Introducing: Grandmaster Julio Becerra Rivero

Introducing: Grandmaster Julio Becerra Rivero

| 12 | Chess Players

Julio Becerra is the #6 ranked active player in the U.S. and hungry to become #5.

Julio grew up in Cuba, where he did not learn chess until the ripe age of 13. He fell in love with the game immediately and, playing constantly, made up for the lost time in an era where increasingly most top players had been child prodigies.

In 1999, Julio made a big move-- to the U.S. The opportunity was the FIDE World Championship knockout event held in Las Vegas, NV, after which he defected. At his arrival, Julio earned a USCF rating of about 2560. Ten years later he has pushed that rating up about 100 points, a very noticeable improvement at such a level.

A particular phase of improvement has been the last year. In January 2008 Julio had a FIDE rating of 2573. Since coming to the US, Julio had dreamed of representing the U.S. in an international team competition-- either the Olympiad or the World Team Championship. Last year, Julio decided to pursue this goal with singular purpose. He figured he would need to get his FIDE rating over 2600 to that end, and put in a huge effort to accomplish that.

If you are an improving class player, you may feel that gaining 27 rating points is not such an epic struggle. But when you are up at the very top chess level, and pressing against your own limitations, I can assure you it is significant. Another point is that the amount of chess knowledge that each point of rating represents at that level is far greater. For example, a player with a rating of 500 may be able to improve by a full 100 points, just by understanding one new chess idea: e.g. that they should develop their pieces in the opening. But a 2570 player might have to learn 200 games and 50 new specific patterns in one of their openings to improve 5 points in effective strength-- and with the provision that they do not push other useful information out of their brains while they absorb the new stuff.

Julio both gloriously achieved his goal in 2008, and painfully failed: He not only raised his rating to 2600 but to 2614! However, he missed the chance he wanted to play for the U.S. in the Olympiad for two reasons. First of all, there was the continued improvement of the Glendale player Varuzhan Akobian who has managed to improve at a similar rate and stay a few points ahead of Julio. Secondly, the Olympiad changed in format, from teams of 6 players to teams of 5 players. But given his great improvement in 2008, it was hard for Julio to be too discouraged by this. He just intends to improve a bit more in 2009, and with his good attitude and current level of focus, I think he has a very good chance.

I'm very excited to introduce him as a new member of the community, and to announce that we will all have the chance to play against him-- as a team. Let's try to give him a good game, to help with his training program!

To join the team in this upcoming vote chess game, go to

Here, for your entertainment, are a few of Julio's games that I really enjoy (three I remember watching live).

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