5 National Champions Crowned In ChessKid.com National Championship

The Fourth Annual ChessKid Online National Invitational Championship (CONIC) concluded Sunday with the final two rounds. In the five age-based sections, only three of the five leaders going into the final day were able to successfully defend their leads. In the other two sections, two players won both games to take over first place at the wire.

Thirty of the best ChessKids in the U.S. played in five round robins in an elite event meant to give them practice against their best peers. The winners of each section receive $300 in scholarship money for lessons. The top three finishers receive a custom plaque with name engraved. All players receive one-year diamond memberships to Chess.com, one year gold memberships to ChessKid.com, t-shirts and other gear.

CONIC is an official national championship recognized by the USCF.

In the most impressive performance of the championship, Andrew Tang of Dallas routed the 8 and Under section with a perfect 5.0/5. Tang's accomplishment was even more special when you consider that although the young man boasts a 1727 USCF rating, he was nonetheless the lowest rated in the section.

Big smiles from winner Andrew Tang, with TD Luis Salinas at the Dallas Chess Club.

He was the only player to finish with a perfect score in 2015; no player did it in 2014.

Tang's final day was impressive. In the morning game he used the typical knight sacrifices of the Open Sicilian to break through on the d-file.

Since Drew Justice was his closest rival, the head-to-head win actually clinched Tang the title with one round to spare. Not resting on his laurels, he played an arguably more impressive game in the fifth round.

Here's the final standings in the 8 and Under:

1. Andrew Tang (5.0)

2. Drew Justice, Kevin Pan, Eric Zhang (2.5)

5. Nathaniel Shuman (1.5)

6. Nico Chasin (1.0)

Three-time state champion Kevin Pan of Northern California is hard at work. Players could use a physical board to transfer moves but not for analysis.

Moving back to the 6 and Under section, Dimitar Mardov from the Chicago area won 1.5/2 on the final day to protect his lead and win the title with 4.5/5 overall. There was still everything to play for in the final round, as his matchup with Sriram Krishnakumar mattered greatly (Krishnakumar could have tied Mardov with a win, necessitating a tiebreak game).

His feet may not touch the floor from the office chair, but Dimitar Mardov of Illinois played convincing chess to win the youngest section.

The "scaryninja" actually played quite restrained in the final round. After a complicated series of captures, Mardov won a pawn, then rebuffed the second-rank invasion and slowly pressed his advantage.


For Mardov, who speaks fluent English and Bulgarian, a big "????????????!" (congratulations) from ChessKid.com!

Here's the full standings in the 6 and Under section:

1. Dimitar Mardov (4.5/5)

2. Sriram Krishnakumar, Ronit Chandra (2.5/5)

4. Erick Zhao, Grayson Cooke (2.0/5)

6. Brian Huang (1.5/5)

Six-year-old Erick Zhao goes to college! He played at the University of Florida and is seen here with TD Miguel Ararat.

The 10 and Under section had high drama on Sunday. In a battle of the first and second place in round four, Joaquin Perkins of the Los Angeles area had a rook for knight and two pawns when section leader Atreya Vaidya mouse-slipped, hanging a rook. The rules specify that mouse-slips stand, so Perkins' win drew him even with Vaidya at 3.0/4.

Joaquin Perkins preferred the "standing" method. Whatever works! According to ChessKid.com's research, he is the only player with two CONIC titles.

Andy Huang also lurked a half-point back with one round to play, but his draw with Vaidya in round five opened the door for Perkins to squeeze through. Perkins' win over Jason Yu gave him his second CONIC win (he also tied for first in the inaugural event in 2012).

Perkins' Moller Attack in the Giuco Piano was complicated and Yu knew a little less theory, which can make all the difference in such an aggressive opening. Just look at all the mates that White had in his playbook:


Here's the final results in the 10 and Under section:

1. Joaquin Perkins (4.0/5)

2. Atreya Vaidya (3.5/5)

3. Andy Huang (3.0/5)

4. Jason Yu, Justin Wang (2.0/5)

6. Chinguun Bayaraa (0.5/5)

2014 winner Chinguun "Bay Area" Bayaraa (left) and Sriram Krishnamukar played from the Chinggis Chess Club, which happens to be run by Bayaraa's dad!

The biggest comeback on Sunday came in the 12 and Under section. Despite entering the day in fourth place, David Peng of Illinois went two for two and leapfrogged the three players that he chased. His 3.5/5 was good enough for an outright first place in a section where all six players were masters.

David Peng, a.k.a. "Thunder_Penguin", is the current K-9 National Champion. He also made it two-for-two for Illinois in the 2015 CONIC.

In the morning round, Peng trapped Annie Wang's queen to earn the point:


Even so, Peng still trailed leader Ben Li by a half point. The two played in round five but an early and unfortunate mouse-slip dropped a piece for Li, so Peng went on to win without issue. Strangely, in a smoothly-run tournament that took place all around the U.S., the two major mouse-slips both benefitted the eventual section winners. (This author once mouse-slipped by hitting the "resign" button in an equal position against a grandmaster in a U.S. Chess League game, so I know how painful this can be. Chess.com stated in the rules that mouse-slips would not be taken back "under any circumstances" so as to not decipher intent and remain impartial).

Also of note Sunday, highest-rated player Advait Patel recovered from a slow start to win both games and finish on an even score. Also, Annie Wang, once the youngest female master in USCF history, turned in this nice mating gem at the end of her queen-and-pawn endgame.

Here's the final standings in the 12 and Under section:

1. David Peng (3.5/5)

2. Ben Li, Annie Wang (3.0/5)

4. Advait Patel (2.5/5)

5. Rayan Taghizadeh (2.0/5)

6. Andrew Titus (1.0/5)

Finally, in the Girls 13 and Under section, Camille Kao of Austin, Texas had a perfect final day to get to 4.5/5 and win the title. In round four, she navigated a messy middlegame, only to find herself on the worse end of a knight versus bishop ending. But when White failed to go after her h-pawn, Kao pounced with a correct liquidation, and her outside passed pawn won her the game:


In the final round, Kao held off CONIC veteran Julia Sevilla and won, thus nullifying any chances for Rianne Ke to catch up.

Camille Kao played at a corporate-sized desk and with a giant monitor! Here she is after winning the event, with TD Alex Balkum.

It should be noted that Ke, only 9 years old (in a section with several teenagers) played very well in finishing second. Here's her round four win. Like Kao, she found a nice simplification to a winning endgame -- such maturity for someone her age!

Impressive play from the youngster. Rianne Ke could play in the same section for at least four more years!


Here's the final standings for the Girls 13 and Under section:

1. Camille Kao (4.5/5)

2. Rianne Ke (4.0/5)

3. Kaityln Chu (2.5/5)

4. Julia Sevilla (2.0/5)

5. Cindy Zhang, Chenyi Zhao (1.0/5)

Not everything has to be so serious. Here Kaitlyn Chu upped her personal marshmallow record from 42 to 50, presumably after her games finished! She is with TD Derek Tan at Fundamental Chess Academy.

Chess.com and ChessKid.com wish to thank the Chief Tournament Director Kele Perkins for both his months of organizational work and his directing all weekend. In addition, there were dozens of TDs across the country that assisted this weekend, making the event fair and well-run for all involved. ChessKid.com commends you!

Several chess clubs across the country opened their doors for hosting. Thanks to the Chinggis Chess Club in Fremont, CA; the Nashville Chess Center; the Midwest Hospice Care Center in Illinois; the Seattle Chess Club; the NY Chess Kids Learning Center in New York City; the Dallas Chess Club; the University of Florida; the Whitefield Academy in Georgia; Chess Castle of Minnesota; Fundamental Chess Academy in Fountain Valley, CA; and the parents who opened up their homes for local kids to compete!