2016 ChessKid Online National Invitational Championships (CONIC): A Preview

2016 ChessKid Online National Invitational Championships (CONIC): A Preview

| 29 | Scholastics

In 2012, the ChessKid Online National Invitational Championship (CONIC) was created to provide young, talented chess players an opportunity to play a round-robin championship at a long time control. The event gradually evolved from only two sections (8 & Under, 12 & Under) to four sections (8U, 10U, 12U, G13U) in 2013 to its current incarnation with five sections (6U, 8U, 10U, 12U, G13U) since 2014.

The process for qualifying to receive an invitation has remained the same all along: working from the US Chess Top 100 lists in each age category at the beginning of each year (age as of January 1), ChessKid identifies the top qualifiers, and then the US Chess Federation assists by emailing invitations to them.  (ChessKid does not have all USCF players' contact information; we rely on US Chess for this, and greatly appreciate the federation's assistance.)  The final result is the only US Chess-recognized online national championship!

This year’s event has some returning players but also includes many new faces. Let’s take a look at the players!

The Young Guns: 6U and 8U

The youngest section, 6 & Under, features five of the top 15 finishers from the recent K-1 National Championship. Georgia’s Archer Watson will compete under the watchful eye of Grandmaster TD Ben Finegold. New Yorkers Nathaniel Mullodzhanov and Royal Buchanan will play from the Friars Club. Along with the section’s youngest player, Sebastian Prestia, they will challenge each other and the section’s ratings favorites. Those are Abinav Dinesh and Nitish Nath, both of whom have broken the 1500 mark.


Sebastian Prestia: #3 among six-year-olds in the United States (June 2016 list).


Royal Buchanan: chess player and environmental activist.

One player who was age-eligible for the 6 & Under section elected to "play up" in the 8 & Under section: New Jersey’s Abhimanyu Mishra will face older opponents in every round, armed with the hard work and talent that earned him a peak rating of 1892. The 8U section’s rating favorite, Adi Murgescu (1952 peak rating), will face Mishra, Arizona’s Sandeep Sethuraman, late replacement Tommy Wen, two-time national champion Lucas Foerster-Yialamas (better known as ThirstyDonkey on ChessKid), and 2014 CONIC 6U Champion Vishnu Vanapalli, pictured just below.



Lucas Foerster-Yialamas (above): living life one full point at a time, in soccer and chess.

Candidates and Masters: 10U, 12U and G13U

In the 10 & Under section, Jason Yu of Washington is back after competing in last year’s CONIC, along with a three-time CONIC veteran and two Northern Californians: 2014 CONIC 8U Champ Chinguun “Bay Area” Bayaraa and Milind Maiti. Robert Shlyakhtenko comes in as the 10U ratings favorite (2100+), whose skills have kept him atop his age group’s blitz rankings for the last year. Ethan Pau and Danny Soong round out the section, looking to pull off some upsets.


Robert Shlyakhtenko: #1 blitz player for his age in the United States for over a year.

The San Diego Chess Club hopes to make a splash (pardon the Sea World reference!) in the 12 & Under section with a pair of national masters: Kevin Yang and 2014 national fifth grade champion Alex Costello. Both played in the 10U section of the 2014 CONIC, with Costello tying for first before drawing in Armageddon. They will face stiff competition from NM Rohan Talukdar, as well as from candidate masters Ivan Ke and Anthony Ge.


Alex Costello (L) lost to Anthony Ge (R) at the 2014 U.S. Junior Congress, but reversed that result a few months later in the 2014 CONIC 10U Championship.

But the strong favorite in the 12U section must be New Jersey’s Brandon Jacobson, whose rating has approached 2400. Like Prestia and Murgescu, Jacobson will play from the Marshall Chess Club. Just one mistake against him and it's checkmate!

The Girls 13 & Under section features some class A players knocking on the expert door: CONIC newcomers Ritika Pandey (1947 peak rating) of Wisconsin, Ontario’s Lily Zhou (1820 peak rating), New Jersey’s Angelica Chin (1915 peak rating), and Michigan’s Sasha Konovalenko (1913 peak rating) will face each other and two CONIC veterans: late replacement Cindy Zhang and the section’s youngest player, Rianne Ke (1981, pictured below), who picked up 70 rating points over Memorial Day weekend.


Ritika Pandey, Girls 13 & Under section

The Commentary Team

IM David Pruess is back to provide commentary, as he did in the inaugural event he helped start in 2012. He is joined by GM Eugene Perelshteyn. Both are chess broadcasting pros who combine strong objective analysis with psychological insight and a sense of humor. Don’t miss the broadcast on!

Schedule of Rounds (same for all sections)

  • Friday, June 3: Round 1 at 7 p.m. Eastern (4 p.m. Pacific)
  • Saturday, June 4: Round 2 at 12 p.m. Eastern (9 a.m. Pacific); Round 3 at 6 p.m. Eastern (3 p.m. Pacific)
  • Sunday, June 5: Round 4 at 12 p.m. Eastern (9 a.m. Pacific); Round 5 at 6 p.m. Eastern (3 p.m. Pacific)
To see pairings in all sections:

A Brief History of the CONIC: Section Winners

More from ChessKid
'Hour Of Chess' Week For All ChessKids!

'Hour Of Chess' Week For All ChessKids!

'Hour Of Chess Week' Returns To ChessKid!

'Hour Of Chess Week' Returns To ChessKid!