Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Player Profile: Victor Shen

Victor Shen is a 14 year old national master, living in Edison, New Jersey. After being taught to play at age seven by his father, Victor admires from afar the attacking games of Kasparov and Tal, and his former coach Scott Massey, and current coach (and Knouckouts' manager) Joel Benjamin. Interestingly, he also mentions that current American #3 Alexander Onischuk is a favorite because of his superb opening preparation and his classical style.

Besides the hundreds of Kasparov games that Victor claims he doesn't actually study, a particular game that he admires is Tal's victory against Smyslov in the 1964 USSR team championship. Victor is awed by 24...Qe2!! and extraordinarily impressed by Tal's endgame technique at the end. You can replay the Tal-Smyslov game here.

Victor has played two games so far for the Knockouts with a loss and a draw. The draw, especially, was an amazing save, and if you don't know the story, you should check it out here. Despite his 0.5 - 1.5 record, he thinks the USCL is a brilliant idea. The camaraderie of being on a team with others from your area, the possibility of being in "must win" situtations, and the practice with the FIDE time control, all make playing for the Knockouts a great experience for which Victor is thankful.

Highly emotional experiences make for lasting memories, and while most people's memorable experiences over a chess board are joyous, Victor's was on the other end of the happiness spectrum. It happened earlier this year in the last round of the 2007 Liberty Bell Open, where he was playing Alex Shabalov. Coming out of the opening in good shape, he blundered the exchange for a pawn, but it was a blunder of serendipity, as he came out of the opening with a big positional advantage that became winning. But then, disaster struck. He missed some wins in time trouble, then exchanged queens. The last board in the last round of the top section is always a harrowing experience, since the spectators crowd around you. In Victor's case, the pressure of the spectators was far greater than the pressure on the board, since the queen exchange produced a dead drawn endgame. Shabalov declined Victor's draw offer, and Victor traded rooks to produce what he thought was an even deader position. But it didn't work, and tactical shots by Shabalov caused Victor to resign. We've all likely experienced situations like Victor's -- I know I have -- but Shabalov's "I'm sorry" during the postmortem permanently etched this episode in Victor's mind.

He confesses to not being an avid reader or purveyor of television and movies, spending most of his time on chess and schoolwork. While he may relax for a few minutes, playing basketball with his friends, he takes the time he used to spend playing sports and studies his opening theory.

Finally, in my interactions with Victor, I've noticed that he has a wickedly self-deprecating sense of humor. He claims that he sucks at chess and has never have played a game of chess of which he was proud. Indeed, everytime he ruminates on his game versus Shabalov, he wonders why he still actually plays this maddening game. And, he claims that if he ever does play a game of which he is proud, he will send it in. I expect, though, that the remainder of his games this year with the Knockouts will provide moments of pride and glory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

omg i lub you!!!
what school do you go to???