Super Duper Cooper!

Jermaine Cooper Leads Team to Victory

Jermaine Cooper tied for first at the annual MLK tournament held at FDA.  Jermaine led the team to another first place team victory along with high scoring team members David Kim, JP Garcia and Brian Arthur.  Brian’s rating now stands at  1555 after gaining nearly 600 points in the last few months.

Congratulations to Kevin Dominguez who scored a perfect 4-0 in the reserve section.  Spike Smith took first place in the Novice section.

Champs Interviewed by Bloomberg Radio

Today some of our seventh grade national champions were interviewed by Monica Bertan from Bloomberg Radio.  Bloomberg Radio is starting a education themed radio program and selected our chess program as their first feature EVER. Stay tuned for the feature when it airs shortly.

Isaac, Maya, Justus and James with Monica Bertran from Bloomberg TV and Radio

Kenneth Martin Wins PS 98!

Kenneth Martin won the tournament with a perfect 4-0 score! He beat Ashanti Murray and Malik Perry.


 1. Kevin Marin had the above position in round one. He’s completely winning, of course, but what’s the best move for white?

 2. Jorge was white in the above position. His opponent played 5…cxd4. Should Jorge recapture with the knight or the pawn?

3. Many moves later… white to move– can Jorge take on a7?

 4. Xonatia took a poisoned pawn on b2. Where should her opponent have moved?

5. A few moves later, her opponent has just played the uncomfortable 13. Qe2+. How should she escape?

answers are below the photos

Markus and Alex
Carlos and Jorge
Zion and Haby
more photos here
1. Kevin should play 18. Qh5! White threatens 19. Bxh6 Qxf6 20. Bg5+. If 18… gxf6 19. Qxh6+ Kg8 20. Bxf6. 
2. Black can give white an isolated pawn by force; white gets to choose whether to keep all the pieces (6. exd4), trade a pair of knights (6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. exd4), or trade the queens and a pair of knights (6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. Qxd4 Qxd4 8. exd4). If you have an isolated pawn, you want to keep the pieces on the board, so it’s best to take with the pawn immediately. 
3. No, Bxa7 loses the bishop to …Kb7. 
4. 11. Nb5! threatens the Bd6 and to trap the queen with Rb1. 
5. Xonatia should block with 13…Ne5! since 14. Nxe5 Qxa1+ 15. Kd2 Bb4+ 16. Kd3 Bf5+ 17. Be4 Qc3 is checkmate.

Patch article

Click here for a great article on the IS 318 chess team on

 back row: Mariah, Otto, Kenneth, Kevin, Justus, Anita

front row: Matthew, Vaughn, Isaac, Alex, Kamil

very front: James, Rashawn

Most Improved this School Year!

Which IS 318 students have improved their rating the most so far this school year?

6th graders
Kevin Marin 669-1076
Shanniah Wright 877-1116
Teraab Feaster 984-1174
Brian Arthur 977-1400
Carlos Tapia 1020-1410
Markus Pond 1273-1662

7th Graders
Yuxin Zhao 976-1325
Jorge Quiroz 977- 1394
Rashawn Baldwin 1193-1416
Mariah McGreen 1194-1429
Alex Bradford 1440-1608
Kenneth Martin 1459 -1609

8th graders

Shawn Swindell 1808-1893

Ways to Raise Your Rating!

Are you on this list? Do you want to be? I challenge you to pick two of the five things described below (learning an opening, doing a great job on your homework, being totally focused for one whole tournament, going over your losses to look for patterns of problems, and playing more) and try them right now or at your next tournament. Improving takes effort, but effort will pay off!

1. Learn An Opening!

Markus told me he thinks a lot of his improvement came from learning his openings.  Openings are very important in chess: understanding them means you know what you are doing when you reach the middlegame. Having memorized your openings also gives you a big advantage in game/30s: you can sometimes play the first 10 moves quickly from memory, and then you’ll have extra time to think when the game gets complicated.

One practical and fun way to learn your openings is to “prepare” for someone.  Pick someone you play often in tournaments, or someone you could request in club, figure out what opening variation they play, then learn a line specifically to play against them. For example, if you know Kamil plays the Sicilian, then pick a line from the opening book, learn it well, and challenge him! You could even borrow a book from the classroom library, and prepare a tricky variation he won’t know! The top players “surprise” each other like this all the time!

2. Do a Great Job On Your Homework

Another thing that almost all of the students listed above share is that they all do a GREAT job on their homework. We solve tactics for homework because tactics win games: your homework is winning practice. If you work hard on the Best Move sheets, your skills will be ready when you need them.

Doing a great job on homework means spending time on problems that you don’t get immediately. Set the position up on a board.  Notice anything strange: tactics that almost work, weird tensions or awkward pieces, holes in the pawn structure around the king. Look at all the forcing moves. Ask yourself what you would do if you had two moves. Notice which of your opponent’s pieces are either not defended at all or not well-defended (= defended, but only the same number of times as it is attacked. A piece that is attacked twice and defended twice is not well-defended, because if it’s attacked again it will be in trouble.) Let yourself just stare at the pieces for a while: sometimes ideas will come into your mind if you give them time. Spending a little longer on problems you can’t solve immediately is a shortcut to better grades and a higher rating!

If you already do a great job on your homework, or you want more winning practice, borrow a tactics book from the library. We have a lot of great ones and I would be happy to make recommendations! If you like solving tactics online, make yourself an account at the chess tactics server, or solve as a guest!

3. Will Yourself to Total Concentration

Another great way to improve your rating is to resolve to be completely, intensely focused when you are playing a rated game. Pay complete attention and try your hardest at every moment. (This is a fun thing to do– just as a personal test, to see how focused you can be. Make yourself be constantly analyzing, evaluating, searching for more ideas in the position.)  The difference between you when you are at your most focused and you on average might be as much as 200 or 300 points. Try being totally focused for a whole tournament and see how well you do!

I was really impressed with an interview that 17 year old Grandmaster Robert Hess gave on Chess Life Online. Responding to the questionDo you see a lot of links between football and chess?” Robert replied I see more mental aspects to football than physical aspects to chess. In chess concentration is absolutely key. You see plenty of people who are at their board but not paying attention. When I am playing the game of chess, that’s the only thing I’m doing- playing that game of chess. I’m not thinking about “What I’m going to get my friend for his birthday?”"

4. Figure Out Why You Are Losing

Another great way to raise your rating is to figure out why you are losing the games you are losing, and fix whatever mistake you are making. I remember once (maybe 12 years ago!) I was looking back through my scorebook, playing over my games, and I noticed that in about half the games I lost, I just hung a piece to a simple tactic. I was 1800, but I still made really simple blunders (usually either in the opening or when I was in time pressure– it’s good if you can also notice when your mistakes occur). After I noticed this, I made a habit of writing my move down before I made it, then doing a quick “blundercheck” — first asking myself if my opponent could just capture me if I moved there, then double-checking all my opponent’s forcing moves: checks, captures, and threats. It was easy and it worked: I gained 75 points in the next couple tournaments!

Of course, different people have different problems. You might have trouble playing against a particular opening, or you might just be moving back and forth without a plan in the middlegame. You might lose one pawn, then another pawn, then lose in the endgame, or you might be forgetting to castle and getting checkmated early. Some people get tired towards the end of a tournament and lose a lot in the last round. You can figure out why you are losing by looking back at your own games, or by showing them to me. (It’s best to have a scorebook to do this. You can buy one at the sale price of $5 from Mr. Galvin)

If anyone would like help in going over their old games to pinpoint their weaknesses, come and make an appointment with me for a “DIAGNOSTIC.” We’ll look together at your last 10-12 losses, figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and create an action plan to help you win more.

5. Play More

Practice helps a lot in chess! Some research shows that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become really good at something that’s hard (interestingly, that number, 10,000 is about the same for chess, violin, brain surgery, etc), and every hour you spend playing gets you closer to that magic number. Come to another day of afterschool each week, or take yourself to extra tournaments at the Right Move or Marshall. You could also play online: the internet chess club (ICC) has free 7 day accounts, and after that come ask me for a school one! Another great site is



Shawn, Alex and Marcus waiting outside the school before a trip to the Marshall

our documentary!

The Official Name of Chess Movie!!!
….out this spring

Positions from the IS 318 tournament

 1. Matan was playing in Atlantic City, so I looked at a couple of his kids’ games. In this interesting endgame, Tawab missed a win. Where should white move?

 2. Austin (black) is seriously underdeveloped, and I was just explaining to him that this was why he lost the game, when he explained to me that he won.  However, his opponent could have forced a win here: how?

 3. Moshe (black) has a great idea here to activate his bishop and rook– he didn’t see it immediately, but won with it a few moves later. Where should black move?

 4. Xonatia was black in the above position. Her opponent knew the first few moves of the French Advanced, but clearly improvised after that. His last move was 7. Bb5– how should she have replied?

 Shawn S.
 Kenneth M.
 National Champion Azeez Alade, who tied for first in this tournament also
 Sebastian D.
Danny F.
JP Garcia
1. White should play 1. a3! so that after 1… a5 2. a4, it is black’s turn and black who is in zugzwang.
2. Austin’s opponent could have won black’s queen with 1. Qc7+ Ka8 2. Qc6+ Kb8 3. Bc7+ Ka7 4. Bb8+.
3. Black gets a winning position with 22… f4 23. Nf1 d4 24. Qsomewhere f3! and white’s kingside falls apart. 
4. Black can win a pawn with 7…Nxe5.  

Brooklyn Castle Trailer

Please help the film get finished! Support the Brooklyn Castle Kickstarter campaign here.

For more, visit the Brooklyn Castle site here.

Amidst financial crises and unprecedented public school budget cuts, Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, New York, has assembled the best junior high chess team in the nation. Brooklyn Castle follows five chess team members for one year, and documents their challenges and triumphs both on and off the chessboard. Justus is a prodigiously talented 10-year-old trying to navigate the unfamiliar pressures that come with newfound success and adulation. Eleven year old Patrick struggles with ADHD, and uses chess to improve his concentration. Alexis, 12, already views chess as a means to attain a higher education and support his immigrant family. Rochelle – an ambitious 13-year-old – strives to become the first African-American female to reach the level of chess master. And the team’s emotional and outspoken leader, 12-year-old Pobo, rallies his fellow students against school budget cuts while running for school president. In each of these young lives, we observe the profound impact of chess: a beautiful and complex game offered as a unique learning experience in an underfunded school.

Grade Nationals 2010: IS 318 wins 6th, 7th, and 8th grade!!

IS 318 won the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade sections of Grade Nationals by 2, 2.5, and 2 points, respectively. In the last three years, we have won 8 of the 9 sections for which we are eligible. (We lost 8th grade last year by half a point.) Justus Williams came 2nd in 7th grade and Isaac Barayev came third.

We couldn’t have done it without the help of Matan Prilleltensky, who volunteered his time and worked tirelessly all weekend, getting up early to help prepare kids and analyzing games until 10 at night. He’s an amazing teacher: patient, supportive, and strong. In the words of 7th grader Kenneth Martin: “I like Matan because he makes me feel good about my ideas even when I’m wrong.”

A second big thank you to Mitch Fitzko, our excellent CIS instructor, who teaches one day a week at 318 and analyzes games with us on Saturdays, and to the amazing GM Miron Sher, who gives a weekly masterclass for our highest rated students.

Finally, a third thank you to everyone who has donated money or books to our program. People’s generosity towards kids they’ve never met is really moving to me.

Former IS 318 student Azeez Alade is Ninth Grade Co-Champion! Azeez started 318 in 7th grade with a rating of 960. Two years and three months later he is 1965! Azeez is a wonderful person– always smiling, super polite, patient, funny and thoughtful. He’s also a fantastic teacher — he’s tutored several of the younger kids at 318 and I recommend him highly. For the bargain price of $20/hour, you can hire him to come to your home and tutor your son or daughter in chess. You won’t find better value for your money anywhere. Contact me if you’re interested (

I lost the battery for my camera and didn’t get another in time, so these pictures were taken on Jonathan’s little point and shoot. (hence blurry) 

Teraab Feaster and Markus Pond (1584, up from 1274 in October), who scored 4 and 5 points in the 6th grade section, doing tactics in the airport on the way to Florida.
Anthony Asseviro, the 3rd member of the 6th grade team.
Kenneth Martin and Yuxin Zhao
Rashawn Baldwin
Rashawn, Kevin and Otto
Danny Feng and David Kim at the awards ceremony
Positions from Grade Nationals

1. In round 4, Joel Ogunremi (1858) was black against Sarah Chiang (2074). Having played her some blitz at the last US Chess School, I knew she would go straight down the mainline Slav. Joel and I prepared this position after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 9. Qe2 O-O 10. e4 Bg6 11. Bd3 Bh5 12. e5 Nd5 13. Nxd5 cxd5 14. Qe3 Be7 15. Ng5 Bxg5 16. Qxg5 Qxg5 17. Bxg5

I told him a few ideas: trading the light squared bishops is good for black, and it’s ok to recapture fxg6; the manuever Nd7-b8-c6 is often good to attack the weak d4 pawn, but probably after developing with Rac8; sometimes …f6 makes sense. Then I said “I would start with Rac8, definitely.”

Unfortunately, 17…Rac8 loses to 18. Bb5 (if the knight moves, Be7). Joel was really nice about the fact that I lost the game for him. It was a totally different kid who accused me of (on 3 separate occasions) intentionally preparing him with a bad line because I hate him and I’m trying to make him lose. In the same vein, one parent thanked me for being nurturing, supportive and exactly the kind of teacher she wished for her child; another complained to Galvin that the children were “terrified” of me.

2. Randy Rivera won a hilarious endgame in the last round:
Leavitt, Samuel 1433 – Rivera, Randy 1760

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 dxe4
4. Nxe4 Bd7
5. Nf3 Bc6
6. Bd3 Nd7
7. O-O Ngf6
8.Bg5 This move doesn’t make much sense, since black’s main idea in this position is to find a way to exchange minor pieces.
9. Nxf6+ Bxf6
10. Bxf6 Qxf6

White is already in some trouble here. If he moves the knight, d4 hangs, but otherwise the pawn structure is ruined.

11. Re1 Bxf3
12. Qxf3 Qxf3
13. gxf3 O-O
14. Be4 c6
15. c4 Nf6
16. Bc2 Rad8
17. Rad1 Rd7
18. Re2 Rfd8
19. Red2

Here I asked Randy if he thought 19… e5 was better than 19… c5. He said “Yeah, I was thinking that too, because later white made a passed pawn on the c file and invaded with his king.”
20. Ba4 Rxd4
21. Rxd4 cxd4
22. Kf1 Kf8
23. Ke2 Ke7
24. c5 e5
25. Kd3 Nh5
26. Kc4 Nf4
27. Bc2 g6
28. b4 Kf6
29. Be4 Rd7 Matan and I were looking at this game together, and we watched with a growing sense of panic: isn’t black allowing way too much counterplay here? Randy was totally unconcerned, and it turns out he’s correct: black can just give up his rook for the c pawn and — even though it looks like it takes a million years– take everything with his king.
30. b5 Kg5
31. c6 bxc6
32. bxc6 Rd8
33. Kb5 f5
34. c7 Rc8 
35. Kc6 fxe4
36. Kd7 Rxc7+
37. Kxc7 exf3
38. a4 Nh3
39. a5 Nxf2
40. Rf1 e4
41. Kb7 e3
42. Kxa7 e2
43. Rg1+ Ng4
44. h4+ Kxh4
45. Rh1+ Kg5
46. Re1 f2
47. Rxe2 f1=Q
48. Rb2 Ne5 49. a6 Nc6+ 50. Kb7 Qf3 51. Ka8 d3 52. Rb5+ Kh6 53. Kb7 d2 54. Rb2 d1=Q 55. Rh2+ Kg7 56. Kc7 Qf4+ 57. Kc8 Qd8+ 58. Kb7 Qfc7# 0-1

3. Jermaine Cooper had this position against Nick Marius in round two.

What’s the best move? (answer at the end)

4. Markus Pond was black in the above position against Gabriel Katz. The game ended in a draw, but here he has a quick win. Where?

5. David Kim reached this position after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 dxc4 4. e4 b5 5. a4 b4 6. Nce2 e6 7. Ng3 Ba6 8. Nf3 Nf6 9. Ne5 c5 10. Be3 cxd4 11. Bxd4 Qa5 12. Nxc4 Bxc4 13. Bxc4 a6 14. b3 Be7
15. Bxf6 Bxf6 16. Rc1 Bc3+ 17. Ke2 Nc6 18. Qd6 Nd4+ 19. Ke3

He continued brilliantly:
20. Qf4 Nf5+
21. Kf3 Bd2
22. Qg4 Nd4# 0-1

6. Lukasz Fron was black here. Which move is better, 21… Bd6 or 21… Be7?

7. Black just played 14… f6. Randy did not move his bishop back, but instead intensified the pressure with 15. 0-0-0. After 15… Qb4, where is the checkmate?

8. Justus Williams placed clear second. Here is his favorite game:
Matthew R. Lee (1667) – Justus Williams (2217)
1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 e6
3. c3 Nf6
4. Qc2 d5
5. e5 Nfd7
6. d4 Nc6
7. Be3 a6
8. Nbd2 b5
9. Be2 Bb7
10. O-O Rc8
11. Qd1 Be7
12. Rc1 O-O
13. Re1

13… cxd4
14. cxd4 Qb6
15. a3 Na5
16. b4 Nc4
17. Nxc4 bxc4

White should try getting some kingside counterplay with Ng5.
18. Qc2 Bc6

19. Rb1 Qb5
20. Ra1 Nb6
21. Bd2 Na4
22. Bd1 Qb7
23. Qc1 Bb5
24. Bxa4 Bxa4
25. Bg5 c3
26. Bxe7 Qxe7
27. Re3 c2
28.Ne1 Rc4
29. Qd2 Rfc8
30. Rc1 Qa7
31. Nf3 Qc7
32. Ne1

33. Nf3 a5
34. bxa5 Qb2
35. h3 Ra8
36. Ree1 Qb5
37. Re3 Qb2
38. Ree1

39. Ra1 Qb5
40. Rac1 Rxa5
41. Re2 Ra8
42. Qd3 Qb2
43. Ree1 Rac8
44. Nd2 Qxd4
45. Qxd4 Rxd4
46. Nf3 Rd1
47. Kh2 Kh7
48. Kg3 d4
49. Rcxd1 cxd1=Q
50. Rxd1 Bxd1 0-1


 3. Nick Marius – Jermaine Cooper 37… Rxd4+! 38. Rxd4 e5+ 39. Ke3 exd4 and the other rook is trapped.

4. Gabriel Katz – Markus Pond , Gabriel    1… h4 2. gxh4 gxh4 3. Kf3 Rd2 and neither the bishop nor the king can stop the h pawn. 4. c4 h3

6. Jeremiah McPadden – Lukasz Fron
21…Be7 is much better. Black has two bishops, so he doesn’t want to trade one of them, plus after 21…Bd6 22. Bxd6 Kxd6 23. Rc1, black can’t immediately challenge for the c file. Also, if 21…Be7 22. Rg1 h5 23. h3 Bxf3 24. Kxf3, black can safely play 24…g5, safeguarding the pawn and harassing white’s bishop.

7. Randy Rivera – Grant Kozeny
16. Bg6+ Kf8 17. Rd8 + Bxd8 18. Qe8#