Amanov Wins 27th North American Masters; Shankar & Jayakumar Earn Norms
By Sevan Muradian   
January 2, 2012
FM Gauri Shankar, GM Mesegen Amanov & NM Adarsh Jayakumar

The dust has settled at the 27th North American Masters IM norm tournament, held from Dec 26-Dec 30 in Skokie, IL. 12 weary players and a weary organizer/arbiter have put the event to rest. After a week of intellectual warfare two young guns emerged with their IM norms, FM Gauri Shankar and NM Adarsh Jayakumar. For Gauri this is his second norm. He earned his first norm back in July 2009 at the 22nd NA Masters. For Adarsh, this is his first IM norm and he'll be competing next week in San Francisco hoping to earn his second IM norm. Gauri is a senior at Glenbrook South High School and Adarsh is a Senior at Lake Forest Academy. Of course this is not to say anything less of the tournament winner - GM Mesgen Amanov - by far the top seed of the tournament who did take significant rating risk of playing in the event - requiring him to nearly win all rounds so he wouldn't suffer significant rating loss. Mesgen racked up a score of 7.5/9 ceding draws only to Rosen, Jayakumar, and Chow. Here's one of his wins


shankar.jpgGauri was thrilled after earning his second IM norm. He said in a brief interview with a local videographer making a chess documentary, 'I thought my norm chances now and in the future were slim because I was so out of practice by not playing, uneven performances in the past, and having to focus on school'. Well for all of that negative thought Caissa smiled down upon him and once he figured he was still truly in the hunt, he took it one game at a time, only focusing on his current opponent and making the best of it.


jayakumar.jpgAdarsh is a very reserved individual. While he expressed verbally his happiness of his norm, he put his emotions in check knowing that the road to IM is still a long one with 2 norms left and needing to raise his FIDE rating 200 points.

Adarsh's mother Swapna, was more outwardly thrilled with the result, 'I'm so happy words can't express it as I've always known he's had the ability' (it's funny that words can't express her happiness - she's a journalist by trade!). She's been encouraging Adarsh into focusing more on chess and even offered a gap year between high school and college to focus on it, 'I want Adarsh to experience more than just academics and the after that the working world while he has the opportunity to do so. I want him to experience more of the world and life before getting back down into the routine of college and life thereafter, as there's more to life', Swapna said. Take a look at his round 1 win over veteran IM Angelo Young. A 75 move marathon that started the ball rolling for Adarsh.


Unfortunately Skokie's favorite son, FM Eric Rosen - the reigning high school national champion, barely missed his second IM norm (the first one captured at the World Youth in Brazil this year) with some unfavorable luck. Eric went 6/9 missing his IM norm by a mere half-point. But Eric is a resilent competitor, even after being out of the norm hunt he played the final round with enthuse and closed out with a win over local legend FM Albert Chow.


Switching gears from the players to the tournament itself, this event featured the use of the Schiller System, named after FM and IO Eric Schiller. This format is experimental and required the approval of the FIDE Qualification Commission (QC) Chairman. Any tournament that is not the standard Swiss, Round Robin, Double Round Robin, or regular Team as in the Olympiad or Continental Team Championships requires FIDE approval. The idea is simple, in a 9 round event you can have 12 players with 4 teams and 3 players on each team. A player will compete against everyone NOT on their own team. Looking at it from an organizers perspective it allows for 2 things which are more advantageous than a regular round robin - you get 2 more norm hunters into the tournament (9 versus 7) and you can place your top title holders onto the same team which helps prevent those higher level 'professional draws'. Now speaking to the latter benefit, does it eliminate 'professional draws'? No, but it makes their impact greater in terms of rating loss which higher rated players don't care for as it affects other invitations they can receive to tournaments. So it's a step in the right direction. 

The two sizable organizational hurdles were the lack of an established pairing chart and one of the requirements from the FIDE QC was that the tournament had to be fair to all participants. Now this can be interpreted in many different ways. My approach was as follows: (1) ensure that all norm hunters had the same norm requirement, in this case 6.5/9, (2) ensure that, as in traditional round robins, the color allocations were 5W and 4B or 4W and 5B, and (3) that no player received more than 2 consecutive colors, so no BBB or WWW.

The first part of the approach proved to be tricky, finding players that met those requirements. It took some time and some networking as the original cast of players weren't able to make it due to last minute changes to their plans but in the end we found everyone. Parts 2 and 3 are actually tied together. Eric Schiller provided a pairing mechanism that met my requirements - no more than 2 consecutive colors and a normal allocation of colors (5W and 4B or 4W and 5B). Eric's also follows one other principle as with round robins tables where the top half of players have the 5W and 4B and the bottom half has 4W and 5B. Jeff Wiewel also provided a pairing mechanism for the event as well. It also provides for the proper color allocations and no more than 2 consecutive colors, but it's not like a traditional round robin where everyone in the top half has the 5W and 4B option versus the bottom half having the 4W and 5B option. Jeff's is more interspersed but it balances out the TEAMS collectively (so if there were team prizes). In Eric's version the top 2 teams have 15W and 12B versus the bottom having 12W versus 15B, while Jeff's is more balanced with 14W and 13B and 13W and 14B. 

Is there a right or wrong answer? We'll find out when we discuss this in Istanbul during the Qualification Commission meeting. I'm writing up a report on the entire event for discussion then. I think there can be two sets of tables to use - when there are team prizes and when there are not. At the end of the day both meets the requirement that it's fair to the players because color allocations don't outwardly favor one player or the other (so there aren't any cases of 8W and 1B or 7W and 3B, etc).

The players were all intrigued by the new format and many expressed their own personal approval for the format. I'll personally be pushing for this format because I think it's more interesting than the traditional round robin. Sure it's more work for the organizer and the arbiter but nothing so much that is insurmountable.
For additional games analysis please visit Bill Brock's blog ( and download the pgn file here (updated). Pictures from the tournament can be seen on our Facebook Fan Page at