CHESS CHILDThe Story of Ray Robson, America's Youngest Grandmaster
You can learn more about Ray and find the book at
In my last blog about my son, Ray Robson, I gave a summary of Ray's recent activities and ended with the upcoming 2009 US Championship. Since that entry -- almost one year ago -- much has happened. Shortly after the 2009 Championship, Ray went on to earn his three grandmaster norms, becoming the youngest grandmaster to represent the United States. A blog entry did not seem enough, so I have written a book about Ray's development from the age of three to the age of fourteen, when he earned his final grandmaster norm. The book includes information about Ray’s actions, his habits, and those personality traits which best assisted him. The book, which will be released in May, can be pre-ordered now at Nipa Hut Press (nipahutpress.com). You can learn more about the book at this website in addition to ordering a copy.
Thank you for continuing to support Ray as he works towards achieving his goals in chess and in life.
For those of you who are interested in following Ray's progress, I apologize that neither of us has had time to keep up with the news. Here is a summary of what's occurred since Ray's last entry:
China Team Championship
Ray had the chance to combine a family vacation to China with some informal language studies and with a little chess. Before playing in this event, Ray participated in a junior event which he won. He didn't do quite so well in this much stronger event, but there were lessons to be learned. One interesting lesson is that a 2300-level player in China might be quite stronger than what one would expect elsewhere. I think the reason for this is that only the very best players receive the kind of financial support that allows them to play in international events, and some other players simply don't get to play in the very strong events that could result in major rating changes. It is easy to assume that these players -- with little, or no, FIDE events under their belts and no games to look up -- have little experience and are weaker players. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ray played a number of strong players, rated around 2200 and 2300, in both this tournament and the one in August.
China Men's Championship
This one came on the heels of the other event, and there was not enough time for rest in between. We decided not to turn this event down -- even though we knew it would be difficult physically -- because the Chinese chess community had been so gracious to us and also because, in all honesty, it was difficult to say no to an opportunity to play some of China's strong players. If I could go back, I think I would have found a way to politely say no and focus more on the vacation part of our trip. Although Ray only lost a few (13) rating points, the games were just too much too soon. It would have been better to rest and enjoy China.
Florida State Championship
This was a good event for Ray. He drew his co-champion, Grandmaster Julio Becerra, and overall played some good games. Because the Miami Open was just a short time later, we considered skipping this event. The only reason why we played was because it was literally in our backyard -- a 10 minute drive from our home. Sometimes things just seem to work out.
Ray almost never plays in two events in one month; however, as noted above, special circumstances allowed this to work out. As has been reported on other blogs and in articles, Ray had a fantastic tournament. He had wins over GM Friedel, IM Krush, IM Bartholomew, IM Bercys, and GM Gonzalez. He also played a nice game, and had a draw with, GM Michalevski. Ray went into the last round a full point ahead of the next person. That person, GM Sadvakasov, handed Ray his only loss of the tournament. Ray, however, got his revenge in the blitz event to decide the overall champion, and in this way Ray earned his first major title.
Ray was invited to this solid event, and so we spent his 14th birthday in Holland. The highlight was Ray's wins over GM Romanishin of Ukraine and GM Ulibin of Russia. Going into the last round, Ray had a chance to earn his first GM norm. (Some of you might wonder why he did not get a norm for his performance in Miami. The reason is that two of the grandmasters he faced, Friedel and Gonzalez, were only GM-elects at the time. It is unfortunate that such a strong performance did not yield a norm.) For the final round of the Essent, Ray was paired with GM Gupta. Ray played an aggressive game -- playing all out for the win -- but Gupta was able to find flaws in Ray's plan and so played the winning moves.
Pan Am Continental Championship
We felt very lucky to have a third Florida event. Traveling far from home, as we usually do, takes so much time and money. A six-hour drive to the other side of the state is easy in comparison. I don't have much to say about this event. Ray didn't play particularly well or particularly poorly; it was just an average event for him.
Eastern Open, D.C.
In December, Ray was invited to work with a small group of students under the tutelage of Garry Kasparov. Since that training coincided with our Christmas break, we decided to drive from the training in New York to a state park in Pennsylvania where we could have a week in a cabin in the woods surrounded by snow and a lot of small creatures -- mostly outside, but some inside the cabin. On our way home from the cabin, we stopped off in Washington, D.C., for the Eastern Open. This was the first time that I was able to talk in person with Alex Onischuk, Ray's new training partner/tutor. This in itself was reason enough to attend the event. Regarding the event, Ray did quite well with draws against GM Yermolinsky and GM Kudrin and a win over GM Ivanov. The only blemish was his loss to a solid young player and fellow Floridian, Daniel Ludwig.
One result of the meeting and later discussions with Onischuk was a chess trip. Ray and Alex traveled together to Moscow and spent five weeks in the area -- four weeks for chess events in Moscow and one week in the home of Alex's family in Ukraine. This is just the kind of experience Ray was ready for -- the kind of experience that he can draw on for many years to come. It is important to spend time with strong players such as Alex and to be around the caliber of players that participated in both events. Although Ray's chess performance at the Moscow Open was nothing special, he was able to play against some strong players. He actually experienced the same kind of thing that he encountered in China in the summer: players much stronger than their rating. I think that the reasons for this are the same as what I outlined in the China paragraph.
Aeroflot Open, Moscow
This was the second of the two events for Ray and Alex. Ray had a slow start and then had a great run in the middle, where he beat GM Van Wely of the Netherlands, GM Bocharov of Russia, and GM Akobian of the United States all in a row. As often happens, the amount of mental, physical, and emotional energy that one puts out in such games results in a weaker performance for subsequent games, and Ray was not able to keep the streak going. Still, he was able to play some very strong players and learn just by being with them, eating with them, and talking with them.
SPICE Spring Cup, Texas Tech University
Susan Polgar was kind enough to invite Ray to this closed event in Lubbock. Ray balanced a slow start with a strong finish and with wins over GM Sharavdorj of Mongolia twice and GM Kacheishvili of Georgia once. A misunderstanding about the time control cost him a game against Robert Hess, and poor play cost him a game against GM Gareev; however, the entire experience was very positive for Ray. We found time for tennis in between some of the games, and we were able to focus on some areas for improvement. This last part is extremely important, and I always consider such learnings to be the main part of any event.
Ray had a very good tournament here, even though this may not be reflected in the four FIDE rating points he earned. He had a solid win over GM Becerra, as well as draws with GM Shabalov and GM Kacheishvili. He played poorly in the opening against GM Akobian, who was able to get his revenge after his loss to Ray in Moscow, but the toughest game was the final round game against FM Mandizha of Zimbabwe. Ray's opponent played a very interesting piece sacrifice that was deceptive in that what looked like a clear advantage for Ray was actually an extremely complicated position. Ray ate up a lot of time trying to figure out the best plan and eventually faltered. Still, this was a game to learn from and, in that sense, it was a good thing.
United States Championship
The next event for Ray is the closed U.S. Championship in St. Louis, Missouri. The event runs from May 7 to May 17, so we will be leaving for St. Louis in less than two weeks! Ray has played a number of the other participants, and I believe that with best play Ray can give anyone at this event a tough game. This is an interesting event for us because it is possible for Ray to play both his old tutor, GM Kaidanov, and his new, albeit infrequent, tutor, GM Onischuk. And despite having been in several tournaments with him, Ray has never played GM Nakamura. I would really like to see this game! And, of course, there is GM Kamsky. This is an exciting event that holds many opportunities for Ray. I am hoping for the best.
Once again, my apologies for being so delinquent with these updates. First for me is always family. Work, which supports the family, comes next. Everything else -- for example, chess blogs -- comes last.
First of all, I would like to apologize for not updating my blog for quite a while. After not blogging after one tournament, when you think about blogging again you have to do two tournaments, and now I have played too many tournaments to really recap! So, I will instead start anew from two days ago.
Two days ago I did a simultaneous exhibition as well as a lecture on my game against Renier Gonzalez at the University of Florida. After I did the lecture, which I think was ok, I started the simul. The rules for the simul were that there could be no players rated higher than 1800 and that there would be a maximum of 25 players. I also gave each player two passes, in case they weren’t yet sure where to move.
It turned out that I got to play the maximum of 25 players, which is the largest amount of players I have so far played in a simul (this was my third simul). This one was actually much more difficult than my other two. I had about 5 tough games at some point. I was impressed by one boy who was wearing a blue shirt and also by the player who was the last to finish, another young boy.
Fortunately for me, in all of my tough games my opponent made some mistakes eventually, and so I was able to win all 25 games. So far I have won every game I have played in a simul, and I will try to keep my streak alive! I will annotate a game below, although the move orders might not be completely correct as I cannot remember all the moves.
Robson – NN 2008 Simul at UF
1.e4 I also played d4, c4, and Nf3 in other games. e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bc3+ 6.bc Ne7 7.Qg4 Qc7 The sharp poisoned pawn variation. 8.Qg7 Rg8 9.Qh7 cd 10.Ne2 Nbc6 11.f4 dc 12.Qd3 Bd7 13.Nc3 a6 This is played to prevent Nb5. 14.Rb1 This stops o-o-o because of Qa6! Rc8 15.Bd2 This is actually a mistake. White doesn’t have to protect c3 immediately and can instead play h4 first. Na5 Black brings his knight to c4. 16.h4 White can’t castle here, so he often pushes his h-pawn up. Nf5 This threatens Rg3. 17.Rh3 Stopping Rg3 and controlling the third rank. Nc4 18.Bc1 Qa5 Black has quite a good position at this point. 19.Kd1 To get out of the pin I play this move, although it allows black the possibility that he played. Nce3+ This move isn’t bad, but d4 was also good. 20.Be3 Rc3 21.Qd2 Qa3 Probably black missed the move Bc5 when he played this. 22.Bc5 Qc5 Here is a mistake by black. Although he still isn’t doing too badly, he should have played Qa2! when he is attacking my b1 rook. 23.Rc3 Qg1 24.Qe1 d4 25.Rf3 Here I should have played Rc7! When for example I threaten Rd7! Bc6 26.Rf2 Ne3+ 27.Kd2 Ng4 28.Re2 Ke7 29.Qg3 This is the critical moment in the game, where black makes the decisive mistake.
Ne3? This loses to the game continuation. 30.Qg8 Nf1+ 31.Kd3 Bb5+ 32.Rb5 ab 33.f5! This is the point. Now white threatens f6+ and if black takes the pawn white has e6 with a winning attack. Ne3 34.f6+ Kd7 35.Qf7+ Kd8 36.Qe7+ Here black resigned because after Kc8 I could simply play f7 Qd1+ Ke4.
Hi everyone! This is Ray Robson from Las Vegas. I have just finished playing in the National Open, and I will be going home soon. In the end I finished with a good 4.5/6. Here is a short recap of my games:
Round 1 black vs. Gutman. In the first round I was black against an Expert. I was able to quickly seize the initiative and finished the game with an exchange sacrifice to open up my opponent’s king. Round 2 white vs. Sandager. My opponent offered to play the Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez, but instead I made it an Anti-Marshall. I thought a long time about playing the sacrifice 17.Bxf7+, but in the end I decided not to. Instead I played a different sacrifice with 17.Re3 and 18.Rg3. I am not sure if this sacrifice is completely correct, but after his move 18…Nbd4 I think the next moves were forced. I was able to get 5 pawns for a piece and won the game by eventually pushing my pawns forward.
Next, I had three games against grandmasters. Round 3 black vs. Akobian. I had played Akobian three times before this game and had lost them all. In this game we played the Shirov/Shabalov gambit in the Semi-Slav. I think I was just trying to get equal chances the whole game, and I eventually did. At move 24 my opponent offered a draw in an approximately equal rook endgame, and I accepted. Round 4 white vs. Yermolinsky. I had played Yermolinsky in only one game before, which was in the U.S. Championship Qualifier in Tulsa. In that game I had lost badly as white in a Ruy Lopez. We played another Lopez, but Yermolinsky played a different variation (5…Bc5 instead of Be7). Perhaps I could have gotten a slight edge in the opening but I didn’t see how to. My opponent found the strong plan with Kh8 and Ng8 to prepare f5. Although the position may still be about equal, I didn’t like it from my side of the board. Therefore, I offered a draw, which my opponent accepted. Round 5 black vs. Erenburg. The pairings were up early for this round, so I was able to prepare a little bit. We played a Rauzer and followed my preparation until move 21. My opponent thought a long time and played Qh4 followed by Qf6, trying to penetrate into my king’s position and threatening Bh6. Fortunately, I have the exchange sacrifice that I played, after which I think our next moves were pretty much forced and the game was a draw. By the way, if 24. Bh6 I have Qxc2+! 25. Kxc2 Be4+ 26.Kb1 Rxd1++.
Round 6 white vs. Brigljevic. I didn’t play the opening too well in this last round game, and I think my opponent had good chances. However, he let me slowly improve my position. My opponent’s position was still solid, so it wasn’t clear if I could break through. Eventually I was able to win a pawn right before time control and then another one in my opponent’s time-trouble. My opponent sacrificed his bishop, perhaps thinking I couldn’t take it. However, everything was covered, and I won in a few moves. I was glad to end the tournament with a win.
This is my first blog, and I’m still learning how to use the tools. Until I can get my games posted, you can always refer to the MonRoi site to see the games discussed above.
Ray Robson is the youngest chess master in the history of the state of Florida. He was awarded the FIDE Master (FM) title in June of 2005 after tying for first place at the Pan American Youth Chess Championship in Brazil. He earned the US Chess Federation (USCF) National Master (NM) title in January of 2006 by raising his chess rating above 2200 (the minimum required for the title of National Master). In 2004, at the age of nine, Ray defeated his first National Master in tournament play. In 2005 he defeated his first International Master (IM), and in 2006 he defeated his first Grandmaster (GM). Ray earned his first IM norm on November 3, 2007, in Chicago, Illinois; he earned his second IM norm 24 days later in Antalya, Turkey; and he earned his third IM norm 13 days after that (December 10) in Dallas, Texas. After learning in March of 2008 that the Turkey norm would not be allowed, he earned a replacement norm at the Reykjavik Open in Iceland a few days later (March 12), making him the current youngest IM in the United States.
Ray has won seven national scholastic titles (including regulation events and blitz events) before retiring from national scholastic competition in 2006. He has represented the United States in international scholastic events since 2004. Ray has finished in the top ten at the World Youth Chess Championship every year that he has participated (2004 to present), and he tied for first place in the 2005 and 2006 Pan American Youth Chess Championships.
Ray also plays in some of the major open tournaments in the United States. He finished in the top ten both at the 2006 National Chess Congress in Philadelphia and at the 2006 North American Open in Las Vegas. Ray's performance at the former event qualified him for the 2007 U.S. Chess Championship, making him the youngest player in the history of the event to participate.
Now that he has secured the IM title, Ray’s plan is to earn the GM title. In order to do this, he will need play in more international events. We’re hoping that there will be more opportunities in the United States; however, we know that we’ll have to spend more time overseas for Ray to have the best chance of earning his three norms. I’ll use this blog (thanks, MonRoi!) to keep you updated on Ray’s progress and on other chess news as it relates to my son, Ray Robson.
Update (September 19, 2008):
Ray's had an upward surge. Ordinarily, he plays in only one event each month; however, there were two recent events in our home state that were relatively easy to attend. At the start of this month, Ray tied for first place with GM Julio Becerra at the Florida State Championship. Two weeks later, he tied for first with GM Darmen Sadvakasov of Kazakhstan at the Miami Open (Ray won the title - his first major title - by defeating Sadvakasov in an armageddon playoff). For his recent efforts, he's moved his USCF rating solidly into the 2500s.
P.s. If the first part of this entry reminds you of the Wikipedia article, that’s because I authored that part on the Wiki site. I stopped contributing when others continued to add items that were either inaccurate or poorly written. I’m happy to have some space to list actual facts, and I’m also going to encourage Ray to contribute as much as he can to this blog.