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:

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:

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.

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  1. Great Article Col Hater! I felt like I was at the tournament watching Liran Zhou make history. Congratulations to Liran Zhou, this won’t be the last we have heard from him!

  2. Great article! After the first round loss by time, Liran showed his heart of champion, came back even stronger and set the new record half year earlier! What an achievement! We are rooting for you!

  3. Congratulations, Liran! May your chess continue to soar.

    From the family of Christopher Yoo, the previous record holder

  4. […] (August 21-27). Our delegation of over sixty players includes some incredible talent, such as Liran Zhou (Open Under 10), who just broke the record for the youngest master in US Chess history, Abhimanyu Mishra (top seed in Open Under 8), who last year, broke the record for the youngest US […]

  5. This kid is impressive!I was his round 4 opponent and after a slip in the opening I could offer little resistance. Most impressive was that he had only a few minutes to make 20 moves before time control and he made no mistakes. Very cool under pressure! He will be something special in the near future.

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