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Issue: 1228 Date: 3/6/2014
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On Chess: Schein-Friedman Camp Brings Top Students to St. Louis

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Carissa Yip, 10, is the youngest-ever female chess expert.
        Carissa Yip, 10, has already felt the first pangs of heartbreak.

        This past December at the World Youth Chess Championships in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, Carissa was one win away from securing a gold medal and a World Championship title. She was even closer than that, really.

        Carissa achieved a winning position in her final game before the exhaustion of a long-tournament set in. Her position crumbled, and she had to offer her opponent a draw in the final round, which put her in a tie for second place. But when the oh-so cruel tiebreaks kicked in, Carissa finished out of medal contention in fourth place overall.

        So, what's a girl to do? Get back to work. And bring in some grandmaster support.

        Carissa, a fifth-grader at McCarthy Middle School in Chelmsford, Mass., is one of 13 promising young players in St. Louis this week learning from a team of grandmaster instructors as part of the Schein-Friedman Scholastic Recognition Project. The event is being hosted at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis through Sunday.

        The Schein-Friedman Scholastic Recognition Project was born in 2007 out of a conversation between FIDE Master Aviv Friedman, one of the nation's top chess coaches, and Mark Schein, a concerned parent whose son Aaron was one of the top scholastic players in the nation at the time.

        Schein was concerned that there weren't enough options available for the top young chess players to improve, and Friedman agreed. The U.S. Chess School, which hosted an event at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in January, was founded in 2006, but other than that newly formed organization, targeted camps for the nation's top players were few and far between.

        The only long-standing support existed in the form of the Samford Fellowship, but that only granted a stipend to one or two of the top players each year.

        So Friedman drafted a proposal, and Schein got to work shopping it around to secure funding. Schein, who works for York Capital in New York City, was able to secure a few donors and the Schein-Friedman Scholastic Recognition Project was born.

        It launched officially in 2008, working in partnership with the U.S. Chess Trust, and the first recipients of the scholarship portion include Ray Robson, Daniel Naroditsky and Robert Hess. Initially, the program featured scholarship money for players to use on coaching and travel as well as an invitational camp.

        The project is now associated with the American Chess Academy, and this year for the first time, the group has elected to focus more on the camp model in lieu of awarding scholarships in an attempt to impact more students.

        And the students come from all across the country:

        Akshita Gorti, 11 from Virginia (USCF Rating 2047)Annorjan Naguleswaran, 12, from Ohio (USCF Rating 2136)Carissa Yip, 10, from Massachusetts (USCF Rating 1991)Andrew Titus, 12, from Minnesota (USCF Rating 2100)Ethan Li, 13, from Arizona (USCF Rating 2220)Angel (Josh) Hernandez-Camen, 14, from Pennsylvania (USCF Rating 2189)

        Emily Nguyen, 11, from Texas (USCF Rating 1965)Anthony Nguyen, 13, from Texas (USCF Rating 2095)Rachel Ulrich, 13, from Wisconsin (USCF Rating 2034)Matthew Miyasaka, 13, from New York (USCF Rating 1992)Marcus Miyasaka, 11, from New York (USCF Rating 2087)Maggie Feng, 13, from Ohio (USCF Rating 2096)Joey Kelly, 13, from Kansas (USCF Rating 2030)These budding superstars are receiving first-rate instruction from local grandmaster Ben Finegold. Finegold has worked with many of these players over the years as coach of the U.S. delegations at various World Youth and World Junior Chess Championships. They also will receive a special treat: A two-hour lecture with four-time U.S. Champion and former World Championship contender Yasser Seirawan, who is currently serving as the Chess Club's Resident Grandmaster.

        The goal of this camp is to give these young players the instruction and confidence they need to perform on the world stage. And to finish strong, especially when gold is in sight.

        This past summer, an Associated Press article started circulating that indicated Carissa became the youngest-ever chess expert at age 9. That info is not entirely correct (Awonder Liang became the youngest a few years back when he was 8), but she is the youngest-ever female chess expert, and that's certainly nothing to sneeze at. By comparison, my biggest accomplishment at the age of 9 was winning a trophy for my CYA soccer team's fourth-place finish. There were only five teams.

        For years, young players of her caliber were not receiving the training necessary to bring their game to the next level. Thanks to the dedication of organizations like the U.S. Chess Trust, the Schein-Friedman Scholastic Recognition Project and the Kasparov Chess Foundation's Young Stars-Team USA program, our country's top scholastic players finally are getting the support they need and the attention they deserve.

        In a game where even the slightest misstep can cost you a game, a medal, or even a World Championship title, every second of instruction counts.


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