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Fighting Spirit in the Southern California Championship Print E-mail
By Vanessa West   
July 28, 2015
IM Jack Peters, FM Michael Brown, IM Keaton Kiewra, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, FM Kostya Kavutskiy, IM John Bryant, NM Ilia Serpik, FM Alexandre Kretchetov.

This year's Southern California Champion is seventeen-year-old FM Michael Brown. Brown, the tournament's youngest competitor, finished an entire point ahead of his competition, including three International Masters.

According to Brown, the most significant element in each of his games was his mentality: "I had just come back from the DC International and so I felt I was in great shape for this tournament. Always need to be battle-ready!" Brown came to every game "ready to fight", and it showed. Every one of his games were decisive, and he began the championship with an impressive five game winning streak.

His best game of the event was his victory in Round 5 against IM John Bryant: "He and I were contenders for first, and both needed a win." In the game, Brown found a key tactical idea in a critical position to obtain the upper-hand.

Can you spot Brown's decisive move?

Bryant vs. Brown


Black to move.

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Here's the full game:

Bryant vs. Brown


Brown's fascination with the game runs deep: "I love chess simply because of its complexity. I can never sit still! Sometimes an opposite-colored bishop ending isn't a draw, and sometimes I get lucky. But every game has its own uniqueness to it, and I have never been bored with any single game I have played."

His ultimate goal is to become a Grandmaster: "Obviously, that's the usual goal, but right now I have one IM norm and hope to pursue other norms whenever the opportunity arises!" His key to improvement has been to "set reasonable goals" for himself, "both short and long-term".

He takes this approach into every single game: "I envision myself at the end of the road and act exactly as that future me would act. If a Grandmaster wouldn't take a draw in a certain position, I won't take a draw. Having that perspective has really helped me to simply relax at the board and stop worrying about where I am but rather play the game. Every game is another step towards that ultimate goal."

The only competitor who managed to defeat Brown in the tournament was nine-time former Southern California Champion, IM Jack Peters. Peters has impressively won the championship more times than anyone in history, including the very first one in 1977. 


Winner of the qualifier, Tatev Abrahamyan, had a shaky start in the championship, but ended on a high note with three straight wins, including a nice victory over IM Peters. 


Clear second place went to IM Keaton Kiewra, whose only defeat of the event was to the tournament winner. The battle between them took place the very first round. Who could've known then that they were playing the championship game?


Although Brown goes off to college in the fall, he hopes to keep pursuing his goals in chess just as rigorously: "I hope to continue studying chess in college and to compete in more norm tournaments when the opportunity arises. To reach my goal of GM I'll need to continue studying and playing against other top players in both the US and the world."