About 30 years ago I was a young high school student playing chess in the Baltimore chess league . We were the only junior team in the league and as far as I can recall the only high school players (Technically not entirely a high school team because we did have an adult local master on Board 1 but everyone else on the team was of high school age).
I recall one match in particular when we were playing another all adult team. We had an additional junior player to play in the match who was a good friend of mine and our opponent had an additional adult player as well who came to play. Well apparently this other adult player did not realize we were mainly an all junior team because when he saw his match would be against a kid he wasn’t very happy about it. I recall him saying he wanted to play someone “good” not some kid. No matter that his opponent was right around the same USCF rating as his own. Well after he was told that if he wanted to get a game in this particular night he had to play a junior player he reluctantly agreed. All the while my young junior friend sat quietly listening to him complain and got ready to play the match. Well the match between the two did not last long and this big older adult player was destroyed by my young junior playing friend in short order.
Today I think most people understand that age is not correlated with chess skill. The 10,000 hour rule that practice for 10,000 hours is correlated to mastery is a much better predictor of skill level in a structured field like chess as opposed to age.
If anything I think the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction in regards to age in that the older you are the lower the probability you have of winning against an equally rated younger opponent. Younger chess players tend to be more active, can process information faster, and their ratings tend to be more underrated and on the rise then their more established typically less active playing adult opponents.
DC Chess league and Junior players
Junior players have always been present in the DC Chess League but entire junior playing teams in the Open section in particular is a rarity. This season we have such a team in the Ashburn Junior Squad. This is the first all junior team since DC Metro flexed their muscle in 2010.
Who was DC Metro?
DC Metro joined the league in 2007. The team was formed by Dr M. Kohjandi and he was able to recruit the best high school players in the region. Shinsaku Uesugi, Ian Schoch , Jared Defibaugh, Scott Low, Aryan Kohjandi are some of the DC Metro players that come to mind. There were many more. They won the open section in Summer 2007, Winter 2007-2008, Summer 2008 and Winter 2009-2010. A true league powerhouse, most of the time they bulldozed their often higher rated opponents and racked up league championships. Dr Kohjandi’s goal was to have a junior team of the best players in the region playing in the DCCL for a long time. Sadly they disbanded in 2010 but a few of their players kept playing in the league. Luckily for my team Ashburn, Ian Schoch and Scott Low joined our team for a short time and with their help we won the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Winter seasons.
The 2014-2015 Ashburn Junior Team
So now for the first time since 2010 we have an all junior team in the Winter league: The Ashburn Juniors, and their make-up is more unique than other junior teams in the past. The team is organized and captained by Mr Vikrant Kobla whose son Vishal Kobla also plays on the team.
The members of the team is a literal who’s who of some of the top junior players in the region and country and they are some of the youngest players I have ever seen in the DCCL. Their first match this winter vs the summer league champs Arlington Argyles squad which they won featured a line-up of respectively: Jennifer Yu, Vikas Rajasekaran, Vignesh Rajesekaran, Akshita Gorti, Andy Huang and Justin Paul.
Jennifer Yu, was on Board 1. She is the reigning world champion for Girls under 12 which she just won in Durban South Africa. She recently became the first United States Girl to win that title in 27 years. You can read about her result here in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/at-12-ashburns-jennifer-yu-wins-world-chess-title-first-us-girl-to-do-so-in-27-years/2014/10/12/920fd028-5025-11e4-8c24-487e92bc997b_story.html
Jennifer recently made the Master rating.
Jennifer Yu competing for World Championships in Durban South Africa. Picture from Washington Post article above.
Board 4 for the Ashburn Juniors was another up and coming young junior female player Akshita Gorti. Akshita is also in the under 12 year old girl age in the United States. Akshita is a high expert rated player.
Jennifer is ranked #1 in the United States for Girls under 13 while Akshita is ranked #3 in the United States. I should also note that both Jennifer and Akshita are ranked very very high as well when both boys and girls are included for their age.
US Chess Rankings Under 13: Jennifer and Akshita, a formidable combination.
Board 2 and 3 were played by brothers Vignesh and Vikas Rajasekaran. They are very close in ratings as very high experts, only a few rating points away from master and both are ranked in the top 30 in the United States for Under 16. Vignesh won the K12 Virginia State championship in March and Vikas was a top scorer in the same tournament as well. The two brothers are the elder statesmen on this squad at 15 years old.
Justin Paul is an expert who played board 6 in this match and is ranked in the top 15 in the United States for Under 11. Number #12 overall at the time of this writing.
Andy Huang who played board 5 is the 5th grade and Under Virginia State champion and a high expert. Andy is also the #2 ranked player in the United States for under 10.
US Chess Rankings Under 10: Andy Ranked #2 in the United States for his age.
So incredibly 4 of the teams players were 12 and under this match and 2 were high school students. Other players that didn’t play are Vishal Kobla who is expert strength and won the Virginia Amateur State Championship in 2013 and Justin Lohr who won the United States 8th grade k12 championship section in Florida back in December and is a very strong expert soon to be Master as well. I’m sure they have many other strong Junior players I didn’t mention on their team and I probably missed many of their accomplishments but by now your probably getting the picture.
The 2014-2015 Ashburn Junior Squad is a very young and very talented junior team we are fortunate to have in our league. A team like this does not come around often. Don’t be surprised if this team does very well this season. Also, don’t be like that adult guy who played my junior team 30 years ago in the Baltimore chess league and thought us kids were easy to beat. You may be in for a rude awakening!