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On chess: Top juniors shine in St. Louis

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 23, 2012 - The second annual St. Louis Invitational ended recently at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, and for young standouts Darwin Yang and Marc Arnold, the tournament proved to be a great success.

One of the main reasons to hold a prestigious event such as this is to provide an opportunity for players to earn "grandmaster norms."  My regular readers will remember a few articles back that I discussed in detail what it takes to become a grandmaster, and scoring three grandmaster performances, or "norms," is the most important aspect of the application process.  The tournament was a 10-player, round-robin, and the field was comprised of seven international masters (IMs) and three grandmasters (GMs). The seven IMs were attempting to prove their strength by scoring at least six points out of nine games to achieve a GM norm.

Yang, 15, and Arnold, 19, were both successful in their norm hunt.  Both happen to be very strong junior players, and both are expected to play in the upcoming 2012 U.S. Junior Chess Championship, which will be held at the Chess Club in St. Louis this July.  The winner of this year's U.S. Junior Championship will qualify for the 2013 U.S. Championship, so both players will be hoping for another strong performance in St. Louis in just a few months.

I was not so fortunate in the event, scoring only 3.5 points, but I was a good host, so to speak, as both Marc and Darwin were able to beat me on their way to grandmaster-dom. Luckily, the GM title can never be revoked! I’ll be hoping for a better showing at my next tournament.

Marc will be returning to St. Louis in three weeks for the 2012 U.S. Championship, where he will serve as the second for his lifelong friend Robert Hess. Hess is one of the top competitors in this year's Championship, and many of the top players bring a second with them to help prepare for the big games. Marc will be analyzing the games of Robert’s opponents, hoping to find some tendencies and weaknesses that will help him prepare.

It won’t be long until both Marc and Darwin are competing on the grand stage for a U.S. Championship title.

Visit www.uschesschamps.com for more info on the upcoming U.S. Championships, which are scheduled to be held here in St. Louis May 7-20.

Ben Finegold, Grandmaster