Coming soon! Western Invitational Chess Camp – July 14-18, 2013

May 28, 2013, 9:14 AM |

In this week’s blog, I am going to tell everyone about the chess camp I run every summer called the Western Invitational Chess Camp, which will be July 14-18, 2013. The camp is held in Tucson, Arizona, once a year in July, almost always the weekend following the end of the World Open. I bill this camp as the strongest camp in the U.S. because the minimum rating requirement of the camp is 1500, and because the camp has so many high rated attendees.

It is looking very likely that this will be the strongest one yet in its ten years of existence. Currently there are 8 masters registered (all time record!!), another 12 or so players rated 2000-2200, another 13 players rated between 1900-1999, and well, you get the picture. The camp is really strong this year!!!

I didn’t expect to ever have a camp as strong as this since the ultra strong one in 2007. In that year, now GM (IM at the time) Robert Hess, masters Aaron Kahn (now over 2400), Landon Brownell, Chris Williams, and Julian Landaw (all who have had peak ratings of 2300++) were among those in attendance.

I am proud to announce once again a phenomenal list of instructors, and I believe virtually all of them have accounts and many do videos or private lessons with students online or in person. This year we have three Grandmasters, and several International Masters. Each instructor is selected based on their teaching experience and ability to work with students – and not so much based on their rating. Not all high rated players are good coaches.

First we have GM Alejandro Ramirez, born in Costa Rica, now living in Dallas, Texas, who made GM at age 14, and finished second in the2013 US Championship, losing to eventual 2013 US Champion, Gata Kamsky in the Armageddon game for the title. Alejandro has taught at the camp many times before and is a very popular instructor.

Next we have GM Josh Friedel who just one day ago tied for first at the very strong 2013 Chicago Open, a tournament featuring over 20 GMs! Josh taught at the Western Invitational Chess Camp for the first time last year, and did a great job with the students forcing them to calculate deeply – and having a poker face throughout the analysis!

Our final GM is favorite, Melik Khachiyan, who is a very experienced chess coach. Melik has taught at the camp many times as well, and also served as Olympic Team Coach on several occasions.

Leading our IM lineup is none other than’s Danny Rensch. Danny is a great friend of mine and has coached at the camp almost more than anyone – more on that in a minute.  As you know Danny’s energy in lectures is unparalleled and he is able to relate to the kids given that he won Nationals as an individual and his teams won several National titles.

Next we have IM Levon Altounian, who has the distinguished honor of teaching at all ten camps!! Danny is close behind at seven times! Levon specializes in teaching positional chess and has been a successful coach in Arizona for many years now with several students winning an individual national title as well as a national team title.

IM John Bartholomew, from Minnesota, is our next instructor. John worked for several years in New York City coaching chess and now teaches full time in Minnesota. John coaches online as well as in person and is almost as solid as IM Levon Altounian and is known as being very difficult to beat. Unfortunately John is better than me in ping pong and I am gonna kick him around this year!

One of the new instructors to this year’s camp is IM Mac Molner (with 2 GM norms). Mac just completed his second year coaching chess in Arizona and has done a great job at cultivating talent individually and team wise. Mac also does videos for and coaches online. Mac also likes to look at “cool positions” and is known for not being gun shy about sacking multiple pieces. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that he recently married WFM Amanda Mateer, who is attending law school at the University of Arizona and is a regular.

The final coach at the camp is yours truly. I am currently IM-elect and have the distinction of being the lowest rated coach at the camp (2380 USCF). I coach Catalina Foothills High School which has won a total of nine national team titles since 2004 and had numerous individual national title winners.  I have run this camp for 10 years and I look forward to this camp more than anyone each year.

One of the great things about this camp is this is just a chess camp – 9 to 5, with evening activities, some of which are chess activities. Students continue to come back year to year, even after graduating high school and college because they get a lot better and it’s a special feeling to be surrounded by talented students all with the same desire – get better at chess, while having fun!  Students (and yes this includes adults) and are able to meet up with all their friends that they may not see very often. The students learn a lot and have a chance to interact with a friendly group of instructors and have a great experience.

One final note - I make a few exceptions to the 1500 minimum rating requirement each year to local children, especially if they are willing to host participants, and for students who do not have access to many USCF rated tournaments and play tournaments that are locally rated (like Washington).  Hosting has proven difficult to provide – so many end up sharing a hotel room at the camp.

Finally, I would like to thank for sponsoring this year's camp - which will feature daily blogs from camp attendees!

If you would like more information on the 2013 Western Invitational Chess Camp, please email me at and please leave a comment and a message for me on my account, BLITZMASTER. The chess camp website is


Hope to see you in sunny Arizona this summer!!