Saturday, December 03, 2011

Chess is fun

8-year-old Palmdale girl is already chess champion
By Christina Villacorte, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/03/2011 01:00:00 AM PST

Giggling under a pink hat bedazzled with sequins, 8-year-old Gia Peterson scanned the chessboard, wiggled her fingers and declared triumphantly, "Checkmate."

Her opponent, a news photographer, never stood a chance.

The Palmdale second-grader is a national chess champion, dominating the K-3 age group in the prestigious Susan Polgar World Open for Boys and Girls in 2010 and 2011.

She placed third in 2009, her first year of competition.

She's also the youngest in the country to win a high school tournament at age 6.

The previous record-holder was a 7-year-old boy in 1987 - who happens to be her half-brother.

"It doesn't matter how old you are," Gia said on a recent afternoon.

"I can think up to 11 moves in advance."

During the last World Open, held near Chicago in October, she beat a rival whose coaches were both grand masters.

The match lasted no more than half an hour. The year before, Gia took home a grand prize that included a college scholarship.

Her father celebrated the feat.

"Gia has talked about becoming a doctor," said Richard Peterson, a former financial analyst and chess tutor who became disabled in 2003 after sustaining a brain injury when a trailer collapsed on him.

"In no way is chess the goal - it is just a tool for the kids to get to where they really want to go," Peterson added. "It trains their minds, gives them critical thinking skills, and that's something that's simply not taught in school."

Gia's siblings - 12-year-old Michail, 10-year-old Dante, and 6-year-old Jayani - also are accomplished players, even though the youngest is still learning how to read and write. They also have a half-brother and a half-sister, both adults who were national champions in their youth.

All four of them won trophies during a scholastic chess tournament in Ridgecrest, Kern County, last month. Their combined record: 19-0.

"Chess is fun," said Dante, a three-time regional champion in his age group, whose signature strategy involves taking over the space in a chessboard until his opponent has nowhere to go.

Dwight Morgan, who has organized children's chess tournaments in Ridgecrest for 40 years, considers the Peterson kids - particularly Gia and Dante - among the best he's seen at their age.

"A couple of tournaments ago, Gia won the high school section and bested boys and girls from ninth grade through 12th grade," he said. "It was quite something to see these tall kids, 13 to 18 years old, holding small trophies while the petite Gia, who was only 8, had the biggest trophy of them all."

"To see a young girl doing so well is really great for the sport as far as encouraging other girls," he added, noting boys have tended to dominate the game.

Gia and Dante are the most competitive in the family. They partnered once and outscored rival teams with four players each.

It was Dante who brought chess back into the household after his father's accident.

"I didn't want to play chess because the pain was just awful," Richard Peterson said. "Whenever I tried to concentrate, it would make my head throb."

Dante, then a kindergartner, pursued his chess passion on his own and eventually "dragged" his mother, Deepika, to local tournaments. Soon, she was taking the rest of the children as well.

"Dante really wanted to go, but I remember when (then preschooler) Gia first sat down to play, she was so scared of all the people around her that she started crying," Deepika said.

The owner of a trophy-making business, Deepika tried to comfort the children if they got upset after a loss by telling them, "If you want a trophy, I'll make you one."

She never actually resorted to creating those consolation prizes though, because the children soon started winning regularly.

They honed their chess skills by reading books, solving problems on an educational CD, and competing online with adults.

Despite all that, the children are well-rounded, getting A's at school and playing tag and other activities with their peers.

Their family room has a huge collection of trophies and medals in one corner. More awards are stored in boxes inside the garage.

Peterson, who began to recover from his brain injury in 2008, hopes those accomplishments will ensure a bright future for the children, though he hopes the game will not be the sole pursuit of their adult lives.

"We want chess to be an avenue to other things," he said.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Girl Chess Champ Wows in Reno

Artwork by Mike Magnan

Girl Chess Champ Wows in Reno
By Ava Harmon

Carmen Pemsler’s enthusiasm for chess continues to play itself out in victories all across the country. The 13-yr old Eagle resident has been playing chess since the tender age of six. Her recent outstanding performance at the Western States Open annual tournament in Reno, NV earned her a personal United States Chess Federation rating high and a generous cash prize. Carmen’s tie for second place meant that she had to best some tough adult competitors in round after round. It also put her within striking distance of reaching her immediate goal to make it on the Top 100 list in the entire U.S. for girls her age.

Carmen was introduced to the game by a chess champion himself, Daniel Vellotti, owner of Vellotti’s Chess School. Coach Vellotti says that Carmen was always an outstanding student who was instantly intrigued by the challenge of learning the royal game.

“Carmen is that really rare student whose passion for the game only increases over time.” Vellotti says. “She sets goals for herself and works hard to achieve them.”

This inspiring chess player started out winning local scholastic tournaments and has since advanced to regional and national competitions for adults. Her long-term goal is to become Idaho’s first female grandmaster. Her coach says that this is entirely possible as Carmen has embraced the idea of chess as an international language.

“Carmen has a good grasp of chess as a universal communication tool and a great way to make friends. These qualities will be important for her as she eventually travels around the world in pursuit of her hopes and dreams.”

Her mother, Alise, also supports Carmen’s goals in chess, even though it now means that they must travel around the country to find the best competition. She really enjoys that her daughter has chosen to pursue an unplugged activity.

“Carmen loves to explain her games to me. Each new tournament victory makes Carmen want to work harder the next time. She really comes alive when she plays chess,” says mom.

Besides winning more tournaments, this soft-spoken girl has a deeper wish. She hopes to someday return to her birthplace of Guatemala. She plans to visit the orphanage where she was adopted from at the age of 2, and serve as a source of inspiration for girls still looking to find permanent homes.

“I want to let all the girls know that their dreams can come true someday- just like mine did.”

When asked why a modern teenager would devote so much time to playing a game over a thousand years old, Carmen gives an answer that anyone could understand.

“Chess is fun, and it makes me happy.”

Congratulations to Carmen and her coach Daniel Vellotti!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Teach them Math, Science, and Chess

Maybe Teach Them Math, Science and Chess

New York Times
Published: October 15, 2011

The 120 elementary school children sat so quietly and intently that you might have assumed this was a mass detention period.

But it was chess, not confinement, in an Oak Brook hotel ballroom on Columbus Day. And the lessons learned might assist school leaders everywhere, including those attempting a systemwide resuscitation for Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s very disciplined, if impatient, mayor.

“My dream is to get in front of education decision makers and convince them to make chess part of the curriculum for K through second grade,” said Susan Polgar, the star of the show. “That’s when thinking patterns and habits are formed. It should be mandatory, like physical education.”

Ms. Polgar, 42, was a Hungarian chess prodigy taught by her psychologist father after she stumbled on chess pieces in a closet at home. At age 4, she stunned Budapest by winning the 11-and-under category in the city championships, sitting on phone books and pillows to reach across the board.

She was the first woman to become a grandmaster and the first to qualify, in 1996, for what was still known as the Men’s World Championship. She was one of the three highest-ranked female players for more than two decades, traveling the world and winding up fluent in seven languages.

I’d made my way to the Susan Polgar Foundation’s World Open Championship for Boys and Girls with an ulterior motive: to explore why boys dominate every class or tournament to which chess-ignorant me has taken my 7-year-old son.

“It’s interesting,” said Ms. Polgar. “Socially, I think, they’re not supported enough, so in general girls drop out of chess by fourth and fifth grades,” she said as 5-to-9-year-olds competed nearby.

When she was a girl, “it was very much ingrained that women were not able to play,” Ms. Polgar said. “A lot of experts and elite players believed that we were not physically able to do it, our brain was not big enough or that we couldn’t keep quiet long enough.”

She became an advocate for girls, especially through the Susan Polgar Foundation, which she founded while living in New York. She’s now in Lubbock, Tex., with her husband and their two children, where she runs the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University.

The foundation supports chess for boys and girls, but especially girls, and sponsors events nationwide. The institute lures young players, with the university offering scholarships and excelling in college tournaments.

Ms. Polgar’s mantra is that chess teaches discipline, analytical thinking, time management, focus and patience — skills that can be useful throughout life. She cites countries, like Armenia, where chess is either a mandatory part of school curriculums, especially in the early elementary years, or strongly encouraged.

It cuts across socioeconomic divides, exemplified by impressive performances of high-poverty students in Brownsville, Tex., who have whipped privileged Manhattan rivals — “kids who get individual lessons from grandmasters,” she said — and shown how “a boost in self-confidence can change lives.”

Indeed, there is no shortage of hedge fund managers and corporate leaders who are chess players, some of whom link the habits of mind learned at chess with their success. As we fret about China’s economic success, we might note that it’s a growing chess force, including four female world champions in 20 years.

Last week’s tournament in Oak Brook brought children from all over the country; perhaps 70 percent were boys. Many of the children were Asian-Americans, including Ashley Ceohas, 6, of Wilmette, the child of a Chinese-American mother who smilingly swore to me that she was “not a Tiger mom!” as her daughter segued from a chess match to drawing a crowd as she played a nearby piano beautifully.

“She’s aware of there being more boy players,” said her mother, Yijia Ceohas. “But we tell her anything boys can do, girls can do better. And she knows that Susan Polgar’s dad said geniuses are not born but made through hard work.”

My investigation into the gender divide led me to Shiva Maharaj, a private investor who teaches the game throughout the Chicago area, including a free Saturday morning session that my son has attended at the Edgebrook Library on the Northwest Side.

Mr. Maharaj had students competing in Oak Brook and cited an American Girl mentality of parents, referring to the store that sells high-priced dolls and accessories. He sees the parents succumbing to cultural stereotypes of daughters being pretty rather than intellectually empowered.

I’ve watched him teach diverse groups of children, mostly boys, and effectively insist they sit up straight, concentrate, take time to assess problems critically and learn to deal with losing. He offers seemingly creative solutions to challenges faced on the board.

On the heels of the impressive inaugural Chicago Ideas Week, here’s a free idea for its energetic, ambitious promoters: a panel next year on “American Education: Should We Make a Move to Chess?”


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Chess' greatest challenge: girls

Chess' greatest challenge: girls
The Virginian-Pilot
By Lisa Suhay

In the world of chess, boys are always in, but U.S. Chess Federation numbers confirm girls are out the minute they hit the teens. Where is Heidi Klum when girls need her most? We need the fashion-forward players as model minds to keep girls in the game of chess rather than dropping out in droves as they reach puberty.

In fact, overall, chess is crying out for a fashion edit.

Of the 700 million chess players worldwide, 45 million are Americans. Half of those are children. Next Saturday, National Chess Day, will be a sad reminder that teen girls are losing an opportunity for a life map to critical thinking and scholarships.

We don't have to lose girl players to the Terrible Ts: Twitter, Twilight and tween angst. We can change the approach for girls and decrease their hasty exit.

Not surprisingly, of the 1,100 International Grandmasters in the world, only two dozen are women. The United States has only one - Susan Polgar, who is Hungarian-born and naturalized. Only 1 percent of the U.S. Chess Federation's adult membership is female.

Despite the fact that Heidi Klum, Christina Ricci, Sandra Bullock, Salma Hayak and Madonna all play, the stereotypical public image of chess is still one of stuffy exclusivity, populated by disheveled, older men with seriously quirky natures.

As an official IOC Olympic sport, chess makes curling look sexy.

It's a team sport. In high school, a student can letter in chess. As Norfolk's new superintendent of schools, Richard Bentley, embarks on the creation of a state chess league that will make that possible for students here, statistics show we will see those letters mainly on boys' jackets.

But after attending the five-day Susan Polgar Foundation Girls' Invitational in Lubbock, Texas, and staying in the dorms with the girls, I now have a better handle on how to help our girls here.

In five sleepless nights as I sat in the hallways packed with boards, clocks and girls ages five to 18, breathing in the scent of nail polish remover, I learned a lot about little girls who can tear you up on the 64 squares while painting their toenails ice blue, listening to an iPod, texting, singing, giggling, gossiping and munching apple chips.

It is both a humbling and mildly terrifying experience to have an adorable 6-year-old girl multitask and checkmate you into oblivion. Which I suspect is the reason behind the programs by the American Association of University Women, the Carnegie Center and others to get girls into science, technology, engineering and math. Ladies, we need to talk. Let's do coffee across a chess board and I think we can fix all our problems.

Even at the tournament, the girls were relaxed, happy and exchanging little tokens of esteem, very unlike the mixed boy/girl tournaments I have seen over the years where you can cut the gender anxiety and head-games with a battle ax.

If chess is going to be redesigned to be more girl-friendly, as experts like Dr. Alexey Root have suggested, it should start with non-rated girls' tournaments. Rating tournaments merely encourages a toddlers-in-tiaras-worthy conflict of superior and inferior labels. Girls don't need more labels. They're already coping with body-image hate, acne and boys.

To keep girls in, we need to focus on the game. To bring more boys and girls from our state into the game and build their critical-thinking skills, focus and life strategies, a group of community partners has formed, including: the NPS' superintendent, the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk State and Old Dominion universities, teachers, parents, The Virginian-Pilot and the Carnegie Math and Science Initiative for Girls. The group is called the Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence. That means we are N.I.C.E.

When people come to Norfolk, we will teach them to play the N.I.C.E. way, starting March 2-3 at Virginia's first-ever all-girl state chess championship. All Virginia girls ages 5-18 can enter for free, rated or unrated, and play for scholarships. And we will give a free chess-in-education seminar for teachers while the girls play.

We are going to send fun, free, unrated, rewarding chess down the runway and see how it scores.

Guest columnist Lisa Suhay runs a free community partnership - Norfolk Initiative for Chess Excellence (N.I.C.E.) in Virginia. Email:


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

'I'm Always the Only Girl'

‘I'm Always the Only Girl'
By Katie Beth Ryan
Valley News Staff Writer

In the 1993 film Searching For Bobby Fischer, a young chess prodigy watches his gift for the game develop as he squares off against a group of streetwise chess hustlers in New York's Washington Square Park.

Were there such a group of aggressive players nearby, 13-year-old Janna Borg of Norwich would probably jump at the chance to join them. But, “you don't have places like that in Hanover,” Janna's mother, Dominica, said. The next best thing is the Hanover Chess Club games, held on Saturday mornings at the Howe Library in Hanover. Janna Borg is a regular fixture.

On a Saturday morning last month, it was just Borg and 5-year-old Michael Ding Jia playing against one another while their parents watched. Borg's young opponent was having a hard time sitting still and concentrating -- two attributes he'll need if he wants to continue growing as a player.

Aware that Michael was both less attentive and experienced than she, Borg saw this game as a teaching opportunity. When she saw Michael make risky moves, she gave him tips. “The only safe place for you to move your queen is here,” she said, pointing to an empty spot on the board. “I'm not sure you want to lose your queen.”

She also reminded him of the basic rules of the game. “I'm afraid black can't go first,” she said, after she and Michael switched sides on the board. “It's against the rules.” And even after Michael decided that he’d had enough, Borg told him, “Thanks for the game,” anyway.

First introduced to chess in the second grade by her older sister Faraday, Janna Borg stunned everyone in her family when she won third place in a chess tournament at Richmond Middle School less than a year later. Now, having just begun the eighth grade at Richmond last week, she's a regular not only at the Howe pickup games on Saturdays, but also at the Vermont State Scholastic Chess Championships, where she placed first in the fourth-grade division in 2008; earlier this year, she placed ninth in the middle school competition.

Chess is something of a Borg family pastime. Janna credits her father Scott for teaching her how to strategize when playing, and Faraday Borg organized The Sharon Academy's chess team, which won the high school state championship this year.

Chess offers players a chance to strategize and keeps them on their toes, which is what Janna Borg appreciates about the game. “There are so many possibilities,” she said. “It's a lot more complex than other games, say, like, checkers. And with each move, a lot more opportunities open up to move more places, and the games are never really quite the same.”

For the chess wary out there, Borg also offers encouragement. “Once you get the hang of it,” she said, “it's not really as hard as it would seem. And it's a whole lot less boring.”

If Borg has grown as a player these past years, there has been one constant: her opposition, which has almost always been male. When she goes to compete, “I'm always the only girl,” she said, with a tone of resigned acceptance.

This past July brought a welcome change in competition. Janna was nominated by Mike Stridsberg, who organizes the Vermont State Scholastic tournaments, to represent the state at the Susan Polgar Foundation Girls Invitational, held this year in Lubbock, Texas. The girls-only tournament is led by Susan Polgar, the first woman to earn the Grandmaster title in chess through tournament play. Over the course of a week, the girls attending had the opportunity to learn from Polgar, a world champion in chess many times over, and practice their skills against other girls in a tournament.

Playing chess against boys has never fazed Borg in the years she's been playing. But attending the Polgar Invitational allowed her to see that she's not alone among girls in her passion for the game. “It was just really nice to have it not be odd that I played chess and I was a girl, because it was all girls, and they were all really good. It was special,” she said.

One girl under the age of 19 from each state is invited to take part, and Borg was one of 46 girls who attended the invitational this year, out of a pool of 3,000 female chess players nationwide.

“It's really a very big accomplishment for somebody to even get here, regardless of the result once they get here, because they have earned the right to compete for their state and the national title,” Polgar said in an interview this week from Lubbock, where she coaches the chess team at Texas Tech University.

Polgar is no stranger to the gender discrimination in the chess world. In 1986, she became the first woman to qualify for the Men's World Chess Championship, but was barred from playing; the World Chess Federation later relaxed its rules to allow women to compete. Chess has traditionally been viewed as a man's game, Polgar said, “just like playing cars is viewed as such, or playing with dolls is seen as a girls’ thing.” She founded the Susan Polgar Foundation in 2002, and has made it her mission to promote chess play among girls and women.

“I really hope they got inspired,” she said of the invitational's participants, “that being a girl is not a handicap when you play chess, that they made friends, that they made connections, and that they'll understand that just because of the peer pressure or the lack of opportunities in some cases, they shouldn't give up, and chess is for girls as well.”

At the state-level chess competitions in Vermont, Stridsberg has observed a number of girls compete in the lower elementary grades, but their numbers decrease in the upper elementary and secondary divisions. He estimates that for every eight to 10 boys in a chess competition, there's one girl, a ratio that puzzles him.

“I've always seen chess as the great equalizer,” he said. “It doesn't matter how tall you are or how strong you are. It's just you and another person and a chess board.”

Before attending the Polgar Invitational, Janna had encountered some chauvinism when she'd go to chess tournaments. Any doubts that her competitors may have had about her abilities, however, were soon put to rest.

“When I first started playing in tournaments, I noticed that the guys were kind of surprised when I sat down in front of them. They were kind of looking at me with the ‘maybe you're in the wrong room' kind of look,” she said.

“And sometimes, I would lose, and it'd be no big deal. They expect to win against the girl. But if I won, well, the look …” Janna paused, and grinned, “was priceless.”


Monday, September 05, 2011

Special game analysis

There were many fighting and exciting games is the Round 3 of the World Cup. Sergey Shipov annotates the most interesting fragments.

The main sensation occurred at the first table. Despite all the achievements of Judit Polgar, people still tend to underestimate her. Which, of course, benefits her at the board...

J. Polgar — S. Karjakin

If the Black’s bishop arrives to b7, White’s hopes are gone, so she needs to hurry.

20.e6! Bxe6 21.Bxc7

The White’s bishop breaks to the queenside pawns. In order to defend Black need to solve a tricky study. Sergey did not succeed.


Insufficient is 21...Bd7 22.Bb8 Bc6 23.Nc3 (23.Re1 Kd8 24.Bxa7 Kc7) 23...Bxf3 24.gxf3 a6 25.Nd5 Bd8 26.Bc7!

The only solution is to bring the h8-rook to the 6th rank: 21...Rh6! 22.Bb8 a6 23.Ba7 Bd8 24.Nc3 Bd7 25.Nd5 Re6 with equality.

22.Bb8 a6 23.Ba7

I did not understand why the opponents ignored the following simple line: 23.Bc7!? b5 24.Nxc5! with the idea 24…Bxc5? 25.Rd8+, and Black loses an exchange.

23...Bd8 24.Nc3!

Here Karjakin began to think again, but it was already too late.


Black probably miscalculated the following line: 24...Ne7 25.Na4 Nc8, missing an unexpected blow 26.Bxb6! Nxb6 27.Nxb6 Bxb6 28.Rd6 with a healthy extra pawn for White.

25.Na4 b5 26.Nxc5 Bc8

The magic of the bishop pair could create an impression that Black survives even without a pawn, but Polgar can cast the anti-spell.

27.cxb5 axb5 28.a4!

Simple and strong.

28...bxa4 29.bxa4 Re8 30.Rb1 g5?!

The last inaccuracy. More stubborn is 30...Re2!, and White cannot win by straightforward means: 31.Rb8 Nd6 32.Bb6 (32.Nxh4?! Re1+ 33.Kh2 Bc7!) 32...Bxb6 33.Rxb6 Ne4 34.Nxe4 Rxe4 35.a5 Ra4 — the a5-pawn is stopped.

31.Bb6! Be7 32.a5 Bxc5 33.Bxc5

The opposite-colored bishops don’t affect the evaluation here because of the passed pawn.

33...Re6 34.Rb6 Ng7

Or 34...Rxb6 35.Bxb6 Ke6 36.Bd8!

35.Be3 Nf5 36.Rb8 Re8

Here is a nice line: 36...Nxe3 37.Rxc8 Nd5 38.Rc5 Nf4 39.Rxg5! fxg5 40.Nxg5+ Ke7 41.Nxe6 Nxe6 42.a6 Nc7 43.a7 Kd7 44.g4, and White wins.

37.Ra8 Bb7

Black probably loses after 37...Bd7 38.Rxe8 (38.Ra7!?) 38...Kxe8 39.a6 Nxe3 40.fxe3 as well.

38.Ra7 Re7 39.Bc5 Rd7 40.a6 Bc6 41.Rxd7+ Bxd7

Black easily survives, if we remove the knights from the board, but it is not going to happen.

42.Nd2! Ke6 43.Nc4 Bc6 44.Nb6 Nd6 45.Bxd6 Kxd6 46.a7 Kc7 47.a8Q Bxa8 48.Nxa8+ Kb7 49.f4!

And the king collects Black’s pawns. Black resigns.

More analysis here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Big National Chess Day Celebration on October 8th!

Big National Chess Day Celebration on October 8th! There will be many additional surprise events during the tournament!

The 2011 SP World Open for Boys and Girls has moved from Las Vegas (in June 2011) to Chicago (in October 2011) per the request of many parents and coaches. I expect this event will be bigger and better than ever! I would like to thank the organizer of the LV Chess Festival for hosting this event in previous years. The North American Chess Association will be the new host this year.

Susan Polgar World Open for Boys and Girls 2011
October 7 – 10, 2011
Doubletree Hotel – Oakbrook, IL

Over $100,000 in Chess Prizes and Scholarships

Register Online Now

7R Swiss System; 8 sections: (K-3), (4-5), (6-8), (9-12)

Time Controls: (K-3) G/30 + 5/sec delay
(4-5) G/45 + 5/sec delay
(6-8) G/45 + 5/sec delay
(9-12) G/60 + 5/sec delay

Round Times: (K-3) Sat/Sun 11am, 1pm, 3pm; Mon 10am
(4-5) Sat/Sun 11am, 1:30pm, 4pm; Mon 10am
(6-8) Sat/Sun 11am, 1:30pm, 4pm; Mon 10am
(9-12) Sat/Sun 11am, 2pm, 5pm; Mon 10am

Side Events: Bughouse – Friday 7:30pm
Puzzle Solving – Saturday 7:30pm
Blitz – Sunday 7:30pm

Ongoing Side Event: Walk-in simul presented by the Chicago Blaze US Chess League team. Done with your game or waiting for your child to finish? Take on a member of the Chicago Blaze between the hours of 12pm and 6pm!

Additional side events to be listed closer to event date. Please check the tournament website for more details.

All equipment will be provided (boards, sets, clocks). Organizer provided equipment must be used. Equipment will be on discounted sale upon tournament completion for school clubs and parents to purchase.

Cajun Chess will be equipment vendor onsite.

All 4th – 12th grade participants who are not a current member of the US Chess Federation will receive a 1-year free membership (no magazine option) included with their tournament entry fee.

All (K-12) participants will receive a free 1-year membership to (a $49.95 value!)

(Boys and Girls – All sections)

All 4th – 12th grade participants who are not a current member of the US Chess Federation will receive a 1-year free membership (no magazine option) included with their tournament entry fee.

All (K-12) participants will receive a free 1-year membership to (a $49.95 value!)

1st place: Netbook Computer
2nd place:
$250 in Chess Prizes
3rd place:
$175 in Chess Prizes
4th place:
$100 in Chess Prizes

1st place in 9-12 to receive scholarship to Texas Tech University!

Trophies to top 15 individuals
Trophies to top 4 school teams*
Trophies to top 4 club teams*

Certificate of Participation for all players

Tournament Fees

$45 post-marked by 8/27/2011
$50 post-marked by 9/10/2011
$55 post-marked by 9/24/2011
$60 thereafter and onsite

Side events are each $15 mailed in with entry or $20 on-site

Register Online Now

Payments to be mailed to (payable):

North American Chess Association
4957 Oakton Street Suite 113
Skokie, IL 60077

or call 847.423.8626
Mention Polgar Tournament in your message

* Top 4 player scores count toward school team prizes; school team trophies awarded in each section; Top 4 player scores count towards club team prizes; club team trophies awarded overall (not based on sections).

Doubletree Hotel – 1909 Spring Road – Oakbrook, IL 60523 – 630.472.6000
$79 room rate; must call hotel directly and ask for North American Chess rate.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Savanna Naccarato places 9th out of 46 at the 2011 Susan Polgar Girls Invitational

Savanna Naccarato (center) with her mother, Rachelle (left), and GM Susan Polgar (right). Photo courtesy of the Susan Polgar Foundation.

by Jeff Roland

Reports started coming in a few days ago from Frank Niro (an Idaho resident), Tournament Director of the 8th Annual Susan Polgar Girls Invitational held this year at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, July 24-29, 2011. Savanna Naccarato, an 8th grader from Sandpoint, Idaho was at one point, one of only four girls tied for first place after three rounds (with three rounds remaining) in this prestigious event. In round 4, and round 5, Savanna lost her games to higher ranked players, and won in the 6th round to end up with 4 points, and a 9th place (out of 46 players) finish. This is an outstanding result for an 8th grader in her first attempt.

Savanna qualified to play in this event by tying for first place in the 2011 Idaho Scholastic Girls Championship held in Boise, this past February.

Savanna and her family are very appreciative of all the support they have had for Savanna to represent Idaho at this event. The Bonner County Daily Bee helped promote a fundraiser yard sale, that actually brought in $800 toward expenses (some people dropped off money and didn't even buy anything at the yard sale -- they just wanted to support Savanna. And also community clubs and businesses and friends gave their support as well. The Spokane Chess Club also contributed as did the Idaho Chess Association.

Special thanks goes to Savanna's coach, National Master, John Graves, from Washington State, who has really worked hard and done a fabulous job preparing Savanna for this event. During the event he even called and texted between rounds.

Click here for May 11, 2011 article by Cameron Rasmusson, Staff for the Bonner County Daily Bee.

The event finished on July 29, 2011. Click Here for the crosstable.

SP Girls' Invitational Final Standings

Final standings

## Name ID Rtng Post -1- -2- -3- -4- -5- -6- Tot TB-M TB-S TB-O TB-C
1 Apurva Virkud 13464694 1967 1987 W21 W20 W7 W8 W2 W6 6 20 23 90 21
2 Mandy Lu 13907446 1761 1778 W34 W13 W3 W9 L1 W10 5 22 24 90½ 19
3 Kristen Sarna 13102097 1591 1620 W38 W23 L2 W18 W8 D4 19½ 21½ 76½ 16½
4 Maggie Feng 14105448 1728 1714 L23 W40 W29 W12 W9 D3 18 19½ 72 14½
5 Maraani Kamphorst 14521372 1815 1819 Z43 U--- W43 W15 W29 W13 10½ 10½ 41½ 12½
6 Claudia Munoz 13481236 1872 1856 W27 D19 W11 D10 W7 L1 4 21 24 86 16
7 Katherine Davis 14381402 1668 1667 W26 W30 L1 W11 L6 W18 4 20 22½ 83 15
8 Clarissa Abella 13528222 1692 1685 W25 W24 W18 L1 L3 W19 4 19½ 22½ 84 16
9 Savanna Naccarato 14207292 1600 1607 W40 W44 W14 L2 L4 W24 4 19 20½ 71 16
10 Evelyn Chen 13547567 1501 1552 D29 W17 W19 D6 W22 L2 4 18½ 21 81½ 15½
11 Diamond Shakoor 13972728 1293 1393 W36 W16 L6 L7 W28 W20 4 17½ 19½ 71 14
12 Vanita Young 13835092 1461 1478 W41 L14 W25 L4 W34 W22 4 16 17½ 60½ 13
13 Rebecca Deland 13470414 1349 1390 W45 L2 W23 D14 W21 L5 19½ 20 69 13½
14 Annastasia Wyzywany 13984743 1801 1763 W32 W12 L9 D13 D19 D15 18 20½ 74 14
15 Amelia Wyzywany 13984737 1466 1451 L30 W37 W34 L5 W25 D14 16 18 59 11½
16 Sadia Qureshi 14024572 1607 1562 W33 L11 D30 W17 L20 W29 15½ 17½ 62 12
17 Aiya Cancio 13850035 1255 1265 D31 L10 W33 L16 W40 W21 15 16½ 58 10
18 Heather Young 13153973 1345 1368 W39 W22 L8 L3 W23 L7 3 14 20½ 75½ 13
19 Ashritha Eswaran 14044705 1484 1491 W46 D6 L10 W31 D14 L8 3 14 20 69½ 12½
20 Cheryl Liu 12848066 1580 1547 W37 L1 W32 L21 W16 L11 3 13 21 71½ 12
21 Mina Takahashi 14333584 1254 1263 L1 W38 W26 W20 L13 L17 3 13 21 69½ 12
22 Cristina Pieve Ferrer 14697376 1674 1620 W28 L18 W27 W24 L10 L12 3 13 20 70½ 13
23 Logan Schoonover 14163285 1015 1084 W4 L3 L13 W36 L18 W33 3 13 19½ 69½ 10
24 Joy Chen 13499884 1295 1293 W35 L8 W28 L22 W26 L9 3 13 19 69 12
25 Tori Whatley 13269020 1006 1018 L8 W33 L12 W42 L15 W35 3 11½ 16½ 55½ 9
26 Rea Katarina Chroneos 14431605 921 1031 L7 W35 L21 W27 L24 W34 3 11 17 61 9
27 Anjana Murali 14490650 1179 1178 L6 W46 L22 L26 W32 W30 3 11 17 55½ 8
28 Bryn Dolan 14090925 928 938 L22 W39 L24 W35 L11 W37 3 10 16 55 9
29 Elisabeth Gondolo 13236653 593 826 D10 W31 L4 W30 L5 L16 17 22 73 11
30 Isabel James 13435414 1124 1155 W15 L7 D16 L29 W31 L27 15 19 65½ 10
31 Sneha Chikkala 13008090 1271 1208 D17 L29 W36 L19 L30 W40 11½ 15 56 8
32 Chenyi Zhao 14465305 1082 1052 L14 W41 L20 D40 L27 W36 11 14½ 48½
33 Helen Vaughn 13832662 864 838 L16 L25 L17 W39 W42 L23 2 12½ 16 50 5
34 Alexandra Mann 14138695 1021 995 L2 W45 L15 W43 L12 L26 2 12 17 59 8
35 Ananya Murali 14692845 Unr. 729 L24 L26 W37 L28 W43 L25 2 12 15 49½ 6
36 Marleah Mullen 14417932 101 240 L11 W42 L31 L23 W39 L32 2 11 15 48½ 7
37 Sarah Cheatham 14220140 622 625 L20 L15 L35 W45 W38 L28 2 10½ 14 43½ 5
38 Janna Borg 13284210 645 584 L3 L21 L39 W41 L37 W42 2 14 44½ 4
39 Faith Munoz 13999788 320 367 L18 L28 W38 L33 L36 W45 2 12½ 39 5
40 Esther Whitney 14084916 823 830 L9 L4 W45 D32 L17 L31 13 17½ 57
41 Jade Hibdon 13967740 339 316 L12 L32 L42 L38 D45 W43 7 11 35 2
42 Dyhemia Young
Unr. 111 L44 L36 W41 L25 L33 L38 1 10½ 13½ 33 4
43 Aksithi Eswaran 14583755 503 445 Z5 H--- L5 L34 L35 L41 1 10½ 29
44 Mary Kerr 14437867 179 231 W42 L9 U--- U--- U--- U--- 1 1 5 20 6
45 Jenaye Hibdon 13967755 338 297 L13 L34 L40 L37 D41 L39 ½ 9 12½ 39 1
46 Evelyn Kerr 14201134 574 572 L19 L27 U--- U--- U--- U--- 0 3 6 20 0

About 400 pictures here:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not even a black eye is going to keep me from winning

Students use chess to help them learn skills needed for success
Posted: July 27, 2011 - 12:30am | Updated: July 27, 2011 - 12:34am

If life is a game, two Young girls are on their way to success.

Meet Dyhemia and Vanita Young. Although not related, and besides their last names, the two have more in common than one may think.

Both are charter school students; both have been involved with child services and both are skilled in the game of chess.

“I’ve been playing chess since I was in sixth grade, so probably 12 years old,” Vanita said. “I used to just move the pieces, but one day it clicked and all started making sense.”

The 17-year-old from Philadelphia is in Lubbock this week attending the Texas Tech Susan Polgar Girls Invitational. The top-rated girl from each state is invited to Texas Tech for three days of intensive training and three days of tournament play. Special invitations were also sent to a select group of girls, including Dyhemia.

Opening ceremonies for the eighth annual tournament begin today at 9:30 a.m. Players’ ages range from 5-18 years old.

Vanita is calm, but smiles when her logical skill level is discussed.

“I hope I’m going to win.”

Dyhemia cannot be ignored when she enters a room. Sixteen years old, hair loosely pulled back in a ponytail, the California teen said she is ready to play.

“I look at my life as a chess game,” Dyhemia said. “I need my pieces - my family - to be protected.”

Currently residing in a group home in San Francisco, Dyhemia said her journey to Lubbock was not a normal one.

In a news release sent to local media, it was revealed the help of a missing persons unit was needed to track down Dyhemia for an invitation to be received at all.

“I was just in between homes at the time,” she said. “I am stunned people went to the trouble they did to get me here.”

Dyhemia said Jada Pinkett-Smith’s agent sent her group home’s leader a text explaining an interest on behalf of the celebrity to assist in the trip for Dyhemia financially.

U.S. Sen. Bob Brady of Pennsylvania acted in a similar way offering to send Vanita to the invitational inspired by the aspiring Texas Tech student’s story.

“Scholarships are handed out to the winners of the tournament and I would love to come to Tech one day,” Vanita said. “It’s warm here and people are very friendly.”

Vanita and Dyhemia are both without their biological parents. Dyhemia lives with about 20 other girls in the San Francisco area and Vanita lives with her grandfather in Philadelphia.

Maintaining eye contact and a straight face, as if she had practiced, Vanita said the situation with her parents is something she still thinks about on a daily basis.

“My mom abandoned me and my dad when I was 2 and he died when I was 13,” Vanita said. “I play chess, and I don’t have to think about what’s going on in my personal life.”

Dyhemia smiles and makes large motions with her hands as if they were an outlet for her enthusiasm, explaining her personal situation. She gives little detail, rather a conclusion of sorts for what she said sums up her life.

“I put my trust in very few people and just keep my focus on my goal,” Dyhemia said. “People aren’t always going to like where you’re going, but you do what’s best for you and today that’s chess for me.”

She falls silent as she points to a bruised eye on her otherwise glowing face.

“And only a few days before I was coming to play chess,” she said. “Not even a black eye is going to keep me from winning.”

Paul Truong, the public relations and marketing coordinator for the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, said he was impressed with the girls’ dedication and spirit throughout the past days of training.

“I came to the United States from Saigon with no money and what seemed like too many obstacles to overcome,” Truong said. “Chess helped me get to where I am today and by hosting these tournaments, we’re giving girls like the ones here the same chance.”

Today, he is an assistant coach to the No. 1 nationally ranked Knight Raiders, fresh off a title win in April.

“Like our team, these girls are good kids,” Truong said. “Chess players aren’t your typical athlete-mold and they aren’t majoring in basket weaving 101. Again, like our team, we are selective who comes to the invitational because we know what we’re looking for- logic, higher analytical thinking and perseverance.”

Vanita said she maintains A’s and B’s in her schoolwork load at Walter D. Palmer Charter School on the East Coast. She said her favorite classes are math and science.

“I’m not so great at the writing stuff,” Vanita said looking over the brim of her thin-framed glasses.

Dyhemia took a proud moment when she said she has a passion for athletics, including track and boxing.

“I guess it’s good to be well rounded,” Dyhemia, a chess player since fifth grade, said. “Smart and athletic is a combo you can’t beat.”

Both said this was their first trip to Lubbock and first time at the invitational.

Truong said all of the girls at the invitational are of a special nature and should be proud of their talents.

“It’s not a matter of if anyone is worthless at playing chess,” Truong said. “It’s the chance that they’re getting an opportunity they might not otherwise have.”

Source: Avalanche Journal

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Front page of the LA Times: Cinderella finds her chess slipper at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas

This is in the front page of the LA Times today!

It takes many moves to find missing young chess whiz

When news came that Dyhemia Young had been invited to a prestigious chess tournament, the 16-year-old San Franciscan had vanished. Her mentor, founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, was worried.

When Dyhemia Young was invited to compete in a prestigious all-girls chess tournament, at first it looked like the biggest hurdle would be raising the money to get her there.

The Susan Polgar Girls' Invitational takes place each year at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and the price tag for flights and accommodations was around $1,600 — a hefty sum for a 16-year-old from San Francisco's hard-knock Bayview District.

The top-rated girl from each state is invited to the annual event. Polgar, the first woman to earn the title of grandmaster, also issues two "wild card" invitations to gifted players who haven't cracked into official competition. It's a world some liken to preparing for the Olympics, with its need for money, lessons and dedicated parents.

But when Adisa Banjoko, founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation and Dyhemia's mentor, tried to call her in mid-June to tell her the good news, he realized the money would probably be a lot easier to find than the chess player.

Dyhemia, the very definition of wild card, had disappeared.

None of the phone numbers Banjoko had for her worked anymore, and he hadn't seen her since school let out. No one at John O'Connell High School, where he is a security guard and Dyhemia was a student, had seen the striking junior with the almond eyes, bright smile and sharp mind.

"I reached out to other kids who had gone to O'Connell on Facebook," he recounted. "I figured between Facebook and people who worked there, if that's not going to pull it off, that's bad."

Banjoko describes his protege as "a really good girl with a tumultuous home life. She's a very delicate plant in very harsh weather conditions. It's not whether or not she's a good flower. It's 'are we going to get the conditions right to help her bloom?' So far we haven't."

Dyhemia has played chess on and off since fifth grade, when her social studies teacher taught her how to navigate the 64 squares. She played for a year with Banjoko and the Hip-Hop Chess Federation in ninth grade, and he was struck by her skill. Last year, though, she began to back off.

The federation melds music, martial arts and the game of kings to teach young people the skills to help them through their difficult lives — traits like patience, planning, thinking ahead. Banjoko runs the West Coast operations; Lisa Suhay, a children's book author from Norfolk, Va., leads the East Coast effort.

With Dyhemia scarce and time running out, Suhay hit the computer. A Google search of the girl's name went nowhere, but a check of Google images June 24 gave Suhay and Banjoko their first lead: a missing person's poster from 2008.

"Missing Juvenile," its headline blared, above black-and-white photos of a wistful 13-year-old. "LSW: Blue jeans, possibly with a red jacket. Hair is in a pony tail." And finally, a phone number for the San Francisco Police Department.

Suhay emailed the poster to Banjoko. "Missing persons on her from '08," she wrote. "This our girl?"

The answer was yes, and Banjoko's heart sank. "I'm not ready for her to come up missing," he said. "I'm not ready for her to be out of state or end up dead."

Suhay dialed the number and was transferred to Det. Joseph Carroll, with the missing person's unit. "I'm going to make the strangest request you are going to get all week," she told him. A half hour later, he called back. "I've got a line on her," Carroll said. But it would take nearly a month for them to connect.

Dyhemia has been in and out of the foster care system for the last three years. Recently, it turned out, she had done a brief stint in juvenile hall — officials will not disclose why — before being sent to the East Palo Alto Teen Home on June 30. That's where Carroll tracked her down last week.

More here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 SPGI Schedule

Artwork by Mike Magnan

2011 Susan Polgar Girls’ Invitational (SPGI) Schedule

Sunday, July 24
(Holden Hall Auditorium 155)
1:00 pm: Opening Ceremony
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm: Start of training

Monday, July 25

(Education room 369-370)
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: Training
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm: Training
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm: Puzzle Solving Championship and Bughouse

Tuesday, July 26
(Education room 369-370)
9:00 am – 12:00 pm: Training
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm: Training

Wednesday, July 27

(Business Rotunda)
9:30 am: Opening Ceremony
10:00 am – 12:00 pm: Tournament Round 1
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Tournament Round 2
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm: Blitz Championship

Thursday, July 28
(Business Rotunda)
10:00 am – 12:00 pm: Tournament round 3
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Tournament round 4
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm: Tournament round 5

Friday, July 29
(Business Rotunda)
10:00 am – 12:00 pm: Tournament round 6
1:30 pm: Closing Ceremony

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

8th annual Susan Polgar Girls' Invitational (2011)

Here are the confirmed names so far. I am expecting about another 4-5 to confirm the final details soon.

Abella Clarissa
Borg Janna
Cancio Aiya
Chen Evelyn
Chen Joy
Chikkala Sneha
Chroneos Rea Katrina
Davis Katherine
DeLand Rebecca
Dolan Bryn
Eswaran Ashritha
Eswaran Aksithi
Feng Maggie
Gondolo Elisabeth
James Isabel
Liu Cheryl
Lu Mandy
Mann Alexandra
Mullen Marleah
Munoz Claudia
Munoz Faith
Murali Anjana
Murali Ananya
Naccarato Savanah
Pieve Christina
Qureshi Sadia
Sarna Kristen
Schoonover Logan
Shakoor Diamond
Takahashi Mina
Vaughn Helen
Virkud Apurva
Whatley Tori
Whitney Esther
Wyzywany Annastasia
Wyzywany Amelia
Young Dyhemia
Young Heather
Young Vanita
Zhao Chenyi

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pop Culture

I just received the following email from a friend of mine. Here is what she wrote:

'I wanted to share this sweet story with you :-) I hope that you will enjoy it.

My daughter Margot just walked in the house after an early morning dental appointment. I had e-mailed my dentist about the event we had with (you) Susan as she has 2 small boys who like chess. Unfortunately, they had a softball game so they couldn't attend.

However, she (my dentist
) forwarded my e-mail to some of her friends with kids who were free that night. One took her little girl who is 7 years old (Ella V.).

After the event the little girl looked at her mom and said, "Mommy, this was better than meeting Justin Bieber!"

(7 year old Ella is standing next to me with the black shirt)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

8th Annual Susan Polgar Girl's Invitational

Rules and Conditions for the 8th Annual Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational (SPGI)
July 24 – 29, 2011 at Texas Tech University (TTU) in Lubbock, Texas

Over $120,000 in chess scholarships, chess prizes, netbook computers, etc.

Susan Polgar and/or the Polgar Committee ( and its members may elect to award wild cards each year for the Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational. If you feel that you may qualify for a wild card, please contact Susan Polgar ( or the Polgar Committee immediately.

The annual Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational, the most prestigious all-girls event in the United States, will be held at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. The opening ceremony will be at 1:00 PM on July 24. The format this year is similar to 2010.

• There will be a three (3) day intense world class training sessions with Susan Polgar and her team, followed by a 6 round (g/60) championship tournament.
• The traditional Blitz, Puzzle Solving, Bughouse events will stay the same as in previous years.
• There will be many chess prizes awarded, including scholarship(s) to Texas Tech University.

Each state is allowed one representative. Official representative alternates may be substituted no later than June 15. (Susan Polgar and/or the new Polgar Committee may allow the host state to enter an additional qualified player.) Susan Polgar and/or the new Polgar Committee ( may allow exceptions to the June 1 entry/alternate deadline. Should the state affiliate fail to respond to the notice for this tournament, Susan Polgar and/or the Polgar Committee may determine the candidate from that state.

Players must have been enrolled in a school (up to 12th grade) located in the state they represent, also of the year in which the tournament is held. Home-schooled students who are under the age of 19 on July 29th of the year in which the event is held or students who have never attended college on a full time basis prior to June 1 of the year in which the tournament is held, are eligible to represent the state in which they reside.

Exception: If a player graduates from high school early and is already attending college, she may still represent her state if nominated. This is the decision of each state affiliate.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: The participants of the Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational DO NOT have to be high school students. Any qualifier under the age of 19 (by July 29th of the year in which the tournament is held) is eligible!

Players are required to furnish the organizer an emergency phone number and the e-mail address of a parent/guardian. There is no fee to participate in the 2011 SPGI; however, players are responsible for their own travel, room and meal expenses. If players choose to stay and/or dine on TTU’s campus, inexpensive accommodations are available. Please note that all reservations and registrations MUST be made (and accommodation expenses prepaid) no later than June 25, 2010.

Prizes: Trophies / plaques will be awarded to the winners of the Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational Puzzle Solving, Blitz, and the SPGI Championship. Co-champions are recognized in the case of a tie, with each champion receiving a Champion’s Plaque or Trophy. The Champion (or Co-Champions) will automatically be invited to defend her/their title (must meet age requirement).

Champion: $1,000 TTU scholarship (equivalent to nearly $40,000 for an out of state student) + netbook computer + Champion's Plaque / Trophy

2nd place: $1,000 TTU scholarship (equivalent to nearly $40,000 for an out of state student) + additional prizes

3rd place: $1,000 TTU scholarship (equivalent to nearly $40,000 for an out of state student) + additional prizes

Top under 13: netbook computer
Top under 10: netbook computer

The scholarship must be exercised no later than the Fall of 2013.

The New Polgar Committee’s goal is to have all 50 states (including two representatives for California and two for Texas) and the District of Columbia represented. We strongly encourage each state and the District of Columbia affiliate to hold a scholastic championship tournament to determine each state’s champion and representative. Failing this, rating criteria may be acceptable. A scholastic girls’ champion or the highest rated girls’ scholastic player in a state who has no state affiliate of the USCF should contact the Polgar Committee as soon as possible (

Special invitation for this year only: All past participants of the SPNI and SPGI (Susan Polgar National Invitational/Susan Polgar Girls’ Invitational 2004-2010) are invited to participate in the 2011 SPGI. The idea is to have the past participants learn my method of training so they can go back home and share their knowledge with the younger players. However, registration MUST be made ASAP since space is limited. There will be separate prizes for participants over the age of 19.

Susan Polgar and/or the Polgar Committee ( and its members may elect to award wild cards each year for the Susan Polgar Girl’s Invitational.

Special qualifying events: The Polgar Committee will award automatic qualifying spots to the reigning winners in each section of the annual Susan Polgar National Open for Girls (Arizona).

Contact info: The Susan Polgar Foundation can be contacted at 806-742-7742 or through

The new SPGI Chairperson is Martha Underwood (AZ).

NOTICE TO ALL STATE OFFICIALS: Please send the nomination from your state to the Polgar Committee (

For information and rates to stay and/or dine on TTU’s campus, please send an email to or