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Of Prodigies and Prophylaxis - Walter's Walk
November 30th, 2010
10:10 am


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Of Prodigies and Prophylaxis
So I went to the inaugural Saint Louis Chess Club Thanksgiving Open last weekend. That might seem an odd place to hit given there is always a big tournament in LA then, but the St. Louis club is probably the nicest operation that I've ever seen. The Chase Park Plaza was a welcome change from the Ballys' and Holiday Inns of the normal chess circuit. This tournament was probably run at a loss -- St Louis has a generous chess benefactor -- but I'd be willing to pay the premium for all tournaments to be this nice.

The tournament had nine(!) Grandmasters including former World Championship challenger, Nigel Short, as well as US Olympians, Shulman and Onischuk. Sadly, I missed playing Short in the first round by a few points. From his writing, I had gotten the impression he was a bit officious, but after the round he was analyzing the game with his opponent (a player of only my strength), and was very friendly, humorous and quite generous with his time. It just goes to show you can't really tell till you meet someone. Missouri should make that their state motto or something. Since I was just barely above the median, my first round game was against a much lower rated player (an 11-year old), and I outplayed him slowly but surely.

Even though well over half my section was adults, with many older than me, I got my usual diet of underrated prodigies. My first round opponent lost a few points, but it didn't matter as I was much better than him in any event. My subsequent opponents on average gained over 50 points each (for a six-round tournament!):
L  Sipos, Istvan   (23)   2413 2476   +63
D  Liang, Awonder  (07)   1852 1879   +27
L  Schnedier, Tom  (13)   1820 1946  +126
W  Hua, Margaret   (12)   1864 1896   +32
L  Arun, Vikram    (14)   1895 1904    +9

That's right, SEVEN YEARS OLD.

Not any seven-year old, but the #1 in America. That list will change over time, so here's a snapshot of it right now:
1	Liang, Awonder           7     WI     1842 (1879)
2	Peng, David Tianjian     7     IL     1751
3	Gu, Brian Fanyuan        7     TX     1657
4	Deng, Tim                7     CA     1571
5	Stearman, Josiah Paul    7     CA     1531
6	Ramesh, Kaavya           7     TX     1439
7	Perkins, Joaquin K       6     CA     1436
	Zhang, Kevin             7     VA     1436
9	Elberling, Thomas        7     NJ     1430
10	Joo, Ethan S             7     NY     1409

Awonder is 100 points higher than the #2 and 200 points higher than the #3, 300 points higher than the #4...

To put this in context.. Arguably the greatest chess prodigy in US history (so far) has been Hikaru Nakamura. On the day before his ninth birthday, Nakamura played a short tournament, beating an A player and raising his rating to... 1714:

199612088010 NY DECEMBER OPEN (NY)
2: UNDER 2000 1706 => 1714

Awonder is 1-2 years younger (not sure when he hits the big 8), and is 150+ points higher rated.

What really blew me away was the maturity of his play. In the following position, Awonder is commencing the king-storm with shot and shell:

White to Move

And he played ....

13.Rb1 to shore up the Q-side black squares a little before crossing the 50-yard line.


The obvious place to look would be the games of young Anatoly Karpov. The earliest games of Karpov I have in my database were played when he was nine:

RUS-ch U10, 1961

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. h3
O-O 9. c3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. Nbd2 Rd8 13. d5 Nb7 14. Nf1 c4 15. g4
Nc5 16. Ng3 g6 17. Kg2 Ne8 18. g5 a5 19. Be3 b4 20. Qe2 Ba6 21. Bxc5 Qxc5 22.
Qd2 Rdb8 23. Reb1 Bc8 24. Ne2 Ng7 25. b3 Ba6 26. cxb4 axb4 27. bxc4 Bxc4 28.
Bd3 Bxd3 29. Qxd3 Ra3 30. Qxa3 bxa3 31. Rxb8+ Bf8 32. Rc1 Qa7 33. Rcc8 Qe7 34.
Rxf8+ Qxf8 35. Rxf8+ Kxf8 36. Nd2 1-0

15. g4 is by no means prophylactic.

On Monday after the tournament, Garry Kasparov visited St. Louis. I hope he got to the honor to meet Awonder Liang. I feel lucky to have played the boy. I would like to maybe beat him before he becomes US or World Champion, but perhaps that window has already been closed for me.

Here is the score of the game with the hope that it finds its way into the databases someday, and I can say, "remember when.."

[Event "2010_11_Saint Louis Chess Club Thanksgiving Open"]
[Site "St. Louis, USA"]
[Date "2010.11.27"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Liang, Awonder"]
[Black "Geary, Jim"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "B25"]
[Annotator ",Jimbo"]
[PlyCount "83"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nge2 d6 6. O-O Nf6 7. h3 O-O 8. d3
Rb8 9. g4 b5 10. Ng3 b4 11. Nce2 Bb7 12. f4 a5 13. Rb1 a4 14. b3 axb3 15. axb3
Ra8 16. g5 Nd7 17. Bb2 Nd4 18. Nxd4 Bxd4+ 19. Bxd4 cxd4 20. Qd2 Qb6 21. Ra1 Ra3
22. f5 Rfa8 23. Rac1 R3a5 24. Qf4 Rf8 25. f6 exf6 26. gxf6 Kh8
27. Qh6 Rg8 28. Rf4 Nf8 29. h4 Qd8 30. Rcf1 Ne6 31. R4f2 Qf8 32. Qd2 Rb5 33.
Bh3 Bc8 34. Ra1 g5 35. h5 g4 36. Bg2 Ng5 37. Kh2 Qh6 38. Kg1 Nf3+ 39. Bxf3 Qxd2
40. Rxd2 gxf3 41. Kf2 Bg4 42. Rdd1 {Quit taking score here as I had less than 1m left
on my clock. I won the h-pawn, but then lost my own. Final pos: W: Rf2 Kf4
pb3,c2,d3 B: Re1 Ke6 pb4,d4,f6} 1/2-1/2


(7 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:November 30th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
Man, reading stuff like this really makes me wish I was still playing tournament chess.

Can't justify the time though, unless I decided to put Scrabble on hiatus, or my Starbucks project.
[User Picture]
Date:December 1st, 2010 04:17 am (UTC)
Given all the NASPA nonsense, it was pretty easy for me to abort even without two or three other things I'm trying to get good at.
[User Picture]
Date:December 17th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
Would love to read your anti-NASPA screed.
[User Picture]
Date:November 30th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
Thoroughly enjoyed this post. I get the opinion that Nosher L Git is pretty well-regarded over here - a lore unto his own, but a benign one.

Do you think we'll see Liang in the US Chess League for the Arch Bishops some day? (Or maybe someone else; it's not clear whether Liang had far to come for this tournament or whether he's based in WI.) I know you're a friend of at least one of the ARizona Scorpions so you may well be following it...
[User Picture]
Date:December 1st, 2010 04:16 am (UTC)
The way USCL ratings are computed is from lists like a year old. So if you gain a lot of points in a year, your team will be happy to have you. I've already been told that if I'm 2300 (I doubt it) next September, there is a spot on the AZ Scorpions for me. When AZ played StL, they had a stacked team with an A-player on 4th board, XY Finegold, who I'm guessing is Ben's son. He has a 19xx rating now (no idea about last year). Sunday morn, I saw him play a very nice game on the B side of an Alekhine's Defense a couple boards over beating ... Awonder.
[User Picture]
Date:November 30th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
His older brother is Adream Liang. Awesome.
Date:December 1st, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
That's a wonderful story.
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