Sadvakasov Takes on 22 Columbia Students
By Anna Ginzburg   
April 21, 2009
GM Darmen Sadvakasov thinks against Anna Ginzburg, while her father looks on.

It is April 13, 2009 at 11:04am. I am sitting in my Nationalism in Contemporary World Politics class, having an eternal debate with myself: Should I continue paying attention or go on the USCF website and see how Foxwoods played out? Half asleep from staying in the library till 4am the night before working on a paper for a graduate level political science course, my brain stops processing the lecture, and I give in to the temptation to go onto “Title for Sadvakasov” flashes before me.   “Whoa”, I think, “this is amazing, GM Darmen Sadvakasov is the talk of the American chess world right now, and he’s going to be at Columbia in a week!”

But, that week passes by much too quickly. I was the main organizer of the event and there were forms to fill out, Columbia officials to beg for a nicer simul location, tables to move, contracts to write, emails to send to Darmen, and hundreds of posters to post around campus. Sleep moved way down on the priority list, but I’m a sophomore in college, so I’m long used to making choices. Sleep, school, or a social life. Apparently you can only have two.

Finally it is Sunday. I awake at 9am, run over to where the event is held and together with the very helpful chess club president, Conrad Ho, (I am the vice president), and another chess club member Max Gross, deal with some last minute complications. At 2:45pm, we begin set-up, along with two other chess club members, Arma'an Almamun, Jonathan Bourdett.

Out of the 22 players that face Darmen, there was 1 win, and 2 draws. Conrad Ho scores a win, and Arma'an Almamun, and Tiago Gil Oliveira grab draws. Darmen also offered Tyler Pewarski a draw, but he declined and unfortunately, lost.

Conrad Ho, spectator Jesse Bentert and Anna Ginzburg

Here is Conrad's game:


I lost my own game. I think 18...Ng4 is what really killed me. Ba8 was much better.

Darmen was really interactive and nice, and stayed for a little bit after the simul to chat with the players about their games. He also complimented the players. One of my students--Maddie Bender played him, and after the simul, he made an announcement that she gave him a really hard time.
Darmen poses with all 22 participants.

After the pieces were packed, and the last minute photos were taken, there was some talk of what is to come next year. Max and I have discussed changing the structure of the club. The club currently meets for three hours every Monday but mostly for blitz and bughouse. Should we practice tactics? Go over games? It’s hard to do that when the club membership ranges from beginner to 2500.

We are all more motivated by the event. There is talk of going to the Marshall as a team more regularly. My freshman year I organized a trip to the Amateur East, and we finished as the second place team, and even better than UTD! I tried to coordinate a trip down to the Pan Am’s this year, but it was too complicated. It fell during winter break, and people were going home for the holidays or had other things to do. That’s the hard part of college chess. Between classes, schoolwork, jobs, and other extracurricular activities, how can one fit chess into their schedule?

Still, I’m proud of the Columbia chess club. We’ve been successfully organizing simuls for the past few years now due to the vision of former chess club president Charley McMillan, and former chess club vice president Dan Park. Two years ago there was a simul with Nakamura , and last year GM Alexandra Kosteniuk came to Columbia. Next year, I am hoping to expand on the vision and organize a blind simul, in addition to a regular simul.

For more on college chess, check out Chess Camp 101 by Dr.Alexey Root, Luciana Morales's piece on chess at University of Texas at Brownsville and read about the World Chess Live Tournament of College Champions, scheduled for the first four days of the U.S. Open.