An 11-year-old New Yorker and a player from Virginia who is only 6 are the latest prodigies to demonstrate how computer programs and Internet chess sites are nurturing ever younger champions.
The New Yorker, Nicolas Checa of Dobbs Ferry, was named the state champion on Monday even though he only tied for second at the tournament. First place went to Alexander Ivanov of Massachusetts, who is 46 years older than Nicolas. But the rules say the title can go only to a state resident, and Nicolas finished higher than any of his fellow New Yorkers.
He broke the record for youngest New York champion set three years ago by Aleksandr Ostrovskiy, who was 14 at the time.
And this is a first: a state champion who is also its junior high school co-champion; Nicolas has managed to hold both titles at the same time. His accomplishment is impressive because the New York State Championship is the oldest in the country, and its previous titleholders are a who’s who of great American players. The week before, Pranav Prem, a 6-year-old who lives in Ashburn, Va., turned in an even more surprising performance at the 45th Atlantic Open in Washington. He won the division for players who are rated under 1,500, including competitors in their 40s and 50s. For his effort, Pranav, who was already rated higher than 69 percent of the players in the United States Chess Federation, earned $1,300. The victory will also push his rating up to 1,503.
Nicolas and Pranav easily exploited opponents’ mistakes on the way to their victories.
In Round 2 of the New York State Championship, Nicolas, who is a master, defeated Lonnie Kwartler, who was born in 1943. Kwartler, also a master, had neglected his development and exchanged his dark-squared bishop — a critical defensive piece.
In the left diagram, Nicolas opened up the position by temporarily sacrificing a pawn. He played 23 e4, and the game continued 23 ... fe4 24 fe4 Ne4 25 Ne4 de4 26 Re1 Nd7 27 Re4 Qf8 28 Bd6 Qg8 29 Qg8 Kg8 30 Rce1. Kwartler, who was already in a difficult position, made a mistake with 30 ... Re4, when he should have played 30 ... Nf6.
After 31 Re4 ba4 32 Re7 a3 33 Bf1, Kwartler resigned. His 33 ... a2 would not have threatened Nicolas, who would have responded with 34 Bc4, and there was no way for Kwartler to avoid losing a piece.
In the right diagram, Pranav was playing Justin Lee Bowman — who has been competing since 1996 — for first place in the last round. Pranav controlled more space and started an attack with 15 f5. The game went 15 ... Qd7 16 e4 Bd4 17 Kh1 Qd8 18 Qg5 h5 19 fg6 Bf6 20 Qh6 fg6 21 Qg6 Kh8 22 e5 Rf7 23 Qf7 Qg8 24 Qg8 Rg8 25 ef6 ef6 26 Rf6. Bowman resigned because he was too far behind in material.