On Chess: Growing young, strong players through strong tournaments | St. Louis Public Radio

On Chess: Growing young, strong players through strong tournaments

May 11, 2017

Whether it's chess, math, art or science, talent is not something that America lacks. The creative abilities of the top young people in these areas are astonishing, and the push to turn this raw talent to become elite in their respective fields is where the real fight is.

The chess world is doing its part to foster young talent next week with the second of four strong grandmaster invitational tournaments at the Saint Louis Chess Club. It's called "strong" because they are more rigorous than a regular tournament. The goal of all four is to foster the talent in the United States, and to give players the practice and sparring that they need to break into the world's best.

In the past, Americans have had to travel to Europe to search for the rare tournaments where they can play at the grandmaster level. Thanks to these efforts by the Chess Club, such opportunities can be now found closer to home.

This edition of the quarterly strong will feature three tournaments. This is to accommodate as much talent as possible at the chess club, making sure that the players the club is targeting to grow don't simply play against each other all the time.

The top group includes Americans. Varuzhan Akobian is originally from Armenia and a transplant to the St. Louis area. He recently had an amazing finish at the U.S. Championship, in which he was a hair away from playing in the tie breaker to determine the champion. Jeffery Xiong, the reigning World Junior Champion and America's biggest hope, will also be joining the fray. Another participant with a U.S. Championship is Yaroslav Zherebukh, a St. Louis resident who attends Saint Louis University. He joins the tournament alongside his college roommate, Dariusz Swiercz, who is using this tournament as preparation for a busy summer of chess.

Among the most notable talent be facing them is Argentinean grandmaster Sandro Mareco, who just won his zone tournament in South America and is one of the top-100 players in the world. Two Cubans are also participating. Lazaro Bruzon is the higher rated player. Some of his accolades include being two-time American continental champion, two-time Ibero-American champion and former World Junior Champion.

Players competing in the first quarterly strong tournament held in the winter of 2017.
Credit Saint Louis Chess Club | Austin Fuller

The second grouping is composed of people where being 23 would put you over the median age. Some of the more notable names from U.S. include Awonder Liang, the 13-year-old world traveler who is closing in on his grandmaster title; Nazi Paikidze, last year's U.S. Women's Champion; and Aleksandr Lenderman, former medalist for the U.S. in the World Team Championship.

Some of the professionals facing the group include the Women's Champion from Kazakhstan, Zhansaya Abdumalik, who is 17 years old, and Alexander Fier, the most active grandmaster from Brazil.

Finally, a third group was added to fit everyone in. The mix of college students and young talent includes: Alexander Shimanov and Ilya Nyzhnyk who attend Webster University; two grandmasters, Ruifeng Li, 16, and Sam Sevian, 17; and Andrei Stukopin who attends the University of Texas at Brownsville.

The games are scheduled for May 16-24 at the club, starting every day at 1 p.m. Guests may watch live at the club at no cost or follow the action at uschesschamps.com. The top young chess talent will be on full display as these tournaments continue to grow in popularity and St. Louis is at the center of it all.

Alejandro Ramirez became a FIDE master at age 9, an international master at 13, and earned his grandmaster title by the age of 15. That achievement set Ramirez as the first Central American to earn the elite GM title and, at the time, the second-youngest grandmaster. Ramirez is a new resident of St. Louis and is the new coach of the Saint Louis University Chess Team.