I am in Milwaukee this weekend, serving as chauffeur/chaperone/moneybags/head cheerleader for my son, who is participating in the U.S. Amateur Team-North. Trevor is playing top board and serving as captain of his team, which settled on the team name "U-Knighted." There are four Amateur Team events this weekend, one each in the North, South, East and West. The winning team from each of the regional events will advance to the final round to play in the National Amateur Team Championship.
The Amateur Team tournament rules require that the average rating of the team not exceed 2200. What this means is that the ratings of individual players on a team can vary widely, since all that matters is the team average. Each team consists of four players whose position on the team is determined by their relative ratings (the highest rated player plays Board 1, the second-rated player plays Board 2, etc.). When two teams are paired, the players of the same team position are paired. Because the make-up different teams can be very different, this makes for some fascinating pairings. Several of the teams playing this weekend have Grandmasters sitting at the top board, and last night Trevor got to play one of them, GM Alex Yermolinsky, rated 2583 (Trevor is rated 2183). Here is a short biography of Yermolinsky, borrowed from a listing on Amazon for one of his books:
"Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky is one of the strongest players in the United States. He was US Champion in 1996, and won the US Open Championship in 1995 and 1997. He has represented the USA in four Olympiads, and played board two for the team that won the World Team Championship in 1993. His credentials as a teacher are no less impressive. He assisted Irina Levitina in her bid for the Women's World Championship in 1982-4, while his former pupils include top-class grandmasters such as Alexander Khalifman and Vladimir Epishin. After his arrival in the United States in 1989, he continued coaching, with one of his pupils, Boris Kreiman, winning the US Junior Championship in 1993."
And here is a 30-second video of Trevor's round against Yermolinsky, a round that he went on to win!
If I were a betting woman (I'm not), my money would have been on Yermolinsky (sorry, Trevor). But I can't say I'm surprised to see my son beat a Grandmaster (his first time to do so in tournament play). It was only a matter of time (and hard work and study and determination, all of which Trevor demonstrates better than anyone I know). Trevor's victory has already garnered quite a bit of attention from those attending the tournament, and deservedly so. And what I have also noticed is what I have seen repeatedly in the past: people love rooting for Trevor because he is just such a gentleman. The mother of one of Trevor's teammates, also a young high school player, told me, "It couldn't have happened to a nicer person."
Sometimes it seems in fact that others are happier for Trevor than he is for himself. I suggested to him this morning that he should email his teacher (GM Yury Shulman) to let him know about last night's round. He informed me that he would do so after the tournament is over. Typically, he is already focusing on the next round and doesn't want to be distracted. He also, in his characteristically humble way, eschews any sign of gloating or celebration. In fact, he confided to me that if there is any game that he has mixed feelings about winning, it is one against a Grandmaster. I think he is probably empathizing with his opponent, thinking about how he himself hates losing, but particularly hates losing to a significantly lower-rated player. It's hard on both the ego and the rating.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't do his utmost to defeat whoever is sitting across the board from him, Grandmaster or not! It's the way of the chess world, and I daresay GM Yermolinsky understands.