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U.S. Chess School Report Print E-mail
By Daniel Rensch   
January 11, 2007
Elliot Liu and Robert Hungaski at the U.S. Chess School. Photo Rebekah Silver

by FM Daniel Rensch

The third session of the U.S. Chess School took place in Phoenix this January 2nd-6th. The U.S. Chess School is sponsored, for the most part, by Gregory Shahade. Once a young chess star himself, Greg came up with the idea of bringing America’s top youth players together for a “Soviet” like training session. He hired Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov, known by many as the greatest American chess trainer, to be the teacher/organizer for these young talented minds. GM Kaidanov has said the dream for the school would be to eventually rival the legendary Botvinnik Chess School in Russia, which was reserved for the Soviet Union’s top players.

GM Kaidanov and Shahade planned the sessions twice a year at two different rating groups, and it has been very successful thus far. Shahade supplies the students with the opportunity to work with their peers and a top trainer for the small cost of covering their own travel expenses (the students do not have to pay a single dime for the training they receive). All those involved in the sessions over the past two years have had nothing but good things to say, and I think I speak for many when I say that future is bright for America’s chess as long as the school can become a mainstay.

This year’s session was smaller than the first one I participated in Kentucky, but the company could not have been better as everyone brought good chess to the table and each personality brought something as well. The participants were Josh Friedel, Robert Hungaski, Ray Robson, Elliott Liu, Xiao Cheng and I.

Although only three of us had participated in last January’s session (Josh, Robert, and I) the awkwardness of meeting people for the first time was short lived. American Chess Events(ACE) hosted the event and not only provided housing for all, but also very well cooked meals (by my wife Shauna) throughout.

After everyone finished arriving on the 1st the chess got started on the morning of the 2nd. Each day was filled with more than eight hours of chess (generally from 9-6) and the studies were not for the faint of heart by any means. As in the previous sessions, the main focus of the school was on the most important part of chess: learning from our mistakes. We would spend an average of five of the eight hours each day on reviewing each other’s games. We were all critical of each other’s weaknesses, but we also provided support when we recognized each player’s individual strengths.

Grandmaster Kaidanov, the bright, talented and professional teacher he is, would not only help us to analyze our individual chess mistakes from each particular game, but he also had (and still has of course) the ability to shed light on a player’s “overall” weaknesses and psychological barriers. During and in between the analysis of our games, he would implement different puzzles to solve as well as different theoretical opening discussions.You could almost feel everyone in the room improving by the hour.

We had theoretical debates on the Caro-Kann Advanced Variation,the Richter Rauzer and the Najdorf English Attack. The following position, in which White has sacrificed a piece for aggressive tactical compensation, was one that we focused on in great detail.

Although I will keep our final evaluation a secret, I will say that I do not believe the final word is close to being said. Some interesting games to look at in this line include: Karjakin,S.-Anand,V. Benidorm ESP 2003 and Almasi,Z (2676)-Berkes,F (2578),Heviz 2003

Kaidanov assigned homework last January, for Josh, Robert and myself. Josh presented a lecture on Karpov’s play in Closed positions, Robert in exchange sacrifices in Anand’s games, and I presented a lecture on Kramnik’s endgame technique. I think we got pretty good reviews (Ray even gave an applause!) Here is a position from my lecture:

Although Svidler resigned as black in this position, it was discovered afterwards that the endgame was far from over. What do you believe is black best defensive idea/piece setup here?

Black must wait until White captures the a5-pawn with the king and then place the Black king on c5. ONLY then can Black remove the bishop of the g1-a7 diagonal to the e1-a5 diagonal and White can't make progress. If White tries to bring the king around to b7-c8 than Black places the bishop on a5 and plays Kd6, keeping White's king trapped.

The week was long and the chess was intense, so we finished the last day with some fun by having a Blitz tournament in which both Kaidanov and Shahade participated. I was lucky enough to win 1st with 10 and ½ out of 14, followed closely by Josh and Kaidanov with 9. We then had a home cooked Chinese meal by Yee-chen (Ray’s Mom), and it was time to start saying the goodbyes.

Special thanks again to Gregory Shahade, American Chess Events, americanchess.net , GM Kaidanov, and Shauna Rensch. I hope I speak for everyone when I say that the over-all experience was a huge success. Good food, good friends, and good chess are all we need in life, and it is exactly what we got…

Photo Gallery by Rebekah Silver:

Robert Hungaski(left)and Josh Friedel

Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov, trainer of the U.S. Chess School

Ray Robson (left) and Danny Rensch

Xiao Cheng

Bonus: Robert Hungaski's caricatures of the U.S. Chess School's participants.

Gregory Kaidanov in the throes of a common phrase.

The baby of the group, 12-year-old Ray Robson

Sponsor and organizer Greg Shahade shows no philanthropy in blitz games, where he delights in flagging opponents while down a rook.

The artist himself, Robert Hungaski, does not escape his own wrath!

To find out more about the U.S. Chess School and how you can help, e-mail Greg Shahade at
[email protected].