Added on 2/18/2020

The Pacific Northwest Chess Center is a new fully-functioning club in the Seattle area. Located some 10 miles north of Microsoft Headquarters in Kirkland, WA, this club is supported by generous efforts of Xuhao He, the dad of one of the most promising young players of the area, Anthony He.

I can almost see the readers rolling their eyes, thinking, “yet another chess patron for a day. Wait till the kid grows up and quits chess... “ Yeah, of course, it's impossible to tell what the future might bring, but what's important is what's here now. Unlike many other chess parents, Xuhao prefers a different approach: instead of hiring coaching help for his son alone, he has given support to the entire chess community. See for yourself the list activities taking place there:

Tournaments and camps are running practically non-stop.

A month ago, during the MLK weekend, I finally took part in one of those. Below are the final standings.

As you can see the top spots were occupied by the invited Grandmasters, which isn't really surprising considering that the tournament was run under a new FIDE “training” format that allows the GM's not to be paired with one another. The idea is to maximize the number of games where the local talent can face a GM. One downside of this is that it makes it harder for non-GM's to compete for top prizes. For example, IM Craig Hilby certainly would have placed higher if the three of us had to play each other.

We met in Round 3.

IM Craig Hilby

Graig now represents California, and he will be going to Stanford. What a bright young man he is.

On the other end of the age spectrum, we find the venerable American GM James Tarjan. James was one of the young stars that emerged during the Fischer boom. By the early 1970's he had become one of the best players in the country. Who knows how far he could have gone with chess, but back in 1984 James abruptly decided to quit chess to lead a quiet life as a librarian. Thirty years later James retired, moved to Oregon and returned to chess. Since then Tarjan has been traveling and playing practically non-stop.

When offered to be relieved from facing his GM colleagues in Kirkland, James replied with a categorical “no”. He wanted to play and beat us!

Tarjan and Cordova

The tournament winner, Emilio Cordova of Peru studies at Webster University in St. Louis, taking part in the chess program run by Susan Polgar. As expected, Emilio was the class of the field, easily coasting to first place.


I was pleasantly surprised to see my old friend Ivan Morovic-Fernandez in Kirkland. Long time the best Chilean player, Ivan now lives in Cuba. We recently met at the World Seniors in Bucharest. It is nice to see the old guard staying active!

Morovic's chess has always been characterized by excellent opening preparation, as the years of working with Karpov attest to, but Ivan also possesses great endgame technique (Karpov's influence as well?). His critical last-round win illustrates it best.


What of my own tournament? Simply put, I continue to struggle. The game with Tarjan I leave without comments, as I have already submitted my annotations to it to another source, but the readers on their own can find a lot of mistakes by both players.

I did a bit better in the following encounter.

Yermolinsky - He


It all came down to the last round game, where my opponent was one of the youngest participants, the 10-year-old Steve Wongso. Everyone expected me to win, but...


This setback notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Seattle. It has been a long time since I visited last, and I was glad of an opportunity to see my old friend IM Georgi Orlov, who has long been running an extensive scholastic chess program in the Seattle area. Georgi and his wife Tatyana generously offered me their hospitality in their new home. A short 15-mile drive would take to the club, where Tournament Director Frank Niro set up shop.

Frank Niro - FIDE Arbiter

I hope this trip is only the beginning of my involvement with the PNWCC. I have already signed up to return in April, to teach a chess camp and play another training tournament. This time, 4-time US Champion Alex Shabalov gracefully agreed to keep me company. I sure look forward to it! Alex Yermolinsky