, and Awonder. I didn’t try to count the number of games, but in terms of number of tournaments that go towards regular rating it was roughly 145, 139, and 150, respectively. Coincidence? Probably. Some kids play their first tournament when they are already 1000 strength, others start at the barely-know-the-moves stage. Some play every week or several times a week, some far less. What I’ve noticed though is that the top American kids (who’ve started early enough) tend to converge on master near age 10.

      There are some kids however coming up who may push that closer to 9. More power to them.

  31. It’s the wrong message to be sending to kids that playing in rapid events is a bad thing and that using rapid events to break this record is bad. As long as the USCF sees fit rate these as they do, they are perfectly legitimate to take part in towards the record. And if it’s illegitimate to play rapid for the last 30 rating points, it’s illegitimate to play it for the first or middle 30, no? Moreover, regardless of whether the USCF changes the way they rate them, rapid events are both indicative of “true” chess strength as well as valuable for kids.

    It’s great that Awonder and his dad thought it was best to play in long time control events, both for his chess apparently and for the record. But please don’t demean the accomplishments of those who achieved 2200 in a rapid event or even a series of rapid events.

    Is Carlsen’s World Championship any less legitimate because he chose to go for a quick draw with white in the classic time control in Game 12 and opt for his chances in the rapid tiebreaks? It’s a matter of opinion maybe, but I don’t see a whole lot of people casting doubt on Carlsen’s claim to the crown.

  32. Dear Mr Young-kyu Yoo

    Iyour son is very good at chess now..and broke a national record as recognized by the national federation. An insane number of hours of tournaments and even more of traveling waiting practicing etc would have taken place. i know you have retired and have a lot of time … but purely out of the respect for the game itself of which your son is a good player of… please stop wasting your time defending his accomplishments as you are demeaning his efforts… lhe has done what few have done before… your last post on Carlson winning the Eccles playing rapid should shut everybody up… and if not then they will be talking forever anyways… just carry on.. and good luck.

  33. Young-kyu Yok

    Do not attack people on these lines… as a chess player yourself you should know when to attack and when to skip a game like the world champion

  34. Marry & others:

    Competing in rapid events when going for the title was completely legitimate and even common before Awonder. Nothing has changed after Awonder other than some parents getting together and deciding amongst themselves this is now a frowned upon practice. Unfortunately, they didn’t send us the memo. And even if they had, the fact remains that those who would have their kids participate in rapid events, for records or otherwise, are not “evil” parents leading their children astray with the siren song of quick chess or trying to steal something that’s rightfully someone else’s. Nobody is taking a short cut to true success, which is not this record, but something bigger and further down the road. Our kids are all playing in tournaments of varying time controls and gaining valuable experience. Nakamura was famous for playing a lot of quick chess, rated and unrated, when he was young. Look at where it’s got him? Fischer likewise. Carlsen likewise.

    Awonder chose to run the mile with an extra weight around his ankle. Nakamura did not. Most others did not. Cheers for Awonder, but no one deserves jeers here. Not the kids who pursued the record after Awonder, and not their parents.

    • Mr. Yoo,

      I’ll write a little bit more here, bear with me, but I will shut up, I promise, 🙂

      I understand you’re upset about all those comments. But again, nobody has denied the legitimacy of your son’s record, it is good based on USCF rules, period!!! Also nowhere anybody has denied the merits of speed chess or rapid chess if you call it. The parent who wrote long posts only said it is more difficult to break the records in long games than in short games, which I happen to agree. Please don’t change subject here.

      The news was on front page of USCF website and has been read by thousands of people. People have different opinions, some support you and some don’t, this is true for any issues being discussed in a free society, unlike some other parts of the world, you know what I mean. Just because you don’t like the views expressed by some parents, you don’t want to assume “some parents getting together” to “attack” you, otherwise people can assume the parents who support you are also somehow “getting together”, which I don’t think is true.

      I think the main reason why other people are questioning you is that most of your son’s last six tournaments happened to take place in the same places where the previous kid got his rating straight up (all fast chess) to reach master level in a month. You said you took some parent’s advice on deciding where to play and also due to the availability of the tournaments during the time. I see nothing wrong with this. I don’t see you did the same thing the other parents did, which was to try to get rating points back in short games often on the same day when their children had a bad performance in long games. For that, I find it troubling just as the other parent did. But again, just different opinions, no right or wrong here.

      You son will be a grand master someday if he can keep his passion going with your continued support. But please understand he will receive both praises and criticism along the way. Just because Carlsen and others are famous, they can escape from people’s criticism. His world championship match was viewed by millions of people. His every move and the intention behind every move were heavily criticized by millions of people online or offline, some are very harsh, some are beyond bad or stupid, much more than we all can imagine. But again, people are entitled to their own views.

      Good luck, go Christopher!

      • I said I wouldn’t post any more, but I feel I need to say a word in defense of the previous record holder. I think that the previous record holder was trying to get in as many games and events in as possible and much of their schedule was dictated by what was available on weeknights. And I see no evidence he was going to multiple events on the same day. It looks like there were some events that spanned multiple days or even multiple weeks where they skipped some of the weeks or some of the days. Ultimately, he wouldn’t have broken 2200 if he didn’t perform. He played an incredibly grueling schedule and yet managed to cross the finish line in time.

  35. A little history quiz…

    How did Magnus Carlsen first capture the attention of the chess world?

    It wasn’t at World Youth because he never won one.

    It wasn’t the Norwegian national championship because no one outside of Norway really cared.

    It was at a rapid event where he beat Karpov and drew (and almost beat) Kasparov.

    No one has beaten Karpov or drawn Kasparov here, but I hope people get the point.

    • Mark, you don’t want to use this line to try to be humorous here.

      For people (chess players and parents) don’t know where it is from, you’re referring them as “D*g”, is that what you’re implying here? Probably not. Even how upset Mr. Yoo is about the negative comments, he’s not implying anything close to that word.

      Just don’t want any confusion here, there are people who don’t know where that line came from.

  36. Last thoughts…

    This is going to be my last post here. I know I’ve posted a lot already and pressed some of my points to the point of boring redundancy but I didn’t want to leave here on a bitter or snarky note. I also want to distill all of my scattered musings into one note.

    What follows is lengthy and a bit preachy, so I apologize in advance.

    As chess parents, like our kids, many of us are very competitive, but I don’t think that makes any of us inherently bad people. I mentioned earlier that I’ve heard a lot of naysaying of other kids’ accomplishments and have engaged in some degree of it myself, so I’m not in a place to judge. I’ve also heard lots of words of encouragement and admiration as well. There was a lot of great team spirit at World Cadets this year and I think genuine good feeling and good will for the accomplishments of our medalists. My wish though for everyone, including myself, is that we be not so quick to judge others without fully understanding their reasons and putting ourselves in their shoes. And let’s try not to feel threatened by the success of other kids, because that just makes us all the quicker to judge.

    Not to say all of the negativity here is driven by jealousy. There are those who may genuinely feel there’s been some sort of injustice perpetrated or some that may be advocating for a more sensible approach, but a problem arises when kids are judged, their achievements are judged, or their parents are judged and motivations questioned without a full command of the facts.

    This was my son’s proudest moment in chess and one of the proudest moments of our lives as parents. We were and are so proud that our son achieved this record in the face of adversity, of setbacks in heartbreaking games as well as a difficult schedule. He set himself a lofty, historic goal and he achieved it. We won’t let any naysaying take away our pride in our son or his achievement, but we are saddened by the negativity, even if it may be coming from a small minority.

    Because I knew about some of the past controversy surrounding this record, we tried our best to make sure the result wasn’t tainted by any suggestion of cheating, collusion, etc. Christopher was going to play strong fields and it would all come down to the strength of his own play. Playing a bunch of A’s or B’s alone wouldn’t get the job done in time. He had to beat experts and masters to get the rating points. So we entered him in top-heavy events, and even in his final tournament where he faced a 1300 and 1600 before beating a master, about a quarter of the players were higher rated than him.

    What we never anticipated was being criticized for playing in rapid tournaments. First, because rapid is a completely legitimate format, and secondly because rapid was a special challenge for Christopher. He didn’t like playing in rapids and he hadn’t done well in them in the recent past. From 1800 to 2159 (actually to 2180 followed by a drop to 2159 in a G/60 the next day) he played in a handful of dual-rated tournaments and netted -22 (that’s *negative* 22) rating points. Given the criticism here and the claim that there were other young experts and masters who were eschewing rapid play to do things the ‘hard’ way, I looked up the records of all the 9 and 10-year old experts and masters in the November supplement and found that NONE of the 16 experts/masters on the list had gained so little from rapid events. Several had played in no rapid events at all, but it’s hard to do worse than -22. I also looked up the records of three past top juniors, Nakamura, Caruana, and Awonder, and found all three had played in more rapid events and gained significantly more rating points from 1800 and even 1900 onwards to 2200 than my son.

    So given he actually lost ground in rapids, how did Christopher get from 1800 to 2180? Obviously, he performed well at long time controls. And the following bears it out. He earned 296 points in these four events alone:

    2015 CalChess Barber Qualifier G/90 d5 (93 pts)
    2015 US Open 40/90 SD30 +30 (87 pts)
    2016 World Open 40/120 SD30 d10 (59 pts)
    2016 CalChess Barber Qualifier G/90 +30 (57 pts)

    Of course, Christopher played in 6 rapid events at the end that ultimately got him to master. But going into them we had no indication from past performances that he would do so well in them. However, we took the calculated risk that playing a bunch of games and tournaments would eliminate the variance by allowing him to recover from bad games and bad days, and that his true strength, which we believed to be above 2200, would carry the day.

    People accuse us of taking shortcuts because we tried to cram a bunch of tournaments into a couple of weeks. We saw it as a challenge. And we probably wouldn’t have needed to do it if the World Cadets Championship hadn’t taken away three weekends in late October.

    Now, let’s talk about other kids, not to criticize any, but to point out that there is great variance between schedules. Some play no rapids, others play in rapids predominantly. Some probably by choice but others out of necessity because of limited options where they live. Nobody but their parents and coaches should or can judge if they are doing it right or wrong. Who knows what their motives are? Who knows what their constraints are? If they break records, nobody should be questioning their schedules as long as they played in real events and didn’t cheat. If they’re smart, would-be record breakers would plan their attack on the goal. It’s great if you can just stumble past a record, but it’s just as great and maybe more rewarding if you set a goal and work towards it diligently and intelligently but with integrity.

    Some question the validity of trying for records like this at all because they feel it somehow sends the wrong message to kids. They are entitled to their opinion, but I think these records are just as valid as the 4-minute mile or the 10s 100m. They are goals, milestones. And sometimes they are history. Being a national master is something many if not most chessplayers aspire to and that the great majority never reach. To get there first is another achievement on top of that. Chess is competitive and if losing a game in a weekend event is worth a tear or at least a sigh, trying for history is worth something more.

    As sad as it is to see my son’s effort or my effort as a parent questioned, it was almost as disheartening to see the attacks on the integrity of past record holders and record attempters. We now kind of understand how some of them might have felt and why one might have left the game because of it. I’m glad though that Caruana stayed in the game and that he proved his naysayers wrong, even if he really had nothing to prove to anyone.

    I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I track how the top juniors are doing on the rating lists. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. And I’m also sure there are people out there who don’t really care that much but do take an occasional peek. But what we can’t do is let the competitiveness define how we treat people or judge people, whether those be other kids or parents. If we do, we’re usually going to be misjudging, condemning, tearing down.

    We should be building up. We should be encouraging all of our chess kids and their parents. We should be proud that competition is getting tougher, kids are breaking records at younger and younger ages, and that new young heroes are coming along every day.

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