Nine-Year-Old Liran Zhou Breaks Record for Youngest Master at the Continental Open

Liran Zhou, America's youngest master. Photo courtesy of the Zhou family
Nine-year-old Liran Zhou crossed the 2200 threshold with his last round win at the Continental Open.  That day, he was 9 years, 3 months, and 22 days old. He broke the record which was previously held by Christopher Yoo, who reached master just a month shy of his 10th birthday.  Christopher held the record for 6 months before Liran took approximately six months off the record. The game that made Liran a master was his round six upset win over Lawyer Times.  That win gave him a rating of 2203 and with it the title of America’s youngest ever master.  Here is the game:
[pgn][Event "Continental Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.08.13"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Times, Lawyer"]
[Black "Zhou, Liran"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A47"]
[WhiteElo "2286"]
[BlackElo "2185"]
[PlyCount "84"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 c5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Be7 6. Nbd2 b6 7. a3 Bb7 8. e4 d6
9. Qe2 a6 10. O-O b5 11. b3 O-O 12. Re1 Qc7 13. Bb2 Rfd8 14. Nf1 Na5 15. N3d2
Nxb3 16. Nxb3 c4 17. Bb1 cxb3 18. Nd2 Nd7 19. a4 bxa4 20. Rxa4 Nb6 21. Ra1 d5
22. Nxb3 Nc4 23. Bc1 dxe4 24. Bxe4 Bxe4 25. Qxe4 Bd6 26. g3 a5 27. Bg5 Rdb8 28.
Nd2 Nxd2 29. Bxd2 Qc4 30. Rab1 a4 31. Rb7 a3 32. Qf3 Rxb7 33. Qxb7 Rb8 34. Qd7
Bf8 35. Qa7 Rb2 36. Bf4 a2 37. Qa8 Rb1 38. Rc1 a1=Q 39. Qxa1 Rxa1 40. Rxa1 Qxc3
41. Ra8 Qe1+ 42. Kg2 Qe4+ 0-1[/pgn]
Liran came into the tournament with a current rating of 2185.  However, he put himself in a difficult position with a first round loss Yili Wen.  Liran didn’t realize it was his move and lost on time when he was a pawn up!  Here is the position:

Yili Wen vs. Liran Zhou

Black loses on time.

Liran then won his next two games against experts and pulled off a win against NM Robert King in round 4.  In the penultimate round, Liran lost to GM Niaz Murshed, but since he was paired up in round 6, he was able to win the game and achieve the title of National Master.  He certainly had to overcome a bit of adversity from the first round loss, but he proved himself up to the task.  Liran tied for second place Under 2300 and won $214.29, but I suspect that was far less important to him than the rating points he gained! To call Liran’s rise to master meteoric would be an understatement.  Liran learned the game only three years ago when he was six years old and started with a rating of just over 200.  In a mere three years, he has gone from 200 to 2200! His rating rise has been so rapid that he has outgrown coaches.  He now outrates his first coach!  He worked with Robert Guevara for about a year before moving on to Senior Master Qibiao Wang, who he was with for just over a year.  He now studies with IM Andranik Matikozyan. I asked Liran his favorite players, and he named Tal, Fischer, and Kasparov as his favorites.  His long-term goal is to join them as a World Champion.  Given his astronomical early successes, you have to think he has a chance! Liran attributes his success to reading many chess books, especially those with chess puzzles.  He has a library of books from How to Beat Your Dad at Chess to the Grandmaster Preparation series, but his favorite book is How to Reassess Your Chess by IM Jeremy Silman. Liran will be competing in the World Cadet Championship in Brazil from August 21 to 31.  US Chess will be following the tournament.  I’m sure we will all be rooting for Liran to bring home a medal! Liran may have been the story of the tournament, but there were many other significant items to cover.  This year’s Continental Open shattered attendance records with 352 players.  The tournament had never drawn more than 300 players since it moved to its recent location in Sturbridge, MA.  It was also very strong with 5 GMs. In the end, GM Priyadharshan Kannappan won the tournament on tiebreaks over GM Alexander Ivanov.  Both GMs scored four wins and two draws to tie for first place and take home $2250 with Kannappan taking an extra $200 for the superior tiebreaks.  Kannappan also added to his winnings by winning the blitz tournament Saturday night with an 8-0 score winning $200.  Both Kannappan and Ivanov had similar paths and similar opponents.  Both started 3-0, and they played a quick draw in round four.  Both players beat GM Alexander Stripunsky and NM Brandon Wu.  Kannappan played a quick draw with GM Niaz Murshed in the last round while Ivanov drew with Kudrin in the penultimate round and then won against Wu in the last round. Here are two games from the winners:
[pgn][Event "Continental Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.08.12"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Kannappan, Priyadharshan"]
[Black "Wu, Brandon"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B13"]
[WhiteElo "2593"]
[BlackElo "2235"]
[PlyCount "117"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Ne2 g6 7. Nd2 Bg7 8. O-O
O-O 9. Nf3 Qb6 10. Ng3 Rd8 11. h3 Nd7 12. Bc2 e5 13. dxe5 Ndxe5 14. Bb3 Nxf3+
15. Qxf3 Ne5 16. Qe2 Qc6 17. Rd1 Be6 18. Be3 Re8 19. Bd4 Nc4 20. Qc2 h5 21.
Bxg7 Kxg7 22. Rd4 a5 23. Qc1 Qc7 24. Qg5 Kf8 25. Bxc4 dxc4 26. Ne4 Red8 27.
Rad1 Rxd4 28. Rxd4 Qe7 29. Nf6 Qc7 30. Rd7 Bxd7 31. Qh6+ Ke7 32. Nd5+ Kd6 33.
Nxc7 Kxc7 34. Qf4+ Kb6 35. Qd4+ Kc7 36. Qxc4+ Kb6 37. Qxf7 Bf5 38. Qf6+ Ka7 39.
Qd4+ Ka6 40. a4 Rc8 41. b4 axb4 42. cxb4 b6 43. Qd6 Kb7 44. a5 bxa5 45. Qd5+
Kb6 46. Qxa5+ Kb7 47. Kh2 Rc2 48. b5 Be4 49. Qa4 Re2 50. Qd1 Rc2 51. Qd7+ Rc7
52. Qe6 Bf5 53. Qa6+ Kb8 54. f3 Bd3 55. Qb6+ Kc8 56. Qe6+ Rd7 57. Qe8+ Rd8 58.
Qc6+ Kb8 59. b6 1-0[/pgn]
[pgn][Event "Continental Open"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2017.08.13"]
[Round "6.2"]
[White "Wu, Brandon"]
[Black "Ivanov, Alexander"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "A21"]
[WhiteElo "2235"]
[BlackElo "2556"]
[PlyCount "88"]
[EventDate "2017.??.??"]1. Nf3 g6 2. g3 Bg7 3. c4 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5. Bg2 Ne7 6. O-O O-O 7. Rb1 f5 8. d3 h6
9. e3 g5 10. d4 Nd7 11. Ne1 Nf6 12. f4 e4 13. Nc2 c6 14. b4 Be6 15. Qe2 Qe8 16.
d5 cxd5 17. Nd4 Qd7 18. c5 gxf4 19. gxf4 Nc6 20. Ncb5 Ne8 21. Nxe6 Qxe6 22.
cxd6 Rf7 23. Bd2 Rd8 24. Rfc1 d4 25. Nc7 Qxd6 26. Nxe8 Rxe8 27. Qc4 dxe3 28.
Bxe3 Bd4 29. Bxd4 Qxd4+ 30. Kf1 Qe3 31. Rc2 Qxf4+ 32. Rf2 Qe3 33. Re1 Qd4 34.
Qe2 Nxb4 35. Bh3 Nd3 36. Rg2+ Kf8 37. Rd1 Qf6 38. Qe3 f4 39. Qxa7 f3 40. Rg3
Qa6 41. Qd4 Nf4+ 42. Kf2 Qe2+ 43. Kg1 Nxh3+ 44. Kh1 Qxd1+ 0-1[/pgn]
The section winners were:
Under 2100

Jack Cheng, 5 ½ - ½, $2000

Under 1900

Jake Wang, Chen Wu, Ryan Wang & Joy Cao, 5-1, $950

Under 1700

Robert Cheng, Paul Becotte, Kevin Hass, & Griffin Hurley, 5-1. $950

Under 1500

Ansgarius Aylward & Surya Pulukari, 5-1, $1050

Under 1300

Aiden Breen, 5 ½ - ½, $1400 each

Under 1000

Tony Wu, 6-0, $800

Mixed Doubles

Jonathin Chin & Angelica Chin 9 ½ - 2 ½, $500 each

Blitz Tournament

GM Priyadharshan Kannappan, 8-0, $200

            NTD Bill Goichberg directed for CCA assisted by Harold Stenzel & Bob Messenger. For more information, visit: