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Monday, August 25, 2014

On Par with a Chess Grandmaster!

On August 22, 2014 in a Chess4life-organized simultaneous chess games exhibit, Naomi played Grandmaster Varuzhan Akobian (USCF rating 2758) to a draw!

20 players participated in this "simul".  Naomi is the only child who hasn't lost the actual chess playing.  Another kid has "won on time" (after coming late) when the clock ran out accidentally because Akobian has been carried away by a conversation with the Chess4life CEO Elliott Neff -- who actually won his game, congratulations!

In an amazing coincidence, in a similar 2010 event, only Naomi and Ethan didn’t lose to GM Varuzhan Akobian (then USCF-rated 2705) during a simultaneous games exhibit in which many adults participated too.  

Our kids are keeping on par with a chess Grandmaster, for many years already ;-)

Photo album: 2014_08_22 Naomi plays simultaneous chess with GM Akobian to a draw!

Tough opponent

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pan-American Youth Championship

Mexico places just fly off the tongue: Oaxtepec, Tlayacapan, Cuernavaca, Teotihuacan!

On July 10 - 17, 2014, both Ethan and Naomi played for the US team at the Pan-American Youth Championship in Oaxtepec, Mexico:

Many hundreds of young chess players from all the numerous countries of South and North America competed in 9 Swiss rounds, in 12 categories: Open and Girls -- Under 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18.

Ethan placed 12 out of 78 in the Open Under 16 category:

Naomi placed 13 out of 44 in the Girls Under 12 category:

The chess side of this event is best covered by Ted Castro at the USCF report:

The US team won the most medals: 5 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze.  Great job!

Pan-American Youth Championship

We four flew to Mexico City from Seattle with a 30 minutes connection in Houston - barely made it.  Then waited 3 hours upon arrival to Mexico, until the organizers put us into a taxi.  Near Mexico City we saw outlandish traffic jams, pouring rain and an overturned bus.  It's a 1.5 hour picturesque ride to the venue in Hotel Club Dorados in Oaxtepec, Morelos State.  There we crashed in our 5-bed 2.5-room hotel suite.

Day 1

Team USA had the initial meeting in the morning.  In the afternoon, in Round 1, Naomi defeated Ximena Ortega of Mexico, in the Girls Under 12 section.  Ethan drew with Jorge De Dios of Mexico, in the Open Under 16 section. After the games, both kids had their games analysed by Coach Michael in Restaurante La Palapa, which we called simply Lapa Lapa ;-)


Day 2

In Round 2 Naomi won over Melanie Dongo of Peru, and Ethan drew with another Mexican, Gerardo Hernandez.  While the kids played, we ventured on foot into the town of Oaxtepec.  

In Round 3, Naomi lost to Aleyla Hilario of Peru, while Ethan drew with Manuel Valencia of Mexico for the third time already. He almost never draws, never in his life twice in a row, and here it's already three times in a row!

Day 3

In Round 4 Naomi won over Jemmily Ramirez of Venezuela, and also Ethan won over Eduardo Pelaez of Mexico, finally!  After the game, Naomi got to paint a papier mâche horse.  


Since there was no afternoon round, the kids enjoyed water slides until dinner.


Day 4

In Round 5, Ethan drew with Jose Barreto of Venezuela, and Naomi drew with Ramitha Ravishankar of USA.  In Round 6, Ethan lost to Breinerrosiel Correa of Peru, and Naomi lost to WCM Melannie Salazar Gould of Costa Rica.

Day 5

On this day, we finally ventured outside Oaxtepec, with a day-long foray into Tlayacapan and Cuernavaca.

In Round 7, Naomi won over Josselyne Mendoza of Ecuador, and Ethan won over Rojas Aldair Garcia of Mexico.


After the round started, Luda and I rode a minibus line 15 minutes north-east to Tlayacapan and spent 2-3 hours around noon touring the former monastery of San Juan Baustista (which was started in 1534!) with its remarkable museum and the market area around it.


In Round 8, Naomi drew with Venus Castro of El Salvador, and Ethan won over Luis Perez of Mexico.

During the round we traveled by bus about 1 hour to the west, into Cuernavaca.  There we visited its oldest-in-Mexico Cathedral with the elaborate Tercera Orden Chapel.

Day 6

In Round 9, Ethan won against Jonathan Sanchez of Peru, and Naomi lost to Anastacia Lopez of Mexico.  During the round we rode minivan to Oaxtepec and explored its former monastery of Santo Domingo de Guzmán and the town.

In the early afternoon Team USA had a great photo session, with players and coaches:


Later that day an exquisite award ceremony was held in the hotel's "Poliforum".  

Section Open Under 8 was dominated by USA: 1st place Guo Arthur, 2nd place Tang Andrew.  
Girls Under 10 also dominated by USA: 1st place Martha Samadashvili , 2nd place Aasa Dommalapati.  
Open Under 10 gold medal: Christopher Shen of USA.  
Open Under 12 bronze medal: Chase Frutos of USA.  
Girls Under 16 gold medal: Agata Bykovtsev of USA.
Open Under 16 gold medal: Vignesh Panchanatham of USA.
Team USA 2nd overall, and won the most medals.  US coaches did good work!  


Mexico City - Day 1

Next morning the organizers put us on a bus to the Mexico City airport, from where we took metro to our Hotel Castropol.  At noon we already walked along Av. Pino Suarez towards Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo), the main square with the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral and other tourist bonanza.


The main attraction of the day turned out to be Templo Mayor, the Aztec main temple ruins and museum to the northeast of  Zócalo.  This is the reason for a history buff like me to come to Mexico!  It was 3 hours of uncontrollable archeological ecstasy, never experienced before and thought to never return -- until overshadowed by two more archeological ecstasies in the coming two days!


After the incredible 7 layers of temple structures, we visited the adjacent museum.  The current exhibition was named La sexualidad en Occidente, i.e. Sexuality in Native Art of the West Coast.  Go to the photo album, you're not going to regret it:

The day ended with a walk west to the Fine Arts Palace and back east on the pedestrian shopping drag of Avenida Francisco I. Madero.

Mexico City - Day 2

In the morning we ventured into the National Palace and saw the famous Diego Rivera murals.  The artist presents a thoroughly Marxist version of Mexican history.  In fact Karl Marx himself prominently presides on the top of the 20th Century mural, quite like a divine figure that Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo worshipped.

Most of the day we rode the tourist double-decker, the Turibus.  Mexico City is an amazing modern megalopolis with ancient historic roots, amazing buildings and stunning monuments, quite unlike anything we've seen in the USA, Canada, or even Brazil - including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo!  

We completed the Central and Southern circles.  In the hindsight, I would swap the Southern circle for the National Museum of Anthropology.  The kids were happy, though.


Teotihuacan and the Anthropology Museum

The final day was intense.  In the morning we rode metro to Terminal Autobuses del Norte; then 1 hour by bus to Teotihuacan - a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city, the site of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids.  We visited the Citadel with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent Pyramid), then walked along the Avenue of the Dead to the immense Pyramid of the Sun, which the kids and I actually climbed!  


After returning to Mexico city in the afternoon, we rode metro to Bosque de Chapultepec and then walked through the park to Museo Nacional de Antropología.

The National Museum of Anthropology is a place I could easily spend a week exploring, however we only had a couple of hours before it closed.

It was a mighty sprint through 10 major exhibition halls: Temporal, Anthropology, Peopling, Preclassic, Teotihuacan, Toltecs, Aztecs, Oaxaca, Gulf, Maya.

We didn't make it to the last two halls: Western and Northern Cultures, as they locked up 15 minutes before 7 PM.  I still grieve this loss.


Road Back and Future Plans

The flight back had a 6-hour overlay in Houston.  At first we thought about going to see the downtown, but it turned out the security lines were too long (with baggage re-check due to border crossing), the gates too far apart, the kids too tired and there was no fast public transit to the city.  We asked the airline to put us on an earlier connection flight, and it worked - we flew 3 hours earlier.

On the flight to Seattle the next seat passenger entertained me with the most interesting and fascinating conversation about the current events.  Upon arrival, it turned out that Ethan's suitcase (out of the four we re-checked) was left on the original flight and would arrive 3 hours later.  The airline delivered it to our house the next day.

As for the near future -- stay put for the 2014 World Youth Chess Championship in Durban, South Africa, in the second part of September:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Newport June Open, 2009 and 2014

Every fifth year in June, we go to Newport, Oregon, to play chess and enjoy the Pacific Coast

The Newport June Open chess tournament is a staple of the Pacific Northwest summer chess experience.  Oregon's Pacific Coast lives up to the expectations, as does every natural location of this beautiful state.

2009 Newport June Open

June 19, 2009

This was our first interstate car trip in the USA.  Those 300 miles forth and then back were more than what we've ever driven before (e.g. to Vancouver, BC or Spokane, WA).  The longer car trips came only later: Yellowstone, San Francisco (twice), Las Vegas (twice) and San Diego (twice).  This trip to Newport was a significant step in our plunge into the vastness of America.

After what back then felt like a long drive south on I-5, we bore right in Portland, took OR-99 and OR-18 west to the Pacific Ocean and travelled the rest of our way along the Pacific Coast on the super-scenic US-101.  The constant presence of the ocean makes this drive a very special experience.  

At the entrance to Newport we ate at Izzy's Buffet and then collapsed at the Waves Motel.

June 20, 2009

Ethan (who was 11) and Naomi (who was 6) started playing chess in the Central Lincoln PUD.  Naomi finished her game fast, and we three drove south to the Yaquina Bay State Park, where we toured the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, with its preserved living quarters and the unforgettable Hair Display (click to see)!

After Ethan's game ended, we took him to the Nye Beach, where we ran into a grand wedding party with the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop.

June 21, 2009

While Ethan played a long game in Round 3, Naomi finished it fast, and we three drove north to see the massive Yaquina Head Lighthouse, with its huge Fresnel lens.  After his game finished, we took Ethan there too and visited the Interpretive Center.

We travelled back on the scenic US-101, and through the harrowing bridge in Astoria, OR.  At the entrance to Raymond, WA a cop stopped me: "You drove 40 mph in a 30 mph zone!"  I remained silent, and he let me off the hook: "Slow down, will ya?"  It was Father's Day.  Everybody seemed amused, except me.  Ethan laughed: "That cop had a really big gun!"

2014 Newport June Open

June 13, 2014

Fast forward five years.  This time only Naomi (11) plays in the Newport June Open chess tournament, while Ethan (16) stays at home amid his completion of grade 10 and his early entrance to the university (yay!)

The tournament time control is: game in 90 minutes, with 30 seconds increment each move.  This is a good preparation for the upcoming Pan-American Youth Chess Championships in Mexico City, in July 2014.  There Ethan and Naomi will play for the US team in the sections Boys Under 16 and Girls Under 12, respectively.

It also should help Naomi prepare for the World Youth Chess Championship in Durban, South Africa, in September 2014, where she will play for the US team in the Girls Under 12 section.

On Friday, June 13, we were delayed by an important business, and started driving late, at 7pm.  For speed, we took I-5 all the way south, then OR-34 / US-20 west to Newport, in darkness.  We arrived very late at night, around 1am, to Knights Inn Newport, half-dead.

June 14, 2014

In the morning, all three of us went to see the magnificent Pacific Ocean at the Nye Beach.  The first round started 12:30pm.  After some eloquent speechifying by the organizers, the game began, we left Naomi to play chess and went to the touristy Newport Bayfront.

We devoured some serious seafood at "Ocean Bleu Seafoods at Ginos", then strolled down the promenade.  After Naomi finished, we all walked around the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, with its views, rocks, and gulls.  We even saw whales in the ocean!  Round 2 started at 6pm, and there was still enough daylight for the two of us to go down to the Yaquina Bay Natural Area and see a variety of tidewater sealife.

June 15, 2014

Round 3 started at 9am.  The organizer H.G.Pitre spoke empathically about the Newport June Open contribution to the local tourist industry and how great this location is for all to come and enjoy.  We certainly couldn't agree more!  

A leaflet at the hotel alerted us to the Gem & Mineral Show, which turned out to be full of real delights.

The Gem & Mineral Show was next to Bayfront, where we gladly spent some more time until Naomi finished her game, and then we all went to the inside tour of the Yaquina Lighthouse.  I always get excited to see its Fresnel lens, made in Paris in 1868!  

Round 4 started 2:30pm, by which time we two were hungry for the seafood lunch at the classic Mo's Restaurant on the Bayfront.  Another stroll along its piers, and we were done.  After Naomi finished, we drove back and arrived home around 10pm, still feeling rested.

Coming Up

Stay put for the next posts from these two world-stage tournaments, where our kids will represent the USA:

  1. Pan American Youth Chess Championship in Oaxtepec, Mexico - July 10-17, 2014.
    Ethan in the Boys Under 16 section and Naomi in the Girls Under 12 section.  All four of us go.
  2. World Youth Chess Championship in Durban, South Africa (!) - September 19-30 2014.
    Naomi in the Girls Under 12 section.  Three of us go, Ethan stays home and starts university.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Anti-Pyrrhic Loss

National Master Peter Lessler (2230) has dedicated the first 5 pages (cover story) of the June 2014 Northwest Chess magazine issue to his game with Naomi (1742) in the first round of the Grand Pacific Open chess tournament, where he eventually won first place!

Peter has chosen his game with Naomi to share with the wide magazine audience for its beauty and depth.  Here is his full article, scanned from the Northwest Chess magazine:

It says in the beginning:

"Despite her 500-point rating deficit, Naomi put up a valiant fight, and aside from a few missed opportunities, the position was drawn until the final moves."

And, 5 pages of mind-boggling chess analysis later, it ends with:

"A stressful game, an interesting game, and a reminder not to take ratings too seriously."

Peter's article instilled such great confidence in Naomi that she won all 3 games in Seattle Chess Club quads on Saturday, June 7 - for the first time!


Saturday, May 3, 2014

WA - BC Intermat in Vancouver

Meeting once a year for 6 years...  for a game of chess!

On Saturday, May 3, 2014 the annual Washington State vs British Columbia International Scholastic Chess Match (Intermat) took place in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Each year top 2 rated players from each grade in WA compete against the top two BC players from same grades.  The event is sponsored by Chess4Life and BC Youth Chess.

Thus, once a year, Naomi (WA) plays a game of chess with Luke (BC), for 6 consecutive years already!  Sometimes they also meet at other local tournaments, and at the World Youth Championship in Brazil they played ping-pong, as Naomi played chess in the girls section.  

Chess makes you persistent and dedicated to meeting other players!

BC won big this time, good for them!  And for us it was a nice opportunity to stroll again down Vancouver's picturesque waterfront and visit again the famous Granville Island Market.