Kasparov Chess Academy Zooms into the Future

My first time attending the Kasparov Chess Foundation’s camp for talented kids in New York was with my student, Sam Schmakel of Chicago, in 2005.  This was the first time that Garry Kasparov and FIDE Senior Trainer Michael Khodarkovsky hosted a training camp to discover American talent.  While Kasparov had already retired from professional chess, and was no longer the World Chess Champion, he was very much still the best in the world.

KCA training in 2005 with Kasparov, S. Schmakel, and D. Gurevicy
A young Sam Schmakel meets Garry Kasparov (photo courtesy Dmitry Gurevich)

I recall clearly that the children, who attended the Camp were talented players, and certainly showed potential to be the future chess stars.  The experience was one of a kind, and I was excited to be able to come back the next year.

In 2006, KCF hosted this camp again in New York, and I was able to attend with my student Brian Luo of Wisconsin.  Other talented young chess players in attendance were Ray Robson, Daniel Naroditsky and others, who became strong Grandmasters just a few years later.

My impressions at the time were that Kasparov was like an avatar stepping from Olympus to teach these youngsters. 

For many years after 2006, while I did not attend the camp, I followed the success of the Young Stars program through the years.  I was impressed when in 2011, the Young Stars program became a joint project between KCF and the Saint Louis Chess Club.  The program continued to grow and the caliber of students grew exponentially, developing a new wave of U.S. Grandmasters, including Sam Sevian, Kayden Troff, Jeffery Xiong, and others.  

Last December 2019, I returned to KCF’s Young Starts training session in New York. Once again, I was impressed to see the program’s evolution and the strength and promise of U.S. chess’ new young generation of players. 

At this training, I had my student, Alice Lee, of Minneapolis, who had just won the World Cadet Championship Under 10 with a score of 10 out of 11, but she was also the lowest rated player in the group at this training session.  It seemed to me that the other players were already stars, and it was fantastic to have her learn and be exposed to such a high caliber of players.  At the conclusion of this training session, Mr. Khodarkovsky invited the participants to the next Young Stars training session scheduled to take place in June 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri.   

Unfortunately, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our daily lives this year, the KCF Young Stars training session was held virtually through Zoom in June 2020 instead of live.  However, the pandemic could not stop the impressive and talented chess players in their continued successes and improvements this year.  For example:

(1) Brandon Jacobson fulfilled the requirements to become a Grandmaster.

[pgn][Event "Charlotte Open 2020"] [Site "Charlotte USA"] [Date "2020.01.05"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Chandra, Akshat"] [Black "Jacobson, Brandon"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2524"] [BlackElo "2470"] [Annotator "Gurevich,D"] [PlyCount "106"] [EventDate "2020.01.01"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1313"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2020.01.06"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.01.14"] [SourceQuality "2"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. e3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. b3 b6 5. Bb2 Bb7 6. cxd5 exd5 7. d4 Nbd7 8. Nc3 Bd6 9. g3 O-O 10. Bg2 Ba6 11. Nd2 {[#]} c5 (11... c6 $5 {It's hard to see the move 11..c5 and not to make it-comment of Brandon}) 12. Bf1 Bxf1 13. Kxf1 cxd4 14. exd4 Bb4 15. Kg2 Re8 16. Rc1 Nf8 17. Nf3 {[#]} Bxc3 18. Rxc3 Ne4 19. Rc2 Rc8 20. Qd3 Qd7 21. Rhc1 f6 22. a4 Ne6 23. Rxc8 Rxc8 24. Qb5 {[#]} (24. Rxc8+ Qxc8 25. Ng1) 24... Rd8 $1 {The only move. But now Black gets a good game.} 25. Qxd7 Rxd7 26. Rc8+ Kf7 {Perhaps Black's advantage is not big, but it's hard to defend for White} 27. Kf1 g5 28. h3 h5 29. Rc2 Rd8 (29... b5 30. a5 b4) 30. Ne1 (30. h4 g4 31. Ne1) 30... Nd6 31. Ng2 Nf5 32. g4 $6 hxg4 33. hxg4 Nfxd4 $19 34. Bxd4 Nxd4 35. Rc7+ Ke6 36. Rxa7 Nxb3 37. Ra6 Rb8 38. Ne3 Nc5 39. Ra7 Rb7 40. Ra8 d4 41. Nc4 Kd5 42. Nd2 d3 43. a5 bxa5 44. Rxa5 Kd4 45. Nf3+ Kc4 46. Nd2+ Kb4 47. Ra1 Kc3 48. Ke1 Re7+ 49. Kd1 Rh7 50. Rc1+ Kd4 51. Nf3+ Kd5 52. Rb1 Rh1+ 53. Ne1 Ne4 {Good technique by Brandon Jacobson!} 0-1 [/pgn]

[pgn][Event "CCCSA Winter GM 2020"] [Site "Charlotte USA"] [Date "2020.01.16"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Mishra, Abhimanyu"] [Black "Jacobson, Brandon"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B69"] [WhiteElo "2397"] [BlackElo "2470"] [Annotator "Gurevich,D"] [PlyCount "114"] [EventDate "2020.01.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [EventCategory "8"] 1. e4 {This sharp and uncompromising game was played between two KCF Young Stars participants} c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 a6 8. O-O-O Bd7 9. f4 Be7 10. Nf3 b5 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Kb1 Qb6 13. Bd3 O-O-O 14. Rhe1 Kb8 15. Nd5 exd5 16. exd5 Ne5 17. fxe5 fxe5 18. Qh6 Qc7 19. Qh5 (19. Nd4 $5 {This move was suggested by Kasparov himself}) 19... Rdg8 20. Qxf7 (20. Nd4) 20... Qd8 21. Be4 (21. Nxe5 dxe5 22. d6 Bf6 23. Rf1) 21... Bf6 22. Qh5 h6 23. Bf5 Bxf5 24. Qxf5 Rxg2 25. Rd2 Rhg8 $132 26. Rxg2 Rxg2 27. Qe4 Qg8 28. a3 (28. h3) 28... Qg4 $1 29. Qxg4 Rxg4 30. Nd2 Rd4 (30... Bh4 31. Re2 Rg1+ 32. Ka2 Rd1) 31. Ne4 Bh4 32. Re3 (32. c3 Rxd5 33. Rg1 Rd3 34. Rg7 Rh3 35. Nxd6) 32... Rd1+ 33. Ka2 Rxd5 $17 34. Rh3 Bg5 35. Nxg5 hxg5 36. Kb3 Rd4 37. Rg3 g4 38. h3 gxh3 39. Rxh3 Kc7 40. Kc3 Rd1 41. Rh7+ Kc6 42. Ra7 e4 {If you can create a passed pawn these endgames are usually won-Kasparov} 43. Re7 d5 44. Kb4 a5+ 45. Kb3 Kc5 46. c3 Rd2 47. Re6 a4+ 48. Ka2 Kc4 49. Re5 Rd1 50. Re6 Kd3 51. Re5 Ke2 52. Rh5 e3 53. Rh2+ Kd3 54. Rh3 Kd2 55. b3 e2 56. Rh2 Kd3 57. Rh3+ Kc2 0-1 [/pgn]

(2) IM Carissa Yip is climbing to the top of the world female chess ranks.

[pgn][Event "2nd Cairns Cup 2020"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2020.02.15"] [Round "8.1"] [White "Ju Wenjun"] [Black "Yip, Carissa"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C70"] [WhiteElo "2583"] [BlackElo "2412"] [Annotator "Gurevich,D"] [PlyCount "114"] [EventDate "2020.02.07"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [EventCategory "11"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1319"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2020.02.17"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.02.17"] [SourceQuality "2"] {A great encounter where Carissa beats a World Champion} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 g6 5. d4 exd4 6. c3 Bg7 7. cxd4 b5 8. Bb3 Nge7 9. d5 Na5 10. Bd2 Nxb3 11. Qxb3 c5 12. Bc3 f6 13. a3 d6 14. h4 $146 (14. Nbd2) (14. O-O) 14... O-O 15. Nbd2 Qe8 (15... Bh6) 16. O-O Bd7 17. Qc2 Rc8 18. b3 h6 19. a4 Ra8 20. axb5 axb5 21. Rxa8 Qxa8 22. Ra1 Qb7 23. Qa2 (23. b4 c4 24. Ra5) 23... Nc8 24. Ne1 {[#]} b4 25. Bb2 Bb5 26. Nc2 Bd3 27. Ne3 Qe7 (27... f5) 28. Re1 Nb6 29. Qa1 Ra8 30. Qc1 h5 31. Nec4 Nxc4 32. Nxc4 Ra2 $1 33. g3 Kh7 34. Nd2 Bh6 $1 35. f4 Qa7 36. Nc4 Qd7 37. Re3 Bxc4 38. bxc4 Qg4 39. Kh1 Bxf4 $19 40. gxf4 Qxh4+ 41. Kg1 Qg4+ 42. Kh1 Qxf4 43. Qb1 Rxb2 44. Qxb2 Qxe3 45. Qxf6 Qxe4+ 46. Kh2 b3 47. Qf7+ Kh6 48. Qf8+ Kg5 49. Qd8+ Kf5 50. Qd7+ Ke5 51. Qg7+ Kf4 52. Qf6+ Kg4 53. Qe6+ Qf5 54. Qxd6 Qf2+ 55. Kh1 Qf3+ 56. Kh2 Qh3+ 57. Kg1 Qg3+ {You can see that this impressive win wasn't an easy road for Carissa} 0-1 [/pgn]

(3) Christopher Yoo is a strong young IM;

[pgn][Event "Marshall GM Norm 2020"] [Site "New York USA"] [Date "2020.02.27"] [Round "2.3"] [White "Yoo, Christopher Woojin"] [Black "Perunovic, Mil"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B45"] [WhiteElo "2430"] [BlackElo "2591"] [Annotator "Gurevich,D"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2020.02.27"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [EventCategory "8"] [SourceTitle "The Week in Chess 1321"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2020.03.02"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2020.03.02"] [SourceQuality "2"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 e6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 d6 6. g3 Nf6 7. Bg2 Bd7 8. O-O Be7 9. Nce2 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Rc8 11. b3 b5 {[#]} 12. Qe2 Qb6 13. Be3 Qb8 14. a4 bxa4 15. bxa4 O-O 16. Rfb1 Qc7 17. Nb5 $1 {[#]Without making visual mistakes Black is getting into the difficult position} Qxc2 18. Qxc2 Rxc2 19. Bxa7 d5 20. e5 Ne4 21. Bxe4 dxe4 22. a5 f6 23. a6 fxe5 24. Bb6 Bc6 25. a7 Ba8 26. Nc7 $18 e3 27. Nxa8 exf2+ 28. Kf1 Rxa8 29. Be3 Bd6 30. Rb6 Bc7 31. Rb7 Rc3 32. Rc1 Rxe3 33. Rcxc7 1-0 [/pgn]

(4) Abhi Mishra at just 11 years of age is still the youngest IM in the world.

[pgn][Event "CCCSA Winter GM 2020"] [Site "Charlotte USA"] [Date "2020.01.19"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Yu, Jennifer"] [Black "Mishra, Abhimanyu"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2321"] [BlackElo "2397"] [Annotator "Gurevich,D"] [PlyCount "112"] [EventDate "2020.01.16"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [EventCategory "8"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Be3 Qa5 9. Qd2 O-O {[#]} 10. Rc1 Bg4 11. Ng5 cxd4 12. cxd4 {[#]} Nc6 13. Qxa5 Nxa5 14. h3 Bd7 15. Rc7 Rfd8 16. Bd2 b6 {[#]} 17. Nf3 Rac8 18. Rxc8 (18. Rxa7 Nc6) 18... Rxc8 19. Bd3 Nc4 $36 20. Ke2 Nxd2 21. Kxd2 Bh6+ 22. Ke2 Rc3 23. Ne5 Ba4 $1 $17 24. Rb1 Bc2 25. Rb2 Bxd3+ 26. Nxd3 Rc4 27. f4 Rxd4 28. Ke3 Rc4 29. Ne5 Rc3+ 30. Kd4 Rc7 31. Nd3 e6 32. g4 Bf8 33. g5 Bc5+ 34. Ke5 Kg7 35. Nxc5 Rxc5+ 36. Kd6 Rc4 37. Ke5 Ra4 38. Rc2 Ra5+ 39. Kd6 Ra3 40. Rh2 h5 41. gxh6+ Kxh6 42. h4 Re3 43. Ke5 Kh5 44. Kd4 Rf3 45. Ke5 Kg4 46. Rh1 Rf2 47. a3 Re2 48. Kf6 Rxe4 49. Kxf7 Kh5 50. Rf1 b5 51. Rc1 Rxf4+ 52. Kxe6 Kxh4 53. Rh1+ Kg5 54. Rg1+ Rg4 55. Rc1 a6 56. Rc5+ Kh4 0-1 [/pgn]

(5) Rochelle Wu is certainly not “just” a World Cadet Champion.

(6) Alice Lee, who is also a World Cadet Champion and earned the title of Master at just ten years old. 


What is most important is what can be seen beyond these titles – these are talented, hard working, tenacious chess players, who are showing great promise to become even more successful in the chess world.  The level of their discussions during the Zoom training were beyond their years.  No matter how complex or nuanced the variations Kasparov presented to them, these students were not phased or star struck.  They engaged fully, thoughtfully, and accurately in their responses and answers.


Not all great players make for great teachers, and not all great teachers make for great players.  Kasparov is certainly an exceptional World Chess Champion, and he is an exceptional teacher.  Perhaps the secret to his success is that he does not have to come down from Mt. Olympus, he lifts his students up to the pinnacle instead.


And while I may pause for a moment trying to figure out when I log into Zoom, why my wife’s name and not my own, pops up on the screen, one thing I do understand and am very excited about for our future and the future of chess is that these KCF Young Stars make me want to continue learning about the great game of chess and see more Young Stars reach their own Mt. Olympus.

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