When Two NY Chess Families Connect in St. Louis, a Wonderful Partnership Is Born

The Chessanity Masters Invitational (left to right): Liran Zhou vs. Max Lu and Wesley Wang vs. Vincent Tsay (not pictured: Kassa Korley and Michael Rohde). Photo: Rosanna Prestia
Since early 2014, as Warren and Wesley Wang progressed to master-level and beyond, the brothers have also been teaching chess weekly during the school year. Ambitiously, Warren and Wesley founded www.Chessanity.org,  and their parents Winston Wang and Mingdi Yang helped them organize numerous professional and scholastic tournaments, nurturing their playing skills and giving back to the community. Now Warren is a freshman at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and Wesley, currently a more active tournament player than his brother, is a freshman at Jericho High School.
Contemporaneously, Paris, Frankie, and Sebastian Prestia, a number of years younger than the Wang brothers, began appearing in several newspaper and magazine articles as well as television news, due to their exploits in converging on the expert and master ranks. The Prestia brothers started www.ChessLI.org along with their parents Frank and Rosanna Prestia with the goal of promoting chess education and camaraderie by referring people to all of the Long Island organizations and events. Having worked with the Prestia family and having participated in a number of Chessanity events, I was familiar with the chess resurgence which both families were bringing to central Long Island. As it happened, however, the Wang family and the Prestia family did not run into each other at all during the 2017-2018 school year.
This past summer, Wesley had been invited to Kasparov’s Young Stars Camp in St. Louis.  And the Prestias attended Greg Shahade’s US Chess School, where Jennifer Shahade was also teaching, as the boys wanted to see the world famous Chess Center and Hall of Fame.  Thus, when Winston Wang and Frank Prestia, Sr. bumped into each other at the Parkway Hotel in St. Louis, they were both startled, but they both realized that something had to change. At that moment, it was determined that Chessanity and ChessLI would join forces. The immediate result of that was the September 16 Chessanity event at East Woods School in Oyster Bay, New York (rounds 1-2 of the master section of the event were played at the Wang family home on September 15). The Prestias are newly attending East Woods School and lending their expertise to the expanding chess program there under the direction of Principal Laura Kang, herself a chess-player. The long-term result of the Wang / Prestia collaboration will include monthly events already calendared at East Woods (the next event is October 14) with the potential for a new dedicated chess site on nearby commercial property in the near future.
September Chessanity. Photo: Rosanna Prestia

The September Chessanity event had 5 sections: Master, Premier, Classic, Booster and Beginner. The Master section was a 6-player invitational featuring me, Kassa Korley, Wesley Wang, Vincent Tsay, Liran Zhou and Max Lu. I took the early lead with wins against Liran Zhou in round 1 and Wesley Wang in round 2. My game against the very talented Zhou was a typically tense Sicilian Defense battle.

[pgn][Event "September Chessanity Invitational"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.09.15"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Zhou, Liran"]
[Black "Rohde, Michael"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B47"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "108"]
[SourceDate "2018.09.27"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. g3 a6 7. Bg2 d6 8. O-O
Be7 9. Re1 Rb8 (9... Nf6 10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. e5 {is the idea behind putting the
rook on e1.}) 10. a4 (10. Nxc6 bxc6 11. e5 d5 {is fine for Black as White's
minor pieces do not have much activity.}) 10... Nf6 11. f4 {A surprising move,
daring me to try to make an issue out of the diagonal leading to g1.} (11. Nxc6
bxc6 12. e5 dxe5 13. Rxe5 O-O 14. Re2 ({On} 14. Bf4 Bd6 15. Rxe6 Bxf4 16. Rxc6
Qe5 {Black has plenty of activity.}) 14... Rd8) 11... O-O (11... Nxd4 12. Qxd4
d5 13. Be3 dxe4 14. Qb6 {seems decent for White; then} Qxb6 15. Bxb6 Nd5 16.
Nxd5 exd5 17. Rad1 Be6 18. f5 Bxf5 19. Rxd5 Be6 20. Re5 {is one possibility.})
(11... d5 12. e5 Nd7 (12... Nxd4 {does not work due to} 13. exf6 {with Nc3xd5
on the way}) 13. Be3 {may be how the game should progress.}) 12. Be3 Na5 13.
Bf2 {A strong move taking all of the punch out of Black playing ... Na5-c4.
The bishop's coverage / occupation of the sensitive f2 square (which makes up
for his rook being on e1 instead of f1) plus its strong support of the now
unmarked night on d4 indicates that White is now solid enough to commence
kingside operations.} Re8 14. Qf3 (14. g4 e5 {is ok for Black because it
disturbs f4 and if 15 fxe5 dxe5, the Black bishop can get to c5.}) 14... b6 {
I decided the bishop had to both be activated, and had to cover d5 in case the
knight on f6 gets chased.} 15. g4 Bb7 16. g5 Nd7 17. h4 Rbc8 {Making a threat,
no matter its relative triviality: Black menaces 18 ... Nc4.} 18. h5 Nf8 {
Taking the spot often reserved for the bishop in these setups, but g5-g6 had
to be stopped.} 19. Qg4 (19. Qh3 e5 {also gives Black counterplay.}) 19... Nc4
20. b3 Ne5 {The position transforms: the pawn storm has been stymied, and the
exchange of a set of minor pieces relieves Black's cramped position.} 21. fxe5
Qxc3 22. exd6 Bxd6 23. e5 {The most natural and forcing. On other moves, Black
has enough activity.} Bxg2 24. exd6 Bh3 {I felt I had good chances in the
brewing potential opposite-colored bishops ending.} 25. Qg3 Qxg3+ 26. Bxg3 Nd7
27. c4 e5 28. Nf3 f6 29. h6 {A very principled retort. Zhou puts everything
into breaking down the Black pawn chain which is keeping White's bishop at bay.
} Bg4 30. Nh2 Bh5 31. hxg7 fxg5 32. a5 {Another crack on the dark squares!}
bxa5 (32... Rc6 33. axb6 Rxb6 34. c5 Rxb3 35. Bf2 {seems fine for White.}) 33.
Rxa5 Rc6 34. Bxe5 {The most natural attempt to steer towards equality.} (34.
Raxe5 {is what I was afraid of.} Nxe5 (34... Rxe5 {is the right response} 35.
Rxe5 (35. Bxe5 Nxe5 36. Rxe5 Rxd6 {with equality.}) 35... Rxd6) 35. Rxe5 Rxe5
36. Bxe5 {shockingly is winning for White} Be8 (36... Rc8 37. Bf6 Be8 38. Ng4)
37. Ng4) 34... Rxd6 35. Bxd6 Rxe1+ 36. Kf2 Re2+ 37. Kf1 Re6 38. Rxa6 (38. Rxg5
{was the way to try to equalize.}) 38... Kxg7 {Now White is in trouble due to
the pin.} 39. Rc6 Kg6 40. Kg1 Bd1 {Capitalizing on White's sudden difficulties.
} 41. b4 Ne5 42. Bxe5 Rxc6 43. c5 Re6 44. Bd6 Re1+ 45. Kf2 Re2+ 46. Kg1 Ba4 47.
Nf3 Rc2 48. Nd4 Rc4 49. Ne6 Rxb4 50. Kf2 Kf5 51. Nd8 Rc4 52. Ke3 h5 53. Kd3 Bb5
54. c6 Rxc6+ 0-1[/pgn]

Kassa Korley was nicked for a draw in round 1 by Vincent Tsay, but Kassa advanced in round 2 to 1.5/2, so I faced him in round 3 in a clear contest to be the front-runner in the event. Korley obtained some pressure against me, plus a time advantage in the g/90 + 30 sec. increment battle which lasted into the endgame. When I finally seemed to reach a convincing equality, however, his pressure paid off, and I blundered a pawn with no real chance to recover, and so Korley took a half-point lead in the event. In the concluding 4th round, I got nothing against the excellently prepared Vincent Tsay, but Wesley Wang was playing in a good aggressive style and putting Korley through the ringer. Kassa hung on for the draw in that game and emerged in first place in the event. I ended up in a tie for 2nd with Liran Zhou.

[pgn][Event "September Chessanity Invitational"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.09.16"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Wang, Wesley"]
[Black "Korley, Kassa"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B12"]
[Annotator "Rohde,Michael"]
[PlyCount "93"]
[SourceDate "2018.09.27"]1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O Ne7 7. Nbd2 h6 8. a4 a6
({More intuitive is} 8... Bh7 9. a5 a6 10. Nb3 Qc7 11. Bd2 c5 {and Black is
still keeping options open as to where the e7 knight will travel.}) (8... a5 {
would not be good as then the b5 square would be too weak if Black ever plays .
.. c6-c5.}) 9. Nb3 Bg4 {The bishop for knight trade is safe enough, but
long-term Black may have worries about White's two bishops. But a more salient
consideration against this is that Black's light-squared bishop was already
doing a fine job on f5.} 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Bxf3 Rc8 12. Bd2 Nf5 13. Bg4 ({Quiet
play with} 13. c3 c5 14. Be2 {was also better for White, planning eventually
Be2-d3.}) 13... g6 14. Bxf5 gxf5 15. Qh5 c5 16. g4 {Spectating, when I first
saw this move, it appeared a little reckless, but I didn't notice the concept.}
(16. f4 cxd4 17. g4 {is very unclear.}) 16... fxg4 17. f4 {Brilliantly putting
all his chips on the f-file.} gxf3 18. Rxf3 Qe7 19. Raf1 Rg8+ (19... Rh7 {is
solid, but its passivity could be a problem.} 20. c3 {keeps White's center
intact, and then White will look to bring his knight to the kingside.}) 20. Kh1
Rg6 21. Nc1 (21. c3 {is also unclear.}) 21... cxd4 {Both sides have found a
path forward. Black rips up the White center, while White pursues a slight
material advantage.} 22. Rxf7 Qxf7 23. Rxf7 Kxf7 24. Nd3 Bg7 25. Nf4 Nxe5 26.
Nxg6 Nxg6 {Black has a rook, knight and two pawns for the queen, but the White
queen is extremely agile and able to find targets.} 27. Qf3+ Kg8 28. Qg4 Kf7
29. Qf3+ Kg8 30. Qb3 Ne5 (30... Rc7 31. Qb6 Re7 32. Bb4 {makes sense only for
White.}) 31. a5 Rf8 32. Qxb7 Rf2 33. Bxh6 {A necessary resource.} Bxh6 34. Qb8+
Kf7 35. Qxe5 Be3 36. Qc7+ Kf6 37. b4 Kf5 (37... Rf1+ 38. Kg2 Rf2+ 39. Kg3 Bf4+
40. Qxf4+ Rxf4 41. Kxf4 {would be winning for White.}) 38. Qh7+ (38. b5 Rf1+
39. Kg2 Rf2+ {forces a draw.}) 38... Kf4 39. Qh4+ Ke5 40. Qg3+ Ke4 41. Qg4+ Ke5
42. Qd1 Rd2 43. Qf1 Rxc2 44. Qxa6 Kf4 45. Qxe6 Rc1+ 46. Kg2 Rc2+ {It is
perpetual check.} 47. Kh1 1/2-1/2[/pgn]

In the Premier Section, Frankie Prestia turned in an excellent performance, posting a perfect 3-0. A number of other strong young players competed in the Premier section, including some from the City who had roots on Long Island. Paris Prestia chose not to play and instead volunteered as an assistant to the directors for both the Master and Premier events. And Sebastian Prestia instead selected the Westfield, New Jersey, Chess Club Quads, convincing his dad to dutifully drive him all the way there for that event.

While many New York area masters are aware of the strong Chessanity tournaments, less well-known is the teaching tradition at Chessanity, which has included such talented students as Zhou and Ellen Wang. Another notable volunteer at the September event was Evelyn Zhu, while chess parents Rosanna Prestia, Ming Zhang, and Mingdi Yang also were on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly, and regular Chessanity volunteer Hanson Lu also provided support. Between games, a lively free-form soccer game formed in the school's gym. Overall, I noticed a great deal of enthusiasm from players, and parents, all enthused about the prospects for even greater success for chess on Long Island.