Profile of a prodigy: Kayden Troff

by James Satrapa
7/5/2014 – Last May, and a few weeks after his 16th birthday, Kayden Troff became the youngest GM in the Americas and the second youngest grandmaster in the world. He is also the top ranked player U16 in the Americas and recently won the US Junior Championship a full 1.5 points ahead of his rivals. As part of the rising generation of American players, here is a profile by James Satrapa.

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Kayden displayed enormous promise from the outset. Born May 6, 1998, he learned chess at the tender age of three and started playing in competitions when he was six. He developed his skills playing in many locally (ie USCF) rated events for the following five years in his native Utah and elsewhere, mainly featuring school and junior tournaments, although he played in many senior events. The extent of his developmental success in this period became apparent in his first internationally rated tournament in which he participated, while still 10 years old : the Far West Open staged in Reno, Nevada, in April 2009. There, he broke even against his rated opponents, all four of whom were rated well above 2000, including veteran US FM Edwin Straver (2302) against whom he drew. Soon afterwards, in July 2009, a good performance against another strong field in the 14th Annual Pacific Coast Open in California earned the now 11-year old player his inaugural FIDE rating of 2174, already only a few points short of qualifying as a Candidate Master. Later that year, Troff won the North American U12 Championship – where he did in fact pick up his Candidate Master title -  thereby kicking off a series of successful youth championships culminating in 2nd place at the World U12 championship in 2010 behind Chinese wunderkind Wei Yi before winning the World U14 Championship in 2012. At the latter event, he scored a crushing win in the final and deciding round against the runner-up, Indian FM Chithambaran V.R. Aravindh, checkmating his opponent in 27 moves.

Kayden Troff receives his gold medal at the World Youth in 2012 from the hands of Kasparov

On the domestic front, Kayden racked up series of results that saw his stocks rising steadily over the next few years. While he didn’t win major tournaments, he usually played above his weight, rating-wise. He used his experience to further refine his skills, increase his national and world rating and ranking and accumulate title norms and eventually titles and to compete in increasingly tough competitions. For instance at the 31st Annual Southern California Open in San Diego (in 2009), he was equal 9th, but defeated the experienced International Master Edward Formanek, and well as FM Gregg Small. At the Western States Open in Reno, a modest 50% result included a win against IM Vladimir Mezentsev. 2010 and 2011 saw similar outcomes: relatively modest results in terms of absolute placements punctuated with increasingly better results against strong, titled players including wins against IM John Peters in the 8th Annual Western Pacific Open in LA, IM Dionisio Degurnay in the 2010 Copper State International in Arizona, IM Timothy Taylor and Kazakh IM Zhanibek Amanov at both the 3rd Metropolitan FIDE Invitation in 2011 and the 5th Metropolitan FIDE Invitational. In the latter event, he placed 2nd behind Roman Yankovsky and won his first IM norm.  He gained his FM title during this period, when  his rating rose to 2300 in the September 2011 list after good results at the  39th Annual World Open in Philadelphia and at the 1st Metropolitan Chess FIDE International in LA.

Kayden Troff (2407 FIDE), blitzes against Dietrich Geisler, two of the leaders of the Utah
High School Chess Championship. Kayden went on to win the tournament easily.

2012 was another major year for Troff, where his hard work culminated in two more IM norms and his first victory over a GM. He started the year with a strong performance at the Northern California International, and went on to win his 2nd and 3rd IM norms at the 2nd Metropolitan FIDE Invitational – where he first defeated a GM, Mesgen Amanov - and at the 2012 SPICE Fall Swiss event in St Louis, respectively. The latter also took him to the top FIDE ranking in the United States for the U14 division. The beginning of 2013 saw him achieving his IM title when he breached the 2400 rating barrier during the Golden State Open in January by beating GM Larry Kaufmann in round five. In this event he placed equal 3rd behind Chinese super-GM Li Chao and local legend GM Gregory Kaidanov. 2013 also saw Troff win two GM norms, the first was in May 2013 at the US Championship, and the second a few months later when he tied for first with former Junior World Champion and GM Alexander Ipatov at the SPICE Cup in St Louis.

Kayden Troff at the 2014 US Junior Closed

While the start of 2014 saw a modest result at the Tata Steel Group B tournament, Kayden won his 3rd GM norm at the University of Texas Dallas Spring FIDE Open, where he was equal 3rd, and then scored solid 6.0/9 results at the 23rd Chicago Open and at the CCSCSL Invitational GM to push his rating to 2500, fulfilling the final criterion to win his Grandmaster title.

Top GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek drew Kayden Troff in Wijk aan Zee

Here is his game from the CCSCSL against GM Ben Finegold, in which he turns the tables on a queen entrapment theme initiated by Finegold to sweep his opponent off the board in 26 moves:

[Event "CCSCSL Inv GM 2014"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.05.30"] [Round "5.5"] [White "Troff, Kayden W"] [Black "Finegold, B."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D11"] [WhiteElo "2484"] [BlackElo "2503"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2014.05.28"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O a6 8. Qb3 e6 9. Bd2 Nbd7 10. Rac1 dxc4 11. Qxc4 Rb8 12. a4 b5 {Inviting the White queen into his camp, maybe hoping to either entrap her or keep her sidelined long enough to build an advantage.} 13. Qxc6 (13. Qb3 {and 13. Qd3 were safe ways of declining the invitation, but Troff prefers adventure.}) 13... Rb6 (13... Bb7 {is the engine preference, but Finegold may have felt that quarantining the White queen to the a8 square was a more tempting proposition. If} 14. Qd6 { (forced)} b4 15. Nb1 {and the onus is on Black to prove he has enough compensation for the pawn.}) 14. Qa8 Qe7 {After this, Black's game is very difficult, if not lost.} ({Better was} 14... Rb8 15. Qa7 b4 16. Nb1 a5 {though after} 17. Ba6 {White's queen is in no danger, while Black has to justify having one less pawn.}) 15. Qa7 $1 ({Not} 15. axb5 $2 {immediately as} Bb7 { followed by} 16. Qa7 Ra8 {wins the queen.}) 15... Qd6 (15... Bb7 16. a5 $1 { and now} Ra8 17. axb6 Rxa7 18. bxa7 {should be winning, eg:} Qd8 19. Ra1 Qa8 20. Ra5 Qxa7 21. Nxb5 Qb6 22. Na3 {and White has a material advantage, well positioned and active pieces and controls all the important squares. Now} Qxb2 $4 {is not possible due to} 23. Rb1 $1 {and now it is Black's queen that is trapped!}) 16. axb5 Bb7 17. Na4 Ra8 18. Qxa8+ Bxa8 19. Rc8+ Bf8 20. Rxa8 Rb8 21. Rxa6 Qd5 22. Rc1 g5 23. Ba5 Ne8 24. Bd3 Qb3 25. Bc4 {Ironically, it's Black's queen that ends up trapped!} Rc8 26. Bxb3 1-0

No doubt celebrating his success at not only winning the GM title but being the youngest GM in the Americas, in fact, the second youngest GM in the world after Wei Yi, his first tournament since that moment was to decisively win the US Closed Junior Championship with 7.0/9, a point and a half clear of the field.

Standing behind Garry Kasparov are (left to right) Jeffery Xiong, Kayden Troff, Samuel Sevian,
and Ashritha Eswaran (picture by Zachary Young)

In May 2013, Kayden - who is mentored by former World Champion Garry Kasparov - featured in a wonderful musical dance video celebrating and choreographing the game Kasparov vs Topalov, 1999. Music was by the TLC Trio, and the tune the band played for the game was Adele's Skyfall.



James Satrapa has worked and lived in every State and Territory of his native island, Australia. He keenly participated in club and State championship chess, but has retreated to the more leisurely labors of Internet-based chess playing and writing, and occasional bouts of Street Chess and Easter tournaments.
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nar nar 7/8/2014 03:44
How can anyone be called a prodigy who has just reached 2500 and is already over 16. By 16 Carlsen was closing in on 2700. There are lot of strong players in the US no doubt, Nakamura is by far the strongest locally bred player right now in the US.
Cyric Renner Cyric Renner 7/6/2014 06:12
Indeed, having to see Kasparov or wrapped up in that flag, both hard to stomach.
BestByTest BestByTest 7/6/2014 03:05
Do we get a photo of Kasparov with every article now?
Or more like with 3 or 4 photos showing Kasparov in each article?
XYZ standing behind Kasparov!
ABC shaking hands with Kasparov!
Kasparov talking to aliens and teaching them chess!
New Pope shaking hands with Kasparov!
James Satrapa James Satrapa 7/6/2014 01:06
Nothing wrong here. Troff is the second youngest grandmaster in the world right now, not the second youngest ever.
iSeeThis iSeeThis 7/6/2014 12:43
Am I wrong or something wrong here? Sixteen years old second youngest grandmaster? I think the correct list is here:


No. Player Country Age
1. Sergey Karjakin Ukraine 12 years, 7 months, 0 days
2. Parimarjan Negi India 13 years, 4 months, 22 days
3. Magnus Carlsen Norway 13 years, 4 months, 27 days
4. Wei Yi China 13 years, 8 months, 23 days[2]
5. Bu Xiangzhi China 13 years, 10 months, 13 days
6. Richárd Rapport Hungary 13 years, 11 months, 6 days[3]
7. Teimour Radjabov Azerbaijan 14 years, 0 months, 14 days
8. Ruslan Ponomariov Ukraine 14 years, 0 months, 17 days
9. Wesley So Philippines 14 years, 1 month, 28 days[4]
10. Étienne Bacrot France 14 years, 2 months, 0 days
11. Jorge Cori Peru 14 years, 2 months[5]
12. Illya Nyzhnyk Ukraine 14 years, 3 months, 2 days[6]
13. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave France 14 years, 4 months[7]
14. Péter Lékó Hungary 14 years, 4 months, 22 days
15. Hou Yifan China 14 years, 6 months, 16 days[8]
16. Anish Giri Netherlands 14 years, 7 months, 2 days[9]
17. Yuriy Kuzubov Ukraine 14 years, 7 months, 12 days[10]
18. Dariusz Świercz Poland 14 years, 7 months, 29 days
19. Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son Vietnam 14 years, 10 months
20. Daniil Dubov Russia 14 years, 11 months, 14 days[11]
21. Ray Robson United States 14 years, 11 months, 16 days[12]
22. Fabiano Caruana Italy 14 years, 11 months, 20 days[13]
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