Youth Served At US Masters

Damir Studen and Daniel Gurevich, two young players from Atlanta, Georgia, USA, both scored 5.5 points out of 9 rounds at the recent US Masters in Greensboro, North Carolina. That put both of them in the fourth score group, in a tie for 12-21 out of 79 players. They were the lowest rated, by far, players in the score group. For both of these young men (Damir was born in 1989 and Daniel in 1997) this can be considered a breakout event. Damir has previously won the state championship of Georgia, while Daniel won the top section of the 2009 Super Nationals in Nashville, so both have known success. Both would agree the US Masters is on another level entirely.
Damir won 3, drew 5, and lost one. Daniel won 5, drew one, and lost 3. Damir had a performance rating of 2560, while Daniel’s PR was 2544. Damir faced four GM’s, with two wins and two draws. Daniel played five GM’s, winning two, while losing three. Damir played his usual solid, steady game and was consistent throughout the event, with draws interspersed with wins until winning back to back in rounds seven and eight. Daniel lost two of his first three, won four of the next five, with the other game being drawn. He won three in a row in rounds 6-8. Damir earned 48 rating points to move to 2384. Daniel garnered 51 rating points, with his rating increasing to 2344. The two had three common opponents. They both drew with IM John Cox of England. Damir drew with GM Alex Fishbein while Daniel won. Damir also drew with GM Georg Meier, while Daniel lost his game with Meier in the last round.
What I want to do is contrast the performance of these two young turks with that of some of the older players, the wily ol’ veterans. I have read analytical books on baseball by writers such as Bill James and his Baseball Abstracts over the last thirty plus years. The study of baseball statistics is called “sabermetrics.” One of the things I have learned is the smaller the sample size, the less trustworthy the results. With that caveat I can tell you this sample size would be considered small in any study, but it is all I have with which to work. To make it even smaller, I will throw out one of the games. I do that because organizers continue the nonsensical practice of having an odd number of rounds, which puts one half of the field at a disadvantage by having to play the Black pieces an extra time. Both Damir and Daniel each played White four times while having the Black pieces five times, which makes their individual results even more spectacular!
I wanted to know if their success can be attributed to youthful exuberance, and if so, to what extent. For this study I decided to contrast the performance rating of the first four rounds with that of the last four rounds. To do so I would have to eliminate the 5th round entirely, which would leave each player with an equal number of times playing the White and Black pieces. I also needed to use only those who played all nine games, for obvious reasons. GM Larry Kaufman had a good result considering he is older than me by a few years. It boggles my mind how he can play at such a level. But Larry did take two half-point byes, which would skew the results to a point of being meaningless.
I decided to find matching pairs, like Damir and Daniel in order to increase the sample size. The two players I found to contrast with D & D were GM Alonso Zapata, now living in Atlanta, and GM Michael Rohde, who used to visit and play when his parents lived in Atlanta. Alonso was born in 1958 and Michael 1959, making both of them eligible to play in the US Senior. Because they are several decades older I believe it makes for a fine contrast of youth versus age.
This is the PR for all nine rounds for each of them, with all numbers rounded off:
Zapata 2619
Studen 2560
Gurevich 2544
Rohde 2467
Added together and averaged we have a PR for Zapata & Rohde of 2543, and for D&D it is 2552, which is close.
Now let us look at the PR for each for only the first four rounds:
Zapata 2789
Studen 2683
Gurevich 2395
Rhode 2320
And for the last four rounds:
Gurevich 2712
Studen 2576
Rohde 2543
Zapata 2444
Combine each of the two sets and average them for the first four rounds and we get:
D & D 2539
Z & R 2555
This means they played about the same chess during the first four rounds. Now we look at the last four rounds:
D&D 2644
Z & R 2494
The two young men obviously played much stronger chess in the later stages of the long tournament.
I considered using GM John Federowicz as he was also born in 1958, like GM Zapata, but rejected him because he had taken a half point bye in the fifth round. Since he did play the first, and last, four rounds, I would like to mention his tournament. John, one of the most gracious players I have encountered through the years, won his first two games, but those were the only games he won. He drew his next two, took a half point bye, lost in round 6 to GM Meier, drew in round seven, lost again in the penultimate round, and finally drew in the last round. This adds up to an even tournament. The Fed’s PR for the tournament was 2451. For the first four rounds was 2663; for the last four, 2239. If John were combined with either Alonso or Michael it would have been an even more dramatic decline. Combined, The Fed and The Zap would have had a PR of 2726 for the first four rounds. It would have dropped precipitously to only 2342 for the last four rounds. Rohde and the Fed would be 2491 for the first four rounds, and 2391 for the last four.
I stand in awe while applauding these two young men from my home city, Damir Studen, who earned an IM norm, and Daniel Gurevich, on such an excellent tournament.

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