Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New Jersey's Youngest Master to Compete in World Youth Championship

NM Scott Massey sent me the following information:

The U.S. is sending 24 of their finest young chess players to the World Youth Championship 2006 to take place in the former Soviet republic of Georgia from October 18-29. Among those selected for Boys U-14 is Victor Shen, 13, of Edison, New Jersey.

Victor achieved a 2200 master rating on July 16 at the Westfield Quads. He came close to the master rating two weeks earlier by scoring 3 1/2 out of 8 at the World Open in Philadelphia where he was paired with several international players. At the Westfield Quad, Victor played three N.J. masters. In the first round, Victor lost a close game to the then current N.J. state champion, Thomas Bartell. Victor then rebounded with wins over life masters Peter Radomskyj and Mark Kernighan to achieve a master rating at 13 years, 3 months and 7 days.

Although a number of players have reached master at a younger age, Victor's achievement puts him ahead of Bobby Fischer, who broke 2200 at age 14. But unlike Fischer, Victor is a well rounded young man. An eighth grader at John Adams Middle School, his favorite subject is English writing, he runs track and plays basketball, he plays the piano, and he studies Chinese. In his spare time, he occasionally gives chess lessons over the internet.

Victor learned to play chess at age 7. His father, Dong Ming, taught him through his early tournaments and by the age of nine Victor had made the U.S. Top 50 list for his age group. At that point, Kenilworth Chess Club regular and life master Scott Massey started to tutor him. Victor climbed up to third among 13-year-olds and made the All-American team three times.

Victor's nine-year-old brother, Arthur, is expected to make the All-American team for his first time with his 1600 rating. Arthur is currently 19th among nine-year-olds nationally.

Two years ago, Evan Ju of New Jersey represented the U.S. at the World Youth Championships and recently won the New Jersey title. Maybe Victor might follow in Evan's footsteps. But one thing is sure, New Jersey chess is being represented in a big way.


Anonymous chessdad64 said...


A nice piece....and good to see you back!


Thu Oct 12, 02:51:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Always good to have locals (from your perspective) being given their due publicity, but unfortunately it goes off the rails when you try to compare him to the greats.

The Bobby Fischer comparison seems like a large stretch. Fischer turned 14 in 1957, three years before the Elo system started being used in the USCF. So, at best, it's an historical computation (I can't find any reference for it, but Jeff Soma's historical FIDE computations has Fischer at 2500 at age 14, although the error bars there are pretty large, I suspect).

Secondly, there has been undoubted inflation both within the USCF system because of larger numbers of stronger player (FIDE ratings have inflated somewhat for the same reason) and because of the artifical ratings floor that is introduced. Finally, in 1958, Fischer qualified for the candidates matches. Formally, that meant he was given the grandmaster title, but it is also a pretty good indication that he was already of that strength, given the other competitors in the Interzonal. So it's not crazy to think he may have been stronger than USCF 2200 two years earlier.

Sorry to make such a big comment about this. It's so unlike your normal style, that this weak link jumped out at me.

Fri Oct 13, 01:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Michael Goeller said...

Thanks for the commentary. I have seen a number of statements over the years concerning Fischer's first master rating and was just going from memory. Here is one quick quote I found online from Bill Wall's website:
"In July 1956, he [Fischer] took first place at the U.S. Junior Championship (July 1-7) in Philadelphia with 8 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss. The event was held at the Franklin Mercantile Chess Club. Fischer's USCF rating after this event was 2321, making him a master at age 13 years, 3 months, 29 days. The rating was not published until August of 1956." By that reckoning, Victor only beat Bobby by a few weeks....

I'm not sure if Elo ratings were used then, but you do find ratings lists in old Chess Reviews. I'll do some more fact checking and tell you what I discover. In any event, your point is well taken concerning the comparing of ratings from times so far apart. But there are a number of arguments to be made on the issue, including the fact that since chess knowledge has expanded so considerably it probably takes much more knowledge to achieve master today than it did in 1956.

Fri Oct 13, 11:29:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Malcolm said...

(I was also the poster of the previous anonymous comment; accidently clicked the wrong submission option at the time. Sorry about that.)

Prior to 1960, USCF ratings used the Harkness system (one printed source I have says the first list was published in 1950, but I can't find any online reference for that except for a single page by Sam Sloan). It was similar to Elo's system, but not identical. So you're also comparing slightly different systems.

I'd agree it might take more knowledge to get to "master level" (even by the US definition, which is a long way short of International Master) today, but the information is also much more readily available and the field of players is much larger. It is much easier for me, today, even in distant Australia to play a field of my contemporaries regularly than it would have been 40 years ago. I'm not sure how we would begin to try and qualify all the different factors there. Some parts are harder, but others are easier. Everybody is different in the way they learn, so circumstances affect differently (e.g. coaches more available these days; more scholastic chess right around the world).

Anyway, an interesting read. Thanks.

Malcolm Tredinnick
(Sydney, Australia)

Sat Oct 14, 07:44:00 AM EDT  

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