IM Norm Tourney Underway at NorCal House of Chess
By Michael Aigner   
March 23, 2012
Motivated by the success of the Northern California International in January, respected chess coach Ted Castro organized a 10-player IM-Norm Invitational over two consecutive weekends. Due to demand, Castro plans to run similar events on a bimonthly basis at the NorCal House of Chess. In addition to master level competition, these high level tournaments offer a unique local opportunity to earn one of three norms for the International Master title.

At the top of the field are three veteran IMs: Enrico Sevillano, Ricardo DeGuzman and Ray Kaufman. The Southern California master Sevillano (2562 USCF, 2502 FIDE), is the top seed. Rated second is DeGuzman, the 800 lb. gorilla of Northern California chess. Kaufman, the son of 2008 World Senior champion, moved out West last summer after living near Washington D.C.

Three FIDE Masters, one Women's FM and three National Masters fill out the Category III tournament (2307 average FIDE rating). The youngest two participants are 22-year old WFM Uyanga Bayambaa and my former student, 14-year old NM Yian Liou. Players need to score 6.5 out of 9 for an IM norm. It ain't easy!

The big guns have proven themselves so far. Sevillano and DeGuzman each scored a hat trick of victories in the first four rounds. In two IM vs IM showdowns, Kaufman beat DeGuzman but lost to Sevillano. Cusi and Lobo have three draws and a win each, but still must face all of the IMs. High school freshman Liou drew four straight games, including against Sevillano and Kaufman. While his pairings for the coming weekend seem favorable, he needs to score a nearly perfect 4.5 out of 5 next weekend for his first norm.

Standings After First Weekend (4 rounds)

3.5 Enrico Sevillano (2502)
3.0 Ricardo DeGuzman (2400)
2.5 Ray Kaufman (2316), Ron Cusi (2316) and Richard Lobo (2236)
2.0 Yian Liou (2293)
1.5 Tigran Ishkhanov (2347) and Uyanga Bayambaa (2110)
0.5 Emmanuel Perez (2290) and Bela Evans (2256)

One reason why master tournaments at the NorCal House of Chess became popular is the care and sponsorship by Ted Castro. Boards + sets are supplied, and participants enjoy free meals and drinks. Indeed, the players only need to worry about pins, forks and what to play on move 18 of the Dragon. Well done Ted!

See a game by IM Sevillano and a norm hopeful below:


Would you like to play in one of these invitationals? The organizer says about 20 people already expressed interest, many his friends or students. Since he can't accommodate everyone, he set up another tournament: a FIDE qualifier. The winner earns an invite to the next IM norm event in May. Four straight wins (or maybe 3.5/4) and you're in! Warning: Beware the dozen or so expert rated juniors; their smiles may look innocent, but their tactics are not!  If you're interested and rated over 1800 USCF + under 2300 FIDE, contact Ted Castro right away because only a handful of seats remain. Good skill (luck)!!

March Invitational players and arbiters stand with USCF President Ruth Haring (third from left) and tournament organizer Ted Castro (far right).

Player photos from International in January: