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2011 K-12

more mate threat (12. ... Bg4 bishop could own the weakened light-square complex 13. Qd2 Qh5+ 14. Kg1 Bf3 leads to mate).

13. Kg2 Qh5? 14. Rh1 Now his queen is under fire! 14. ... Qe5 15. Qe2 Re8 16. dxe4 Qc5 17. Be3!

rsnl+r+k+ zp-+-+pzpp -+p+-+-+ +-wq-+-+- -+L+P+n+ +-sN-vL-zP- PzPP+QzPK+ tR-+-+-+R

After 17. Be3

With the idea of baiting his knight to get an open file against f7.

17. ... Nxe3+ 18. fxe3 Nd7 19. Raf1 Ne5 20. Bb3 Bg4 An overloaded knight and a free f7-pawn.

21. Bxf7+! Kh8??

The decisive blunder giving a mate in two. Check-Sac-Mate!

22. Rxh7+ Kxh7 23. Rh1+, Black resigned. Though not everyone believes in hired

coaches, it’s hard to make a case against private lessons when you consider the success of the students of NorCal House of Chess instructor Ted Castro. Three of his students won first place at the K-12 Championships, and many others would have done better were it not for the fact that they had to play each other. In the kindergarten section of this year’s

K-12 Championships, one of Castro’s students, Maurya Palusa, of Fremont, California, tied for first place. Another student, Rayan Taghizadeh,

won first place in the fourth grade section, and boosted his rating from 1970 to 1984. “This is his third national title,” Castro

says of Rayan, who also finished first with a perfect score at the National K-12 Cham- pionships in 2009. More recently, he finished first place with a perfect score in the 11-and-under section of the National Junior Congress Championships in Santa Clara, California last October. “Both he won convincingly and won clear first,” Castro says. At the most recent National K-12

Championships, the only thing that stopped Rayan from achieving a perfect score was a round six draw against the higher-rated Praveen Balakrishnan, who dropped slightly at the K-12 Champi- onships, from 2031 to 2029.

40 Chess Life — February 2012

round, too, it enabled Rayan to finish with clear first at 61

When Praveen drew in the seventh ⁄2

Rayan and Praveen—who have become

friendly rivals—both represented the United States and finished with seven out of 11 points at the World Youth Chess Champi- onships in Greece (held in 2010) and finished 22nd and 21st place, respectively. Both youths plan to compete at

the World Youth Chess Championships set to take place this November in Maribor, Slovenia. Another one of Castro’s students, Vig-

nesh Panchanatham, tied for first in the sixth grade section at this year’s National K-12 Championships. Like Rayan, Vig- nesh won clear first at the National Junior Congress Championships, even though he played up in the 13-and-under section. He also finished ninth at the 2010

World Youth Chess Championships in Greece, and, like Rayan, plans to compete at the World Youth in Slovenia this year. Castro notes that 20 of his other stu-

dents also fared well in various sections at the K-12 Championships. “In the sixth grade section, five out of

the top ten are my students and unfortu- nately had to play against each other,” Castro said. “In the final round, Vignesh had to play another student of mine, Kevin Moy, who also did pretty well in that tournament. Two of my students—Jef- frey Tao and Kevin Moy—who ended up in the top five, only lost to Vignesh.”

The K-12 Championships were about

far more than just wins and losses. It was largely about learning. As youths played out their games in the

various ballrooms on the ground floor of the hotel, dozens of chess educators from across the country—including this writer —gathered for the 2nd George Koltanowski Memorial Conference on Chess and Edu- cation (see story on page 42). Just outside the chess and education con-

ference, members of the University of Texas at Dallas team set up a table and made themselves available to play matches with youths or go over their tournament games. “Priceless,” said Robert Friedlander,

when asked what he thought of the fact that his two sons, Benjamin, 7, and Justin, 5, were able to go over their games with UTD chess team player Daniel Gater (2174), a freshman majoring in econom- ics and pre-med. “We’re kind of here on our own without

a coach,” Friedlander said. “Our coaches are involved with a tournament in Ari- zona. Our coaches are very upset they could not travel with us to help the boys during their tournament in Dallas.” Gater—in an interview with this writer’s daughter, Hadiyah Abdul-Alim, 10, who also competed in the K-12 Champi-

points to Praveen’s 6 points.

onships for the experience—said he enjoyed making himself available to help the young players improve. “I like looking at games, looking at what

they did, and I like to have something to offer them,” Gater said. Gater had plenty to offer young Ben-

jamin, including some tips on how he could have taken a strong position and made it even stronger in a game that he was clearly winning. “He’s really tied down,” Gater said of

Benjamin’s opponent. “I don’t know if it’s clear you can checkmate him by force, but you’ve got some good stuff going on.” But instead of moving his queen to e6,

Ben played queen to f3, traded away a bishop that he had positioned on a “very dangerous diagonal,” and missed an opportunity to gain tempo and a better position with a check. Still, with Black’s king stuck in the

center, Gater said, Benjamin did a good job of “trading off all the pieces that were defending his king.” “So now you need to get the rest of your attacking pieces in,” Gater said. But in a series of trades, Benjamin mistakenly left his king vulnerable to a stunning back-rank checkmate, a last- chance opportunity to win that his otherwise losing opponent saw and seized. “Black got really lucky,” Gater told Ben- jamin. “No one likes to lose like this.”

The K-12 Championships aren’t always

about scoring the most points as an indi- vidual. Sometimes, it’s about scoring the most points as a team. One person who knows something

about putting together a good chess team is Tim Tusing, chess coach at Oak Hall School in Gainesville, Florida, which won first-place team trophies in the kinder- garten and first-grade sections after they scored 101

⁄2 and 13 points, respectively. The winning Oak Hall first-grade team

members were Nicholas Dang, Avery Bernstein, and Frederick Huang. The kindergartners were Richard Ezzell, Arya- man Sriram, and Hailey Griffis. Tusing, their coach, is a military aircraft

parts broker by day and front man in a fledgling Florida-based rock band called Radio Ghost by night. “You gotta be a front man if you’re

going to be a chess coach,” Tusing said after he and his kindergarten and first- grade students collected their first-place team trophies. Chess is serious business at Oak Hall School. “We do chess club four days a week,”

Tusing said. “Kids do a lot of puzzles, a lot of homework, a lot of private lessons.” The average chess student at Oak Hall,

he said, puts in up to two hours of study per day. Computer programs aren’t a

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