Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2009 arrow 13-Year-Old Naroditsky Wows in Concord
13-Year-Old Naroditsky Wows in Concord Print E-mail
By Michael Aigner   
March 13, 2009
Daniel Naroditsky,
Photo Michael Aigner
The concept of a big money adult tournament in Northern California seemed so foreign that many participants needed a day or two to adjust.  Few locals had faced the added pressure of competing for a four-digit first place cash prize.  Some forgot to bring chess equipment, unfamiliar with the prevailing policy of the Continental Chess Association not to supply boards, sets and clocks.  And most players never before met that gray-haired man with the official-sounding deep voice; even fewer knew that he is the current President of the USCF.  Yes, Bill Goichberg came to town!

Over the past decade, the San Francisco Bay Area has become the incubator for some of America's top juniors.  Just in the past two years, local talents brought home two World Youth medals, shared a US Junior championship and earned the distinction of youngest USCF master ever.  Northern California now boasts six junior masters, not counting three more who graduated from high school in the past two years.  Bay Area events are full of so many kids as young as five years old (!) that calling them ‘adult tournaments' has become a bit of a misnomer.  The juniors even dominate the Labor Day state championship; eight of the top twelve places in the Master section last year went to players under the age of 20, including the champion.

Therefore, it came as quite a surprise to actually see a successful adult tournament with a strong majority of the players old enough to vote.  The Western Chess Congress on March 6-8 in Concord was, in fact, the first Bay Area tournament with an paid prize fund over $10,000 since the 1995 US Open, coincidentally held at the exact same hotel over thirteen years ago.  Unlike the Firecracker Open, which failed miserably in 2001, Bill Goichberg and the Continental Chess Association managed to draw a respectable first year turnout of 229 players, including eight International Masters and five others with FIDE titles.

Those that came to the Hilton hotel found an almost idyllic chess venue in the rolling hills of the East Bay.  The playing hall was large, quiet and had decent lighting.  The lobby and enclosed courtyard offered space to sit and relax between rounds or for parents to wait until their children finish playing.  Many parents wrote emails or watched movies on their laptops.  A bike and jogging trail next to the hotel allowed the opportunity to exercise or enjoy the pleasant spring weather.  Although the hotel had decent food, most players went across the street to a mall or drove to the many fast food places within a mile radius.  The selection included something for just about every taste, from American to Italian to Oriental.  Last but certainly not least, the venue was easily accessible by freeway from all three major cities in the Bay Area and by Bay Area Rapid Transit (via a free hotel shuttle to the nearest station).

The tournament was five rounds long, with a traditional 3-day option beginning on Friday night and a faster 2-day schedule (first two rounds at G/75) starting on Saturday.  The players were split almost evenly between these two schedules, although a majority of kids-perhaps more likely their parents-chose the shorter one.  The eight class sections were divided every 200 points at odd numbered intervals: U2100, U1900, etc, down to U900. 

The Western Chess Congress began with a slew of upsets on the top boards, as I reported on Saturday night.  In fact, the six 2400+ rated players in the tournament combined for two losses, three draws and merely one win in the first round!  There were so many upsets in the 2-day schedule that one low master beat an IM in round 1 and, as a reward, got paired down versus an expert in round 2.

As is often the case, the youngsters picking up these scalps include some of the brightest rising stars, certainly future titled players themselves.  Northern California's newest master, 15-year old NM Rohan Agarwal, swindled the former state champion IM Vladimir Mezentsev in a G/75 blunder-fest.  Two players from Arizona tasted early success too: Cuban native WFM Liulia Cardona defeated IM Vladimir Mezentsev while 12-year old expert David Adelberg earned the point against 2300-rated Arjoe Loanzon. 

However, one junior stood taller than all of the rest.  Always short for his age, former World U12 champion FM Daniel Naroditsky, now 13 years old, has grown in more ways than one over the past year.  In Concord, he proved that he was the man to beat, transforming from a shy player with a mid-2300 rating into a confident champion with the composure of a veteran professional.  Known to family and friends by the Russian form of his name, Danya easily won his first three games before cruising with a pair of solid draws against experienced International Masters.  Amazingly, the score of 4-1 held up for undisputed first place! 

The key game of the tournament came in round 3 against Danya's friend and occasional study partner IM Sam Shankland.  Both Naroditsky and Shankland have tasted success at the highest level and share the distinction of medalling at the World Youth Chess Festival.  While friends off the board, their games over the years have been uncompromising and the contest in Concord was no exception.  Thanks to FM Naroditsky for sharing some of his observations below.


1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6
This is the Classical Variation of the Scheveningen. It is one of the best lines in the Sicilian for black and may be extremely dangerous if white doesn't know what he is doing.
I decide not to go into the theoretical duel after Bg5 and play Karpov's pet line. The main idea is to set up the Bishop on e3, Castle, and follow it up by f4. White's position will be extremely solid and centralized.

6...e5!? Is also an interesting line. 7.Nf3 h6 8.0-0 Be7 9.Re1 0-0 10.h3 Be6 11.Bf1 White has a slight edge.
 7.0-0 Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.f4 Qc7 10.Kh1 Bd7 11.Nb3

 The position is a normal position for the Be2 Sicilian. Black will play on the Queenside, while white will prepare a Kingside attack with g4-g5. Here, black makes a mistake, missing my 14th move.

11...a6 reaches a main line Scheveningen.

12.f5? Na5! 13.Qd3 Bc6 with counterplay
12...Nxd5 13.exd5 Nd8 14.f5!
This is the idea. White will now transfer his b3-N to the dominant e4 square, when black's position will be extremely passive and tied up. 14...f6 15.Nd2 g6!
This is black's best chance, but it still doesn't help.
 16.Bd3 Kg7 17.c4 Nf7 18.Qc2!
Forcing black to play g5, when he will have no counterplay.
18...g5 19.b4 b6
19...b5 20.c5 a5 21.c6 with a large advantage.
 20.Ne4 Qb7 21.a4
Stopping the counterplay with b5.
 21...a6 22.Nc3 Rfc8 23.Qf2 e4!?
This is black's best chance-he opens the e5 square for his N.
24.Nxe4 Ne5
25.Bxg5! Nxd3 26.Bxf6+!
A nice final combination, which wins immediately.
26...Bxf6 27.Qg3+ Kh8 28.Nxd6
Black cannot defend both against Nf7 checkmate and his Queen. 1-0

What is the secret to becoming a World Youth champion?  Obviously, the achievement requires a deep commitment to chess.  Most observers expect the prodigy to levitate over his laptop between rounds while digesting the latest variations from Rybka.  To the contrary, Danya's pre-game relaxation last weekend actually included video games, not chess databases.  After the tournament, the champion also needed to cool off properly.  Since there was no need for a blitz playoff for first place, Danya had to satisfy his speed chess appetite online later that evening.

IM Emory Tate
Six participants, including International Masters Dmitry Zilberstein, Mark Ginsburg, Ricardo DeGuzman and Emory Tate, all shared second place at the surprisingly low score of 3.5 out of 5, all with two wins and three draws.  What happened with all of the draws?  Amazingly, the top seven boards in the final round were all drawn.  It certainly was not for lack of trying; all games lasted at least 2.5 hours and three exceeded 50 moves on Sunday evening.  A few contests simply petered out into an even endgame after some exciting tactics.  The presence of the brilliant tactician IM Tate added some spice to the tournament, although he was unable to wow his fans in this last round encounter against the solid IM Zilberstein.


1.d4 c5 2.d5 g6 3.e4 Bg7 4.c4 d6
Tactical players like IM Tate enjoy dynamic openings such as the Benoni.
 5.Bd3 e5 6.Nc3 Nd7 7.Nge2 a6 8.a3 Ne7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Kh1 f5 11.exf5 gxf5 12.f4 e4
Will black's passed e4 pawn be considered a strength or a weakness? Time will tell.
13.Bc2 Nf6 14.b4 b6 15.bxc5 bxc5 16.Rb1!

The open b-file is always important.
16...Ra7 17.Qe1 Ng6 18.Nd1!
The knight is the ideal piece to blockade the passed pawn.
18...Re7 19.Ne3 Nh5 20.Bb2 Bxb2 21.Rxb2 Rg7 22.Rb3 Bd7 23.Rb7 Qf6 24.Rb6 Bc8

White claims an advantage because his pieces have more space and coordinate better than black's.
25.Qc3 Qd8 26.Rb8 Nh4 27.Qe1 Qf6 28.Ng3 Nxg3+ 29.hxg3 Ng6 30.Qa1 Qf7 31.Kg1 h5 32.Bd1
The computer points out that white has no useful way to defend the g3 pawn after Ne7.
33.g4 fxg4?
Mandatory was Qc7 to gain a tempo.
34.Bxg4 Qc7 35.Rxc8 Rxc8 36.Bxc8 Qxc8 37.Qf6 Qf8 38.Qe6+ Kh7 39.Qxe4
Now the e4 pawn turns out to be a weakness.
 39...Re7 40.Qd3 Qf6 41.Kh2?
Better was Ng4 and pushing the f-pawn as far as possible.
41...Rf7 42.Ng4

A move later, black survives because his rook blockades the passed pawn.
42...Qd4 43.Qxd4 cxd4 44.g3 Ne7 45.gxh4 Nf5 46.Rg1 d3 47.Rd1 Rc7 48.Rxd3 Rxc4 49.Ne3 Nxe3 50.Rxe3 Rxf4

As many masters have said, all rook endgames are drawn. This one is no exception.
 51.Kg3 Rd4 52.Re7+ Kg6 53.Ra7 Rxd5 54.Rxa6 Kf5 55.Kf3 Rd1 56.Ra5+ d5 57.Ke3 Ke5 58.Ra8 ½-½

IM Dmitry Zilberstein

Fortunately, not all of the games between titled players ended in a perfunctory draw.  Since IM DeGuzman and IM Shipman both enjoy playing endgames, it seemed quite natural for their game to be decided after the queens and most minor pieces were traded.

IM Ricardo DeGuzman


David Adelberg
The other two players who tied for second were rapidly improving juniors: NM Steven Zierk from the Bay Area and the previous mentioned expert David Adelberg.  The CalChess high school champion Zierk continues to impress; he was a C player just a little over two years ago and now is merely a handful of rating points short of the FM title.  However, the big revelation of the weekend was the 2438 performance turned in by Adelberg.  He finished undefeated against five masters and, now rated 2169, he will no doubt join the ranks of master very soon.  Watch how efficiently he goes king hunting against IM Mezentsev in the following game.



1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6
The Sicilian Najdorf is the primary weapon for the majority of elite juniors against 1.e4.
 6.Be2 e6 7.Bg5 Be7 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 Qc7 10.g4 Nbd7 11.f4 Re8 12.h4?!
Too slow!
12...b5 13.Bxf6 Nxf6 14.g5
It seems that white should have captured f6 on move 12 and then pushed g4-g5 before playing h2-h4. Perhaps he forgot about black's thematic reply.
14...b4! 15.Ncb5 axb5 16.gxf6 Bxf6 17.Qxb4 Rxa2 18.c3 Bd7 19.Nxb5?!
This move is either gutsy or suicidal.
19...Bxb5 20.Bxb5 Rb8

All of black's pieces aim at the white monarch.
This move wins style points, but perhaps it was better to tighten the screws with either Qa7 or Ra5 followed by Rba8.
22.Qxb2 Qc5 23.Qd2?

White's only hope was 23.Rd4 (intending Rb4) 23...Bxd4 24.cxd4 Qxb5 25.Qxb5 Rxb5+ Although 5 vs. 4 on one side of the board is often drawn, white's weak pawn structure and the large number of remaining pawns gives black plenty of reason to be optimistic.
 23...Bxc3! 24.Qxd6 Rxb5+
White resigned in the face of 25. Kc2 Rb2+ 26. Kc1 Qe3+ 27.Rd2 Rxd2 28. Qb8+ Rd8 discovered check! 0-1

While most Chess Life Online articles focus on the Open or Premier section, the majority of players are in the lower divisions.  Two veteran Mechanics' Institute members, Larry Snyder and Igor Traub, shared the top prize in the U2100 section, followed closely by several fellow competitors from the Tuesday Night Marathon in San Francisco.  In fact, most of the class section winners were adults, bucking the trend of scholastic supremacy established in most Bay Area tournaments.  The lone exception was U1900 section champion Rahul Desirazu, who earned both a nice payday and gained 130 rating points for a 5-0 score. 

Samuel Sevian
At the other end of the age spectrum, a few of the Bay Area's talented juniors did come to match wits against the big boys.  Samuel Sevian, the nation's youngest expert (achieved at the age of 8 years and 2 months) scored 50% against much older opposition in the U2100 section.  Although he dropped below 2000 in Concord, Samuel remains on track to shatter the USCF youngest master record held by another Bay Area resident, NM Nicholas Nip.  Ironically, Samuel lost his two G/75 games and then came back with 2.5/3 in the six-hour time control.  Who says little kids can't play long games?  However, Samuel wasn't even the youngest player in Concord; that distinction went to national Kindergarten champ Arun Khemani, playing in the U1100 section.

Western Chess Congress Winners

  • Premier: FM Daniel Naroditsky
  • U2100: Larry Snyder and Igor Traub
  • U1900: Rahul Desirazu
  • U1700: Hossam Nasser and Federico de la Cruz
  • U1500: Melvin Thomas
  • U1300: Joshua Percy
  • U1100: Hugo Galeana
  • U900: Ray Chen and Colin Ma

Click here for the rating report.

Click here for a slideshow on Flickr.

Fortunately, the first Western Chess Congress will not be the last.  Bill Goichberg plans to return to Concord on Martin Luther King weekend in January 2010 for an even bigger 7-round festival over four days (with accelerated schedules available).  Perhaps more participants from Southern California and other western states will turn out next year; it always is more enjoyable to play strangers instead of all of your local buddies. 

Finally, I wish to share an endgame from one of my games.  On Friday night, either fate or a bribe to an assistant TD saw me paired on top board against my friend IM Shankland.  I managed to salvage a draw from a losing position by successfully hypnotizing my talented opponent with multiple dubious moves.  We pick up the action after time control, as the game entered the interesting endgame of knight and two separated pawns against bishop and one pawn. 

Aigner,Michael (2262) - Shankland,Sam (2477) [D15]
Western Chess Congress
The endgame is drawn, but only with accurate defense. White keeps king on c2 or c3, shuffles bishop between c1, d2 and e3 and pushes g5 if necessary. As long as the bishop has enough squares, then zugzwang is impossible. If the black goes after the g-pawn, then white captures the c-pawn for a theoretical draw.
If 41...Kf3 42.Kc3 Kxg4 43.Kxc4 Nf4 44.Bb4 All white needs to do now is sacrifice the bishop for the last pawn. 44...g6 45.Be7 Kf5 46.Kd4 Nh5 47.Ke3 Nf6 48.Kf3 g5 49.Bxf6.
 42.Kc3 g6 43.Bh6??
43.Bc1 Also OK is Be3. 43...Nc5 44.Be3 Ne4+ 45.Kc2 Ke5 46.Bc1 Nf6 This is a tricky position. White must gain a tempo to prevent black from setting up zugzwang. 47.Bb2+! 47.g5? Nd5 48.Bd2 c3! Here's the threat! White loses the pawn endgame if he takes. 49.Bc1 Kd4 Zugzwang! The bishop has run out of available squares on the key diagonal. 50.Ba3 Ne3+ 51.Kb1 Kd3 52.Bc1 Nd5 53.Ba3 Kd2 54.Bc1+ Kd1 55.Ba3 c2+ 47...Ke6 48.g5 Ne4 49.Bc1
Sadly, two blind mice missed that g5 traps the bishop, thus allowing black to walk over and capture it with the king.
44.Kd2 Ne4+ 45.Ke3 Nc5 46.Bg7 Ne6 47.Bc3 Nd8 48.Kf4 Nf7 49.Bb2
With an optimal position, white calmly sits and waits.
49...Kc5 50.Bc3!

Gaining time by forcing black to go around the long way to get to b3.
 50...Kb5 51.Ke4 Ka4 52.Kd5
More simple was Kd4 and Bd2. Once the knight moves, then the white king runs to e5 and f6.
52...Kb3 53.Bd2 Kc2 54.Bf4 Kd3

An interesting try was 54...c3 55.Ke6 g5 56.Be3 Kd3 57.Bc1 Nh6 58.Kf6 Nxg4+ 59.Kxg5 Ne3 60.Kf4! Dvoretsky demonstrates that this position can be won if white's king is far away. Alas, the king is close enough here. 60...Nc4 61.Kf3! Nd2+ 62.Kf2 Kc2 63.Ba3 Kb3 64.Bc1 Kc2 65.Ba3 Nc4 66.Bb4
Walking into a trap. Instead, white needed to shuffle his bishop again, this time to c1.
I guess it was lucky day! 55...Ke4! This move wins a tempo. 56.Bc1 (Or if 56.Bd2 Ne5 57.Kf6 Nf3! 58.Bc1 g5 59.Bb2 Kd3 60.Kf5 c3 61.Ba1 c2 62.Bb2 Nd2 63.Kxg5 Nc4! The White bishop runs out of squares. 64.Bc1 Ke2! 65.Kf6 Kd1 66.Bf4 Nd2 And Black cleverly promotes the pawn.) 56...Ne5 57.Kf6 c3! Once again the White bishop is out of moves. 58.g5 Nd3 59.Ba3 Nf4! 60.Bc1 c2 61.Bb2 Nd3 62.Ba3 Kd4! 63.Kxg6 Kc3 64.Kf7 Nb2 65.Bxb2+ Kxb2 66.g6 c1Q Black wins because the last pawn is not a bishop or rook pawn.
 56.Bc1 Nh6 57.Kf6 Nxg4+ 58.Kxg5 Nf2
If 58...Kc2 59.Bf4 Nf2 60.Be5 is similar to the game.
While this move is not the only way to draw, the plan now quickly becomes apparent quickly. White keeps his bishop on the long diagonal, shuffling between a1, b2 and g7, h8 as needed to prevent the knight from shielding the last pawn.
59...Ne4+ 60.Kf5 Nc3 61.Ke6 Kc2 62.Ba1 Kb3 63.Kd7 Na4 64.Bg7 Nc3 65.Kc6 Kc2 66.Kd7 Kd3 67.Kc8
White doesn't need his king to draw this position and therefore he keeps it far away to avoid accidental knight forks.
67...Nb5 68.Ba1 Nd4 69.Kb7 Nb3 70.Bb2 Nc5+ 71.Ka8 ½-½

Check out MSA rated results of the Western Chess Congress and also see Michael Aigner (aka f-pawn)'s blog for frequent updates on Bay Area chess.


March - Chess Life Online 2009

Twitter TestWall Street Brings Chess to Main StreetWatch Entries From the SuperNationals Video Challenge Take a Tour of the OprylandHilton on Ohio States, SuperNationals and BeyondKosteniuk Simuls: From New York to Nashville The Final Four for the Last Spot in St.Louis Further Details on USCF Call for USCF Sales Vendor Bids Silhouette ContestThe Last Spot in Saint Louis Aronian Takes Amber; Kamsky Ties for First in RapidKamsky and Topalov Trade Thrills Call for Bids for USCF SalesReport to the USCF Membership Regarding Current LitigationThe Uncrowned: Fine, Benko and KaidanovCollege Chess in America: Luciana Morales on Final Four Secrets Kamsky Splits With Wang Yue; Faces Topalov Tomorrow The 2009 U.S. Championship Contenders Review of Chess: Lessons From a Grandmaster Abby Marshall on the Virginia ScholasticsACA Beasts Take U.S. Amateur Team Playoffs In Texas, Hess Wins First Place; Earns Second Norm Kamsky Back on Top in RapidsKamsky and Kramnik Make Two DrawsDetails on Kosteniuk NYC SimulHess on Fire in Texas Kamsky Climbs to Rapid Lead Kasparov on Fostering American TalentGM Joel on the Polar Bear Pairings up for U.S. Amateur Team Playoffs Pair of Draws in Kamsky-Ivanchuk White House Chess Challenge Spring Invitational Kicks off at Texas TechKamsky Holding Own in AmberSchedule Set for 2009 SuperNationalsNashville SuperNationals Video Challenge 13-Year-Old Naroditsky Wows in Concord2009 U.S. Women's Championship Set for October in Saint LouisSuper-Simuls at the Super-NationalsEsserman and Sadvakasov Thrill in SturbridgeIrina Krush on Gibraltar Highs and LowsNaroditsky Leads in Concord Big Opens Kick Off on Both Coasts Chess and Art in IcelandJennifer on Nashville, Duchamp and the Dragon GM Joel on Time Management Perelshteyn Wins Virginia Open GM Melik Annotates an Aeroflot Win