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All-Girls Champs Win Awards From Kasparov Print E-mail
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
April 28, 2013

Playing Hall, Photo Betsy Dynako
Chicago – When Anupama Rajendra won first place in the All-Girls Nationals last year at age 11, she made history by becoming the youngest girl ever to win the tournament.

This past weekend, Anupama, now 12, made history at the All-Girls again by winning first place in the tournament’s newly-added Under 20 Section. The victory -- which she captured with three wins, two draws and a one-point bye -- gives Anupama the rare distinction of being two-time champion in the decade-old tournament.

David Heiser of Rennaisance Chess, Guest of honor Garry Kasparov, Anupama Rajendra, USCF President Ruth Haring and Michael Khodarkovsky of KCF, Photo Betsy Dynako

United States Chess Federation President Ruth Haring said Anupama’s back-to-back victories stand as a testament to her hard work and determination.

“You don’t win twice by accident,” Haring said. “You have to be studying. You have to have a commitment to play at that level consistently.”

Though Anupama figured she would “play up” in the newly-added Under 20 Section since she won the Under 18 Section last year, she said she actually faced more experts last year than she did this year.
The road to victory was also made easier this year due to the fact that she was given a one-point bye in the final round since there were only seven players in her section in the six-round tournament.
Still, winning the Under 20 section was no cakewalk.  Anupama, whose rating was 1858, drew against a 1915 and achieved an upset against a 2058.

Asked how she prepared for the tournament, she said she studied different variations of the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian.

She said she would study the opening variations as far as 10 or 12 moves, so there was very little that surprised her.

“The opening is the main thing that I work on,” Anupama explained. “I don’t want to be dead busted in the opening.”

She also used the Houdini Chess Engine to analyze her games. She said the chess engine was particularly helpful in endgames so that she could recognize patterns. Here's her win from the first round:


The first-place win at the All-Girls qualifies Anupama to compete in the World Youth Chess Championships in the United Arab Emirates later this year, just as her victory last year enabled her to compete in the World Youth Chess Championships in Slovenia.

She said she had a good experience in Slovenia and got good advice from GM Sam Palatnik, who served as one of the USA coaches, but hasn’t decided if she’ll compete in the UAE this year.

The All-Girls also afforded Anupama and other tournament competitors and attendees a chance to get an up-close glimpse of former World Champion Garry Kasparov, who was on hand to sign copies of his books, including “How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves – from the Board to the Boardroom.”

The tournament, organized by the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation, was sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

Kasparov, speaking at the awards ceremony for the event, said the turnout for the completion shows that “chess is blossoming.” Indeed, the 280 competitors shattered last year’s record turnout of 238 players.
“I feel that many grand things are happening,” Kasparov said. He said he was “very happy to … .see this level of enthusiasm and parents and coaches flying in from all over the country, and the number of participants growing every year.”

Ashritha Eswaran and Garry Kasparov, Photo Betsy Dynako
Indeed, among the coaches who flew in to attend the event was North Cal House of Chess owner Ted Castro, who said he caught a red eye flight to Chicago after attending the state championships in California just to attend the final day of the All-Girls and to encourage his students.

“I know that means a lot to them, seeing me here, and just the little things we do, it goes a long way,” Castro said. “I didn’t teach them much today but it was more about motivating them. I want to see their faces when they achieve their goals.”

The journey paid off. Two of Castro’s students took first place in their sections. They are sisters Aksithi and Ashritha Eswaran, age 6 and 12, respectively, who won the Under 8 and Under 14 sections, respectively.

Ashritha, rated 2011, was the clear favorite in her section and won all six rounds.

“I just did a lot of puzzles and practice games,” she said when asked how she prepared for the tournament. She said her daily chess study entails as much as two hours of study per day.

Aksithi Eswaran and Kasparov, Photo Betsy Dynako

Aksithi, who was rated at 1049 and scored 5.5 points (some against higher rated players and all while her one of her two front teeth was on the verge of coming out) also said she did puzzles in books and on the computer to prepare.

Castro said Aksithi’s personal goal this year was to join her older sister, who qualified for the World Youth Championships last year, by qualifying for this year’s World Youth Championships – a feat that both achieved by winning their sections.

“As a family we’re very excited,” said the girl’s father, Eswaran Ramalingam.

Achieving a perfect score in the Under 16 section was Claudia Muñoz, of Texas.


Kasparov and Claudia Muñoz, Photo Betsy Dynako
Even though she was the highest rated player in her section at 1960, Muñoz said she made it a point to respect all of her opponents and never become prideful.

Her preparation transcended the chessboard and involved reading Scripture and physical exercise as well.

“I had to do mental preparation, spiritual preparation, getting physically ready,” she said.

She credited tactical chess books with helping her achieve her victory, saying tactics characterize her style of play, “which is aggressive and really attacking all the things that I see.”

She also credited her father, Abed Muñoz, whom she said has been her coach since age six. While not a highly-rated or titled player, she said her father’s encouragement and support have been essential to her chess success.

Find full results on the Rennaisance Knights homepage and find more information
on the Kasparov Chess Foundation here.

Also see our story with photos of mayor Rahm Emannuel at the opening ceremony.

More winners photos by Betsy Dynako
Under 12 team champs, Weibel Elementary School

Under 18 Champ Lilia Poteat with Kasparov

Dalton, top team in K-8

Kasparov with Naomi Bashkansky, Under 10 Champ

Under 12 Champ Vivian Cao Dao with Kasparov

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