Vanessa Sun on the Greater NY Scholastics

All heads in the room turned to look as the legendary former World Champion Garry Kasparov made his way through the aisles. He glanced at a few boards, silently making his judgments on several positions. William Graif, who placed second in the highest section of the tournament, saw Kasparov nod to himself in approval of one of his moves. Graif half jokes that it was the 'greatest moment of his life.' This was only one of the many exciting memories players took away from the 2018 Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championships. Sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation, the tournament has welcomed Kasparov for signings, and Kasparov even tweeted a couple photos from the event. These specially sponsored events only happen a few times a year, namely the All Girls National Championship, Greater Chicago, Greater Mid-Atlantic, and Greater California Scholastic Chess Championships. This year’s event boasted a record breaking turnout of almost 1500 players- the maximum event capacity- even though it took place in a long, freezing cold streak. The weekend’s weather was referred to in the Kasparov Chess Foundation’s news update on their website  as not much of a nuisance for the dedicated scholastic players that showed up to the tournament. However, in a notable story of complete dedication to the event, one player, Bowe Siegelson, did actually face a number of weather related obstacles: his flight back from Colorado was cancelled on Thursday and his family rebooked a plane to Philadelphia instead. Then, his family drove to the tournament from Philly just in time to make it to the tournament. He also got sick in the middle of the event, but pulled through, finishing 7th place in the Primary Championship section. He, like many other players, showed extreme commitment to chess this weekend. The tournament featured 14 sections overall, with both class sections and an open championship section for K-1, primary, elementary, junior high, and high school. All levels were extremely competitive, with teams from all over the city and individuals without their schools or large chess programs backing them. Every finisher played an impressive 5 or 6 games, which can be quite lengthy. A few kids even had blitz playoffs, such as CM Abhimanyu Mishra and WCM Iris Mou in the Primary Championship. An important part of the awards was special “pink slips” given by the Continental Chess Association, which allowed many players to receive free entries to various CCA tournaments. The top 4 scoring individuals in each section, top 2 teams in each section, and to the top 3 Mixed Doubles teams among High School sections earned free entries to specified tournaments. Exact rules at: Davis Zong Sr. said of this opportunity, “Davis [Zong Jr.] has won free entries to the World Open for the past several years, thanks to the city championship.”
Sophie Morris-Suzuki showing off her “pink slip” and trophy
Full results from the tournament can be found on the tournament’s official website, but some highlights included FM Ethan Li’s big win in the High School Championship, Edward R. Murrow High School’s success as the top High School team, I.S. 318’s Junior High team Championship win, NM Justin Chen’s clear first in the Junior High category, CM Liran Zhou’s dominating performance in the Elementary Championship, and WCM Iris Mou’s upset with Kevin Duong in the Primary Championship.
Photo courtesy of Edward R. Murrow High School team.
Coach IM Alex Ostrovsky and students preparing. Photo by Ken Kubo
This was FM Ethan Li’s 3rd championship win in a row, ending his last scholastic year on a strong note. GM Michael Rohde annotated several games for this article, including Ethan's key victory over Sophie Morris-Suzuki.
[pgn][Event "GNYSCC High School Championship "]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Li, Ethan"]
[Black "Morris-Suzuki, Sophie"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D00"]
[PlyCount "77"]1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 {The Veresov, an opening often used to confuse using
transpositions.} c6 3. Bf4 {3.e4 would have turned this into a Caro-Kann.} Bf5
4. f3 Nf6 5. g4 Bc8 {Here Black was well-placed to hold her ground with 5 ...
Bg6, as there is no White knight able to hassle the bishop, and queenside
counterplay is on the way after ... e7-e6 and potentially ... Bf8-b4.} 6. e3 {
It was not easy to figure out how to advantageously get e2-e4 in, as if g4-g5
(to remove it from later being attacked if the f-pawn needs to recapture on e4)
, then ... Nf6-h5 is annoying.} e6 7. Qd2 a6 {A precursor to either ... c5 or .
.. b5, but if Black knows that she is going to play ... b7-b5, then it would
be more efficient to play 7 ... Nbd7 here. 7...Bd6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.g5 and White
can continue to grip the dark squares with f3-f4.]} 8. h4 Be7 9. O-O-O {
Castling into it, but White felt that he had already established enough
kingside momentum.} b5 10. Bh3 {It was dangerous to desert the watch over c4.
10 Nge2 with the idea of Ne2-g3 comes to mind as an alternative.} Nfd7 {An
interesting reply, hitting the h-pawn while transporting the knight to b6. On
10 ... Nbd7, 11 Qh2 raises interesting questions.} 11. g5 Nb6 {11...0-0 12.e4
a5 13.h5 Nb6 14.Qg2 b4 15.Nb1 a4 is unclear.} 12. Qh2 {This is the tactic that
White has been banking on, threatening both 13 Bc7 and 13 Bxb8.} Nc4 13. Bxb8 {
Challenging Black to prove that the sacrifice works. 13.Bc7 Bd6 14.Bxd8 Bxh2
15.Rxh2 Kxd8 16.Re2 with 17 b3 on the way was safer and probably also good.}
Qa5 14. Bf1 {A cold-blooded defense. 14.Qc7 leads to extreme complications,
almost forcing Black to sacrifice additional material. Then 14...Rxb8 15.Qxb8
0-0 16.Rd3 (16.Nge2 Ba3; 16.Bf1 Nxb2) 16...b4 17.Nge2 although Black still has
good chances and will only be down the Exchange.} Ba3 {14...Nxb2 15.Qc7 is the
main idea, combining the opposition of queens with a threat against c8, at a
moment when this cannot be bought off with ... Ra8xb8 because the queen on a5
is hanging. Then 15...Qxc7 (15...Qxc3 16.Ne2 (16.Qxc8+ Bd8 17.Ne2 Nd3+ 18.Rxd3
Qa1+ 19.Kd2 0-0 20.Ra3 Ba5+ 21.Rxa5 Rxc8 22.Bd6 again looks good for White,
with threats to surround Black's queen.) 16...Qxe3+ 17.Kxb2 Ba3+ 18.Kb1 0-0 19.
Qf4 is winning for White.) 16.Bxc7 Nxd1 17.Nxd1 and White is better.} 15. Bxc4
Qxc3 16. bxa3 Qxa3+ 17. Kb1 bxc4 18. Qd6 {18.Bd6 would be a blunder because of
18...Rb8+ 19.Bxb8 c3} Qa4 19. Bc7 Bd7 20. Qc5 Rc8 21. Bd6 {White's extra piece
combined with a complete defense on the dark squares give him a winning
position.} f6 22. Ne2 Qb5+ 23. Ka1 Qb7 24. Rb1 Qa8 25. f4 Kf7 26. Rb2 Rhd8 27.
Rhb1 Be8 28. Nc3 a5 29. Na4 c3 30. Rb7+ Rd7 31. Rxd7+ Bxd7 32. Nb6 Qb7 33. Nxc8
Qxc8 34. Qa7 c5 35. Rb7 cxd4 36. Rxd7+ Kg6 37. Rxg7+ Kf5 38. Qxd4 Qd8 39. gxf6
NM Justin Chen recently won the 9th grade section of the K-12 National Championships, and excelled at this championship too. With 5.5 points, he scored clear first above NM Wesley Wang, Ethan Gu, Jeremy Zheng, Brandon Wang, and Eugene Yoo, who all scored 5 points.
[pgn][Event "GNYSCC Junior High Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Gu, Ethan"]
[Black "Chen, Justin"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B72"]
[PlyCount "62"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 g6 6. Be3 a6 {The dragondorf.}
7. f3 b5 8. Qd2 Bb7 9. O-O-O Nbd7 10. Kb1 Rc8 11. a3 {Probably not necessary.
White should get moving on the kingside with 11 g4.} Ne5 12. h4 {12.g4 h5
creates an immediate crisis as to whether White will gain space but close the
kingside with g4-g5.} h5 {Now Black is better because the conditions for the
thematic g2-g4 sacrifice are not good.} 13. Be2 {13.g4 hxg4 14.f4 Nc4 15.Bxc4
Rxc4 does not work for White due to the weakness of e4.; 13.Bg5 Bg7 is also
difficult for White as d4 will come under attack when Black gets his rook to
c4, so it is not easy to formulate an aggressive plan.} Bg7 14. Rdg1 {A pretty
good idea. White is looking for a more favorable circumstance under which to
execute g2-g4.} Nc4 15. Bxc4 Rxc4 16. g4 {16.Nde2 was to be considered. Then
16...0-0 (16...Nd7 17.Bd4) 17.Bh6} hxg4 17. h5 Rxh5 18. Rxh5 Nxh5 19. fxg4 Nf6
20. Qd3 Qd7 {Black is a relatively safe pawn up.} 21. b3 Rc8 22. g5 Ng4 23. Bd2
Ne5 24. Qe3 Qc7 {Now the best way for White to make trouble is probably with
Rg1-h1.} 25. Nde2 a5 26. Rc1 Bc6 27. Nd5 {27.Nd4 was probably best to try to
make an issue out of the b5 square.} Bxd5 28. exd5 a4 29. Nd4 Qc5 30. Qe4 {30.
Bb4 Ng4} Qxa3 31. Nxb5 Nc4 {An elegant finish.} 0-1[/pgn]
A few players in the High School Championship did something exceptional besides the big winners: some middle schoolers played in the high school section.  Katherene Qi tied for 2nd (8th place on tiebreaks) as a 7th grader rated well over 1900. Other players included 7th graders Avery Hood, Julian Daniels, Dylan Challenger, Amadi Utak, and 8th graders Harris Lencz, Daniel Levkov, and Theo Kogan. Nathaniel Shuman, who placed 12th, played in this section as an elementary school student! Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School even finished as 3rd place team with a team composed of only middle school players. GM Michael Rohde was among the coaches for CGPS. There were still other impressive feats in the highest section, like Sophie Morris-Suzuki’s tying for 2nd (4th on tiebreaks) despite taking a bye! Katherene had the same level of success, as she also took a bye in the first round. One High School team, Edgemont Junior/Senior High School, placed 4th with only 2 players: Will Graif and Max Li! To compare to the typical team member amount, the 1st place team, the Edward R. Murrow High School team, had 6 players. Graif and Li scored 4.5 points each, with a total of 9 points.
The Edgemont Junior/Senior High School team: Max Li and William Graif
In the younger sections, CM Liran Zhou showed his prowess, winning all his games. One of his notable wins was against 2nd place winner, Davis Zong Jr., in the last round.
[pgn][Event "GNYSCC Elementary Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Zong, Davis"]
[Black "Zhou, Liran"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B42"]
[PlyCount "72"]1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Bc5 6. Nb3 Be7 {6...Ba7 is a
more aggressive line. 7.Qe2 The calm plan of opposing bishops with Bc1-e3 is
the most popular, and if White does this immediately, the option of queenside
castling is preserved. (7.Qg4 Nf6 8.Qg3 is also possible, but not 8 Qxg7? Rg8
9 Qh6 Bxf2+.)} 7. Qg4 g6 8. Qe2 {This appears to be the most popular move,
although White can also wait for the queen to be attacked before retreating.} (
8. O-O d6) 8... d6 9. O-O Nd7 10. Nc3 {Plain development (rather than the
Maroczy Bind c2-c4) is fine given that Black already has made a compromise on
the kingside.} Qc7 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. Rae1 {Now the most careful move is
probably 12 ... b6, with a view towards 13 f4 Bb7 14 f5 e5. I don't trust 12 ..
. b5 13 a4 and White also gets the edge on the queenside.} Ne5 13. f4 Nxd3 14.
cxd3 O-O 15. Rc1 Qd8 16. Na4 {Zong prefers a positional approach, taking more
definitive control of the dark squares. 16.e5 is very direct but may have some
sting. 16...Nd7 and White has to figure out how to get Nce-e4 in.]} Nd7 17. Ba5
Qe8 18. Nb6 Nxb6 19. Bxb6 Qb5 20. Qe3 a5 {20...f5 is radical but it gains
space and stops White from expanding through an f-pawn advance.} 21. f5 {Risky
but accurate!} exf5 22. exf5 Bxf5 23. Rxf5 Qxf5 24. Qxe7 {White has won two
pieces for a rook but the position is uncomfortably wide open. On the other
hand, Black is still struggling with weak dark squares.} a4 {24...Rae8 also
comes to mind.; 24...Rfe8} 25. Bd4 {Suddenly a blunder, right after a
successful combination. 25.Nd2 was possible, with continuing complications.}
axb3 26. Rf1 Qe6 27. Qh4 bxa2 28. b4 f6 29. Re1 Qf7 30. Qf2 Rfe8 31. Rd1 Rf8
32. Re1 Qb3 33. Ba1 Qxb4 34. Rd1 b5 35. Qf3 Qc5+ 36. d4 Qc4 0-1[/pgn]
Iris Mou pulled off a win over her higher rated opponent, Kevin Duong, in the 5th round, which propelled her into the blitz playoff with CM Abhimanyu Mishra. Although she lost the playoff against Mishra who is rated about 350 points more than she is, she is still the co-champion of the Primary section (playoff was for CCA free entries).
[pgn][Event "GNYSCC Primary Championship "]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2018.01.07"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Mou, Iris"]
[Black "Duong, Kevin"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C45"]
[PlyCount "91"]1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nb3 Bb6 6. a4 a6 7. a5 {It is
also possible to just leave the bishop on b6 where it is more subject to an
unfavorable exchange later.} Ba7 8. Nc3 Nf6 9. Be2 {It was easier to organize
with 9 Bd3. If Black goes after the bishop with his c6 knight, then White's
center will be strengthened.} h6 10. O-O O-O 11. h3 d6 12. Re1 Re8 13. Bf1 Be6
14. Bf4 {14.Be3 would be desirable but does not work. 14...Bxb3 15.cxb3 (15.
Bxa7 Bxc2) 15...Nxe4 16.Bxa7 Nxc3 and Black has won a pawn.} Qd7 {14...Bxb3 15.
cxb3 Bd4 would combine dark-square play with pressure against e4.} 15. Qf3
Rad8 {15 ... Ne5 right away was good.} 16. Be3 {16.Bxh6 works; 16...Ne5 17.
Qg3 Nh5 18.Qh4} Ne5 {On the immediate ... Bxe3, White would probably have
recaptured with the rook.} 17. Qe2 Bxe3 18. Qxe3 Nc4 {A tough decision. Also
possible was the reverse trade of minor pieces with ... Bxb3 with some
pressure against White's pawns, although perhaps the White light-squared
bishop can become strong later.} 19. Bxc4 Bxc4 20. Qd4 {20.Nd2} Be6 {20...Bxb3
21.cxb3 Qe6 was reasonable.} 21. Nd5 Nxd5 22. exd5 Bf5 23. c4 Rxe1+ 24. Rxe1
Qa4 25. Qc3 c6 {A blunder after a hard-fought strategic battle. 25 ... Re8 was
still ok.} 26. Ra1 {Suddenly it is over.} Qxa1+ 27. Nxa1 cxd5 28. cxd5 Rc8 29.
Qd2 Rc5 30. f3 Bg6 31. b4 Rc4 32. Nb3 Rc2 33. Qf4 Rb2 34. Nd2 f6 35. Ne4 Rxb4
36. Qxd6 Rb1+ 37. Kh2 Bh5 38. Qd8+ Kh7 39. Qe7 Kg6 40. Qe8+ Kh7 41. Qxh5 g6 42.
Nxf6+ Kg7 43. Qe5 g5 44. Ne8+ Kg6 45. Qe4+ Kh5 46. Nf6# 1-0[/pgn]
Ryan Zhu emerged as the K-1 Champion with a perfect score. A player from New Jersey and the 22nd best player in the country under 7 years old, we can expect to see Zhu progress over the next few years.
Joseph Fortuna, the only 10-0 scorer in the event. Photo courtesy of Angel Lopez
One young competitor went 10-0 over the weekend. 2nd Grader Joseph Fortuna from P.S.111m began with an impressive 5-0 in the Elementary u700, jumping from a starting rating of 432 to 842. Joseph returned for some more chess Sunday and once again went 5-0, this time in the Primary u600. Onto exciting stories beyond the results, it is quite clear that the Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championship has slowly been extending its geographical reach in recent years. Although it is often referred to as the “City Championships,” the event allows players from other areas of New York and other states to play. Long Islanders from Jericho Middle School and Jericho High School decided to play the tournament for the first time, placing as the 2nd highest scoring team in the High School Championship section and 3rd in the Junior High. Their school has recently showed an influx of talent, from youngest NM in U.S. history, Liran Zhou, to graduating USCF Scholar-Chessplayer of the Year NM Warren Wang.
Jericho Middle School team, [l to r] composed of  Howard Zheng, NM Wesley Wang, Joshua Dong, WIM Evelyn Zhu, Natasha Kulviwat
“We want to show our schools that competitions are worthwhile. We have been Nassau County Champions 4 years in a row and in the long term, we want to extend the team to national level tournaments,” says Team Advisor Matthew DeMarinis. “Besides tournaments, my co-advisor, Paul Bode, and I help focus the chess club on developing itself as a place to review games, play blitz, and build up a general camaraderie in a non-competitive environment.” Christian Brothers Academy from New Jersey also decided to join the competitive New York environment. This school team played in the K-12 National Championship a few weeks ago, placing first in the 12th Grade Team category. The previous year, they were the top U1900 team spot at the 2016 National High School Championship. Clearly, the team has had a dominating performance in the past few years. However, they do have one remarkable aspect to their success: the students do not start competing in chess tournaments until high school. Many of the players began playing chess competitively at 14 or 15 years old, which is at odds with all the younger children that seem to frequent such big tournaments. One high school senior notably made 2100 USCF in 3.5 years. The school has shown immense support for the boys, showing just how important it is for schools to recognize chess as an important activity or club. At CBA, the students get Varsity and Junior Varsity letters, and anyone can join their club. The program is currently working to get more members in its school of 900 students and for the 25+ members of the team to stay involved with chess. “These boys learn to grow as not only chess players but as people. They learn to communicate better and that most important is the team and not the individual,” commented Coach Patrick Melosh, one of the three coaches for the team (others are Experts Brian Meinders and Marc DiCostanzo, who is also a CBA alum). “With this mentality, they are more humble, more mindful of sportsmanship.” There is clearly much more to expect from this team, even if they have been competing for almost 20 years!
Photo courtesy of the CBA chess team
Chess in the Schools also made a recent reappearance en masse to the tournament, bringing over 44 students funded by generous donations to their organization. Most students represented their own schools, such as many members of the Murrow Chess Team, which was the highest scoring team in the High School Championship. “We decided to make #TheCities the first leg of our of our strong chess schedule in order give our students the best opportunities in the NY chess scene,” said Shaun Smith, CIS’ Director of Programs, about why so many students decided to enter the Championship.
Many of the CIS kids showed their representation by wearing their organization’s T-shirts. Photo does not show entire team
The organization has a “College Bound” initiative helps low income students to prepare for college by helping them with community service projects, providing extra academic resources, and allowing them to work as assistant tournament directors. This Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championship, the students had a special opportunity from the program: those with a plus score could travel with the team to the State Championships and some would also go to the Amateur Team East and Philadelphia Open tournaments. Such an occasion would incentivize the chess players feel motivated to train and play their best, rewarding hard work. Although the weekend was about celebrating the successes of chess players, it could not have run so smoothly without some several key people who supported the event. Both parents and coaches of all the players were patient, especially during several playoffs that delayed the awards ceremonies. The tournament staff and tournament directors were accommodating, helpful, and informative. These included Chief TD and organizer Steve Immitt, Chief Assistant TD David Hater, Harold Stenzel, Korey Kormick, Nicole Maffeo, Aiya Cancio, Michelle Martinez, and the McGreen family. Danny Rohde, the Event Manager, also did an excellent job making announcements, handling the awards ceremonies, and making sure many aspects of the tournament ran smoothly.
Martha Underwood and her daughter, Aiya Cancio, formed quite a great TD team!
The Kasparov Chess Foundation has been an enormous part of the tournament’s success and continues to include special opportunities for this event. IM Jay Bonin also stopped by to offer a few words of encouragement to some of the players, as he had played the event many years ago. Jay is recognized for being the most active player in the country, and when Danny Rohde asked the Junior High and High School sections who had played him before, almost every player raised his/her hand!
IM Jay Bonin
GM Maxim Dlugy played blitz with anyone who wanted to challenge him by the entrance to the tournament, also holding raffles for lessons and DVDs. The USCF Women’s Committee inspired many girls attending the tournament to continue with chess, holding a small raffle and collecting surveys. Their volunteers were Alex Wiener, who was formerly a member of the Brown University chess team and played plenty of scholastic chess, and Kimberly Doo. Lastly, GM Michael Rohde also contributed by volunteering to analyze several games from the event. This event can only get better as time goes on and next year, it will no doubt be bigger, better, and just as record breaking. This tournament was organized by the Chess Center of New York and Little House of Chess. All photos by Vanessa Sun unless otherwise specified.