ChessKid Crowns 7 National Champions In Its 7th Year
The 2018 CONIC tournament was the 7th edition.

ChessKid Crowns 7 National Champions In Its 7th Year

| 9 | Chess Event Coverage

The seventh edition of the ChessKid Online National Invitational Championship (CONIC) concluded last weekend with seven of the strongest American juniors winning official national championships.

Sanctioned and in cooperation with US Chess, the event allows kids from around the United States to compete in an elite round-robin without the expenses of travel. All games were played on with tournament directors (arbiters) or proctors present in each location. All games were also US Chess rated.


The US Chess Federation certifies CONIC as an official national championship.

The seven age-specific sections were all five-rounders played at a time control of G/90 + 30-second increment from move one. Live broadcast took place on both and with IM David Pruess, WFM Alexandra Botez, and longtime ChessKid video creator David Petty.

All participants get prizes like ChessKid gear and free memberships to and Winners of each section also get $300 to use toward private lessons with grandmasters. Many of the sections ended tied, with a single Armageddon match deciding the champion!

Age 6 & Under (Average rating: 1508)

These future stars were paced by Carter Ho of New York and Rohan Rajaram of California, a six-year-old who had already defeated an expert in a rated game. They each went 4-1, with Rohan beating Carter in their head-to-head matchup Saturday morning. But despite Rohan having about a 400-point rating advantage, Carter took the Armageddon game by winning as White to become the champion of the youngest section!

Carter Ho

Carter Ho, the pride of PS 334! Photo courtesy the Ho family.

Carter finished several games with more than or close to 90 minutes remaining. Ahh, youth! But these kids, they're pretty good at tactics. In this final-round game that got him into the tiebreak, he used a "luxurious" full minute to find the crushing 26. Nf5+!

Final standings: Carter Ho 4.0; Rohan Rajaram 4.0; Ryan Zhu 3.5; Stanley Wu 1.5; Lucas Jiang 1.0; Dhruva Dinesh Patil 1.0.

Age 7 (Average rating: 1737)

In another pair of 4-1 finishers, top-seeded Rachael Li of Texas, already a ChessKid star, tied at the end of regulation with Alexander Wang of New Jersey. Neither player lost a classical game as both ended with three wins and two draws. 

Rachael Li

Rex Sinquefield vs. Rachael Li. Sorry, Rex, there's no CONIC section for you! | Photo: Austin Fuller/Saint Louis Chess Club.

Rachael might have seen as the favorite in the Armageddon (the seven-year-old had already bagged a master in a rated game and is the little sister of GM Ruifeng Li), but Alexander held a piece-down ending to make a draw as Black to become champion.


Alexander "Armageddon" Wang. Photo courtesy the Wang family.

While Alexander benefitted greatly from a huge blunder by his opponent in the final classical game (he won with K+R vs. K+R, no pawns!), he also played a fantastic squeeze in his first win. Avert your eyes now, even seven year olds are playing the Berlin. Wait, don't avert your eyes, this seven year old played like Karpov:

Final standings: Alexander Wang 4.0; Rachael Li 4.0; Omya Vidyarthi 3.5; Andrew Jiang 2.5; Cannon Farragut 1.0; Ruohan Yin 0.0.

Age 9-10 (Average rating: 2123)

In the most tightly-grouped section, 3.5/5 was good enough for clean first. No tiebreak was needed for "double V"—Vyom Vidyarthi of California. The near-master eclipsed a field of five other experts with a huge comeback. Vyom began with a loss and draw, then went "vroom, vroom" and rattled off three straight wins to pass the field!

Here's the game that set his tournament back on the right path. In round three, a creative regrouping of his knight to the f6-outpost got him in the lead, then a destructive sacrifice ended matters later on.

Final standings: Vyom Vidyarthi 3.5; Jason Liang 3.0; Eric Yuhan Li 2.5; Evan Park 2.5; Sandeep Sethuraman 2.0; Sriram Krishnakumar 1.5.

Age 11-12 (Average rating: 2146)

The lone master of the event did not disappoint. NM Robert Shlyakhtenko of California won two and drew the rest to finish on 3.5/5 and defend his title from last year. Still, his work wasn't quite done, as fellow Californian Teddie Wen also equaled him. 


NM Robert Shlyakhtenko probably had the most experience of any player in this year's CONIC, and he used every bit of it to win again. Photo courtesy the Shlyakhtenko family.

Shlyakhtenko has much experience in CONIC and it paid off, as he won the title in Armageddon. He was white and produced in a must-win playoff game in this crushing effort:

Final standings: Robert Shlyakhtenko 3.5; Teddie Wen 3.5; Jason Yu 3.0; Paris Prestia 3.0; Shelev Oberoi 1.5; Danny Soong 0.5.

Girls 9 & Under (Average rating: 1624)

The Velea sisters are usually annual participants in CONIC, and younger sister Sophie Velea of Washington used her experience and her top rating to cruise to a 5-0 win (her sister Annie Marie finished a respectable third in the final section of this report; several sibling duos competed this year).

Sophie Velea

Sophie Velea prepares for her CONIC matches (players are allowed duplicate moves, but not analyze with a real board). Photo courtesy the Velea family.

Sophie's win was a rare title defense in CONIC—she won the same section last year as only an eight year old. She even had first place wrapped up before Sunday afternoon's final round, but she ended like a champ anyway.

A nifty pawn sac in round three showed good understanding of how to punish her pawn-grabbing opponent.

Final standings: Sophie Velea 5.0; Anika Rajaram 3.5; Ramya Elangovan 3.0; Joy Chu 1.5; Abbie Wu 1.5; Avery Yu 0.5.

Girls 10-13 (Average rating: 1982)

Top-seeded Rui Yang Yan wrapped up quite a weekend for the California Republic. The expert went undefeated, winning three and drawing two to take clear first with 4.0/5. Even more impressively, she is only 10 years old, and every other player in her section was 12 or 13. Rui can come back to try to defend her title three more times!


Rui Yang Yan, a dynasty in the making? Photo courtesy the Yan family.

She became the chess queen of CONIC by giving up her queen in this Tal-like sacrifice!

Final standings: Rui Yang Yan 4.0; Iris Yi-Xian Zhou 3.0; Arya Kumar 2.5; Anne-Marie Velea 2.5; Gracy Prasanna 2.0; Annapoorni Meiyappan 1.0.

Chess fans may want to remember many of these names as some will surely be making even larger waves in the chess world soon. Past participants include GMs Kayden Troff, Ruifeng Li, and Jeffery Xiong, as well as FM Carissa Yip!

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