Sunday, August 20, 2017

Seattle Chess Classic

In Solar Eclipse Shadow
Seattle Chess Classic is a new great local tournament.  It's a tough and crowded battle, where adults fight kids and whine like babies.

Naomi withstands 5 days, 9 rounds, of strong opponents, summer heat, stuffy basements, intense games, to emerge with 6 points (5 wins, 2 draws, 2 losses), share 3+ place, and get a $812.50 prize check!

That's about 2 days of Harvard tuition... but you have to start somewhere.  At least the prize pays for the gas of 5 days of 6 daily drives, 40 minutes each (the parents time comes free of charge, as always).

Just look at these happy exhausted chess addicts: Seattle Chess Classic photo album.

And Roland Feng took first place, as expected:

All the players look great!

The event has been followed by the Great American Solar Eclipse next day.  Epic!!!  See the photos.

Friday, July 28, 2017

National Girls Tournament of Champions

Girls Battle in Navy Town
The 2017 US Chess National Girls Tournament of Champions is held on July 29-31 at the Sheraton Waterside Hotel in a historic Navy town of Norfolk, Virginia, coinciding with the Denker and Barber tournaments.

Each US state sends one female player in grades K-12.  Naomi is the Washington State representative.  The weather is hot and humid.  The battle is tough in the Navy town.

Out of the 50 state representatives, Naomi takes 9th place in Individual Standings, with 4 wins and 2 losses.  

Jason Yu shares 3rd place in the Barber tournament.  Bryce Tiglon becomes a co-champion in the Denker High School tournament.

The team of all three Washington State representatives (Girls+Denker+Barber) takes 2nd place in State Team Standings.  Not bad at all.

Bryce, Naomi, Jason (photo by Jenny Cui)

Norfolk is a great place to visit.  Take a look at the photos:

Friday, July 14, 2017

North American Youth Chess Championship

Historic Morristown
From the Pan-American Youth Chess Championship in Costa Rica on July 1-7, after spending a few additional days there, we fly directly to the North American Youth Chess Championship in Morristown, NJ on July 12-16.

Naomi (14) plays in the Girls Under 18 category, and gets 4.5 points in 9 rounds, taking 7th place.  That's a good result considering she plays 4 years up.

Morristown is a historic place.  For two critical winters of the American Revolution, 1777 and 1779-80, General George Washington chose this area as the Continental Army's winter encampment. Because of its strategic location, the area continually served as the military capital throughout the war. During the 1779-1780 Jockey Hollow encampment, over 10,000 soldiers endured the war's most severe winter.

See the photo albums:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pan-American Youth Chess Championship

The Volcano Erupts
The Pan-American Youth Chess Championship (June 30 - July 7) is held in San José, Costa Rica.  

Naomi (14) plays 4 years up, in the 18-year-old girls category.  She's thrown into the lion's den.  There will be blood. Follow the results here:

Here are the first day photos and videos:

First day album, by Luda B.

Check out the fantastic opening ceremony dances:

Hot Costa Rican folk dance video

Luda and Naomi, by Sofia Petrov

July 1, evening Round 1: Naomi wins against Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Valeria Marin-Leon from Costa Rica, see the webcast video:

July 2, morning Round 2: Naomi wins against WCM Thais Castillo-Morales from Costa Rica:

Naomi and Thais

Naomi now moves to the first board:

First board! by Paul Truong

July 2, evening Round 3: Naomi loses to a fellow American Woman FIDE Master (WFM) Sanjana Vittal:

Sanjana and Naomi

July 3, morning Round 4: Naomi draws with a WFM Trilce Cosme-Contreras from Peru:

Trilce and Naomi

Playing with 18-year-olds is tough for a 14-year-old Naomi.

See the other photos from July 2 and 3:  July 3, evening Round 5 Naomi wins against WFM Priya Trakru from USA.

July 4 in the morning Naomi gives an hour-long interview to Emma Gross from Epic Magazine over Google Hangout on Air.  After we return home, they will send a photographer to take Naomi's picture for a story.  In the evening Round 6 Naomi loses to WCM Thalia Cervantes-Landeiro from USA.

July 5 morning Round 7 Naomi wins against CM Rachel Miller from Jamaica; evening Round 8 draws against our friend WFM Nastassja Matus from USA.

July 6 last Round 9 Naomi risks in a drawn position and loses to WFM Corals Patino from Venezuela.  In the afternoon Girls Under 14 Blitz tournament Naomi shares 1 - 2 place, and gets a nice parrot-shaped trophy (and that's Susan Polgar in the background):

Costa Rica

After the tournament ends, we move to Hotel Balmoral in downtown San Jose, next to Avenida Central and Plaza de la Cultura.  This is the centermost location to explore the capital and venture on a day trip.

Costa Rica is famously amazing. We discover yet another stunning Mesoamerican culture, bustling city life, friendly people, breathtaking nature, gorgeous plants, unknown animals.  Better see these photo albums:

On July 11 we fly directly to Newark for the North American Youth Chess Championship, July 12-16.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Glittery centerfold in the "425" magazine

Rapid-fire Q&A, drop-dead cool photo

2017-05-24 Naomi in 425 magazine no flash.jpg

At the end of March, Lauren Foster, the 425 magazine managing editor, contacted our school district communications manager about a possible interview with Naomi, after learning about her on their website.

The district reached out to the school principal, who emailed us parents in turn.  We deferred to Naomi's opinion, and she benevolently gave her consent to an interview which eventually took place on April 20.

Lauren came to our house with the specially booked photographer, Carlton Canary (their staff photographer was out of town).  The pair gave out a sophisticated glitzy vibe, somewhat rare and precious in our area.  

Even their names agreed with representing a glamorous magazine: Lauren and Carlton.  Compare these to our Seattle Times (also highly professional and accomplished) reporter and photographer pair names: Eric and Erica.

Lauren went straight into rapid-fire Q&A session with Naomi, which I recorded here (click to view the video):

Naomi was relaxed and in a good mood.  It looked more like a chit-chat among girls.  Only by carefully listening to the conversation one could realize the depth and care Lauren put into her questions, and appreciate the quick adaptive follow-ups.  We learned how different journalistic styles can be, for different formats and publications.

The photographer Carlton has set up his equipment during the interview, so the photo shoot started right after.  This was pure meta - I was shooting Carlton shooting Naomi.  She posed for him effortlessly, as a true media star.  He took outside daylight shots on our view deck, with the lake-downtown-mountains background:  

Then he took inside flashlight shots with the trophies-on-stairway background:

And here is the near moment Carlton took the photo that ended up at the 425 magazine centerfold above:

For a full month after the interview, we would periodically check the 425 magazine website, hoping to find the interview there.  Eventually, on May 24, we received a large mail envelope with two printed issues of the magazine, and a drop-dead cool centerfold story, with that glamorous photo.  Well worth waiting!

And then on June 21 this article appeared in the online edition, a month after the print edition, and two months after the interview itself:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Vashon Island conquered

"The pleasure is all ours" say the islanders
Veni, vidi, vici has never been more mutually enjoyable than on Saturday, May 20, 2017, on Vashon Island.

Philip McCready is the Seattle Chess Club past president, currently living on Vashon Island, where he has started a chess club at the local elementary school.  A few months ago he contacts us through Naomi's coach, GM Greg Serper.  He proposes an event on Vashon for the chess club where Naomi would give a small lecture about her game from the recent World School Championship and then do a simul with the kids in the club.

Naomi likes the idea, so we go ahead with it.  Joe Schonbok is the organizer of the chess club on Vashon, who joins Philip in organizing the event, on the chess club's monthly meeting on a third Saturday of any given month.  Eventually, May 20 is decided upon, to allow for our other chess travel to Victoria and Nashville.  

A week before the event, Philip harnesses the Vashon weekly newspaper, the Beachcomber, to the effort.  They're going to run a news piece, welcoming to the island this expected mighty invader from the mainland.  Very smart.  If only all prospectively conquered people had such excellent foresight and wisdom.  

Sarah Low is the reporter for the Vashon Beachcomber newspaper who is writing that article.  However, by now Naomi is busy playing chess at the SuperNationals in Nashville, so a phone interview with me has to do.  Sarah makes the press deadline and publishes a great article -- positive, accurate, helpful and playful:
"Young world chess champion will speak, play at island event"  

On May 20, the fastest way to the ferry terminal is jammed by highway repairs.  But nothing will stop our army of three.  The personnel carrier is re-routed via fields and gardens.  This is our first trip to Vashon Island.  The weather is fantastic, as if hyper-compensating for the lousy spring.  Just look at the photos.

We visit the famous bicycle tree and the Point Robinson Lighthouse.  In front of the lighthouse, a small local band plays lively Irish music.  Naomi stops to listen, and suddenly one band member says: "I've seen you in the newspaper.  You are that chess champion girl who came to play at the library."  We are dumbstruck.  How many times have you been recognized from a newspaper?

The event venue is Vashon Library meeting room.  We arrive at 1pm as scheduled, and the parking lot is full.  The meeting room is jam-packed with kids and parents.  We meet both Philip and Joe, they present Naomi to the public.  Naomi gives her opening talk, analyzing her last game of the World School Championship on a demo board and answering questions.  The folks love it.  We take photos and videos.

The simul starts, and Naomi makes her first move as white on all 20 boards, after a customary handshake.  Some of her opponents are small kids, being helped by their parents.  There are quite a few experienced adult players as well.  Philip and Joe sacrifice their own yearning to play for the sake of managing the event skillfully.  There are plenty of photo-ops, unlike at usual tournaments when parents are expelled after the game starts.

The simul progresses at a brisk rate.  Naomi is circling around the room counterclockwise.  Each time she comes to a board, her opponent makes his or her planned move, then Naomi thinks for a few seconds and makes a move as well.  After a few opening moves, each circle takes about 5 minutes on average.  We are temporarily satiated with the photo frenzy and go out for a stroll to see Vashon art galleries and the closing farmers market.

By the time we come back, there's already blood on the floor.  A few cute little kids are droopy and despondent.  Some struggle to understand the meaning of Naomi's concluding handshake offer, after getting an early checkmate.  She's politely ruthless though.  There is no mercy in chess, be it child or adult.  À la guerre comme à la guerre.

Slowly but surely all 20 games progress toward their inevitable, unavoidable outcomes.  Some parents spring to the boards after each move, to help their kids last just a little bit longer.  There are more players than boards, if family teams are counted as individuals.  But this is to no avail.  Deeper analysis and machine precision allow Naomi to outpace opponents each and every time.

The islanders are good sport.  They enjoy the game, take their defeats in stride, ask Naomi for a signature and a picture, thank her and us profusely.  They seem to be genuinely impressed and delighted to meet her.  We feel much warmth and human connection.  Lovely people all around, as well as upstanding, dedicated chess players.

The pace picks up.  More and more players are knocked out.  As the pool shrinks, Naomi can dedicate more time to the remaining opponents, which puts more pressure on them and escalates the pace even more.  It's a positive feedback loop.  In the end, just two strongest adults are left.  They move to one corner, so Naomi won't have to run forth and back anymore.

The library closing time of 5pm is fast approaching.  There is a flurry of PA announcements urging people to wrap up.  By  now only one opponent is still playing, his name is Robert.  A few minutes before 5pm Naomi asks for a clock, and sets it up for an endgame deadline.  As can be seen in a dramatic video, Robert soon loses on time.  He gave a great fight, and lasted the longest, so he gets a special prize, a book.  

Naomi won all 20 simultaneous chess games with Vashon Island players.  Conquest completed.  She gets the few book prizes from Philip and Joe.

On the ferry back, Mount Rainier seem to float in the sky like a giant distant cloud.  Summer is coming.