Profile of a Prodigy: Samuel Sevian

by James Satrapa
12/17/2014 – At age 13 years 10 months and 27 days, Samuel Sevian became the world's youngest grandmaster, and the youngest grandmaster in US history, beating Ray Robson's record. His course has been a list of 'youngest evers', and his determination in the recent Saint Louis Invitational, where he clinched the 2500 rating, showed in his games. Here is a look at his spectacular chess resume.

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Born in New York to Armenian parents and learning chess when he was five, Sevian became the world’s youngest Grandmaster at the age of 13 years 10 months and 27 days. He is the first International Master and the first Grandmaster born in 2000 or later. He was also the youngest-ever US Expert (aged eight years and two months), the youngest ever US National Master (just before he turned ten), the youngest ever US International Master (12 years 10 months 15 days) and the youngest ever US Grandmaster. Moreover, he was the U12 World Champion in 2012 and in 2013 he was the youngest ever participant in the US Championship. An appropriate expression of these extraordinary achievements is that Sevian is also the top rated U14 player in the world.

Samuel Sevian scored his second GM norm in June this year

Sevian played his first tournament in Orlando on August 12, 2006 when he was still five. When he was six, he won the Florida State K-3 title. His first opponent in a FIDE rated game was in February 2009 in the first round of the 26th Annual U.S Amateur Team West in California, a few weeks after his 8th birthday. That opponent was none other than Samuel Shankland who was already an International Master rated 2453. Needless to say, eight-year old Sevian lost this game, but only six years later in November 2014, he would himself completed his relentless march to the Grandmaster title when he came from behind to defeat IM Andrei Gorovets (2482) in a nerve-wracking fourth round game in the Grandmaster tournament in St Louis.

His GM norm was secured after his win over Gorovets in a very exciting game

Despite losing most of his earliest FIDE-rated games, Sevian won enough games against relatively powerful opponents to clock in with an impressive initial FIDE rating of 2060 in FIDE’s November 2009 rating list, nearly two months before his ninth birthday. From then on, he was a regular competitor in local tournaments in California, and occasionally Nevada, accumulating expertise, rating points and results against masters. During 2010, he journeyed to Halkidiki in Greece to compete in that year’s U10 World Championship where he placed equal fifth with a score of 8.0/11. Ironically, he lost a few Elo points as he had accumulated so many points in the interim that the result was below technical expectation. Clearly however, his star continued to rise unabatedly and a few months later he registered his first win against a grandmaster, the Chilean master Mauricio Flores Rios, at the 2nd Annual Golden State Open in January 2011.

Sevian's third grandmaster norm came just two months after his second norm

2012 saw his star rising ever faster, performing powerfully in a series of powerful local events in California, including the Northern California International, the 19th Annual Western Class Championships, and in a number of Metropolitan FIDE Invitationals that soon lifted his rating and ranking to the top of the world’s U12 division of chess players. During this period, his equal first results in the 19th and 20th Metropolitan FIDE Invitational round-robin events earned him his first two IM norms.  Some more strong results in the Los Angeles-based FIDE Invitationals were followed by him winning the World U12 Championship in Halkidiki (in which he again lost rating points!). On his return to California, he celebrated by winning the 23rd Metropolitan FIDE Invitational which not only returned him his third IM norm (narrowly missing a GM norm) while he was still only eleven years old, but did so in a field in which he was the lowest rated participant.

A delightful clip of ten-year-old Sevian enthusiastically winning a blitz game against IM Greg Shahade

2013 was a year of consolidation, marked less by spectacular results and more by consistency. It was also the year in which he became the youngest ever participant in the US Championship (scoring 4.0/9 including 50% against six GM opponents) and made the small rating leap to 2400 during the First Saturday GM Tournament of November 2013 in Hungary to fulfil the final criterion for his IM title. Also, as it turns out, 2013 was the foundation for his leap into chess history in 2014.

After a modest start in January 2014 at the Bay Area International in Santa Clara, Sevian placed outright second in the 12th Annual Foxwoods Open in Connecticut, winning his first GM norm. Then followed a solid result in the UT Dallas Spring Open in March 2014 and a strong tie for third at the 8th Annual Philadelphia Open in April in which he drew with Gata Kamsky and defeated Indian GM Magesh Panchanathan.

In May-June, he won the CCSCSL Invitational Grandmaster Tournament in St Louis, scoring 6.5/9, including 2.5/3 against his grandmaster opponents Ben Finegold, Joshua Friedel and Denis Boros, to add his second GM norm to his collection. A minor mid-year slump in the 2014 US Junior Closed and the Canadian Championship was followed by a good second/third at the 3rd Washington International where he gained his 3rd GM norm.

The recenty held CCSCSL Invitational Grandmaster Tournament in St Louis clinched it

All that remained was to push his rating to 2500 and the GM title was his. That opportunity arrived in dazzling fashion at the 2014 St Louis GM Invitational event, when he opened his tally with a hyper-aggressive game against Boros, and then came from behind to defeat Andrey Gorovets in a tactical melee. He then proceeded to decisively win that event by a point and a half clear of the field, winning three games against GMs in 25 moves or less. Some of the games in that event were tactical smorgasbords that had commentators comparing him to the late great Mikhail Tal.

Samuel Sevian's whirlwind win in round one:

[Event "CCSCSL Nov GM 2014"] [Site "Saint Louis USA"] [Date "2014.11.21"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Sevian, Samuel"] [Black "Boros, De"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B09"] [WhiteElo "2484"] [BlackElo "2470"] [PlyCount "41"] [EventDate "2014.11.21"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [EventCategory "9"] [SourceDate "2014.11.24"] 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 Nf6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. e5 Nfd7 7. h4 c5 8. h5 cxd4 9. Qxd4 (9. hxg6 {is played nearly as often. The continuation goes} dxc3 10. gxf7+ Rxf7 11. Bc4 e6) 9... dxe5 10. Qf2 {This is all theory, but} Qb6 {is not usual, and it seem likely Boros was on his own. Still, this is not the losing move, though it does present Black with problems after} 11. Qh4 $1 exf4 12. hxg6 h6 13. Bxf4 $1 {An astonishingly brave move, and it shows that Sevian is here to close his title and take his fate into his own hands.} Qxb2 {Black has little choice except to take it and pray.} 14. Nd5 Qxa1+ 15. Kf2 Nc6 16. Bd3 Qb2 ({Best was} 16... Qxh1 17. Qxh1 fxg6 {and White's attack is just enough to draw. Still, lots of luck trying to find that in a game with time already short.}) 17. Bc1 Qxa2 $2 18. Bxh6 $1 {and it's all over.} Nc5 19. Bxg7 Nxd3+ 20. Kg3 fxg6 21. Ng5 {Mate is just around the corner.} 1-0

Thus did the youngest ever Grandmaster that the United States has produced arrive on the world stage. His consistency and his mature style hold extraordinary promise for the future. A strong sign that the pace of Sevian’s development will be maintained is word from his father Armen (also a strong player)  that Samuel will play more chess in Europe where the competition is stronger.

Ratings progress of Samuel Sevian

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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Moskva Knight Moskva Knight 12/21/2014 03:01

The boy lucky and good. He gets 3 white in first 4 round. So matter closed in first 4 round itself. These CCSCSL tournament organizers like him. In earlier tournament by same organizer again gets White in first round, and 5 whites in 9 round. Same in round robin tournament before. Never double blacks. He part of Kasparov Foundation and Ccscsl training and tourney sponsorship. 4 boys in US. They receive special training for 4 years with Kasparov coaching team. Lucky for them. Will have to see if Russians, Chinese, Iranins and Indians can compete. I think sevian samuel, kayden trof, jeff xiong, awonder leang. Why US team not even there in U16 Olympid champinshp in Hungary.
santie54321 santie54321 12/19/2014 06:02
LOL the video of the speed game is awesome .. think the kid needs more caffeine/sugar? yup.
johan1234 johan1234 12/18/2014 06:15
here is a CDC link about childhood obesity
Of course compared to you Gambiter1, all CDC doctors are half wits and idiots and so we should take your advice and ignore the obesity epidemic in our children and insult people who advocate healthy eating and regular exercise.
johan1234 johan1234 12/18/2014 03:26
I am not attacking the boy. I am attacking his obesity and because of his obesity, he will unfortunately be at higher risk for the trio of diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia as well as all the serious health consequences that come from that trio. An hour of daily exercise and healthier eating habits will improve both his health and his chess.
@Gambiter, all you care about is chess. That makes you one dimensional and boring. This is a chess news discussion area. I will continue to post and you can....well, actually, there is nothing you can do about it.
Gambiter1 Gambiter1 12/18/2014 01:31
to johan1234 You are indeed a half wit to say the least. Why are you here what is your beef with this boy making your idiotic comments on a chess site . Go back to your neanderthal body builders blogs and have your fun there. You are not worthy of an iota of this boys mind. Do you get it
johan1234 johan1234 12/18/2014 12:42
please enjoy your diabetes and your Lipitor. Only a half wit would put calculating variations and winning chess tournaments above physical fitness. When I see the world champion, that's someone that I admire. When I see Sam Sevian, I ask what are his parents doing? Don't they ever take him biking or skiing or swimming? If he looks like this at age 13, how will he look when he is 18?
Gambiter1 Gambiter1 12/17/2014 08:17
I knew Sam back when he was in Cali, a very nice mannered young man and not overweight at all if it all matters to some half-wits here. Sam's rating trajectory was the source of envy and awe to all aspiring kids in the Bay area. Everyone here, kid or adult wanted to have a shot at Sam either in simuls or in the tournament games but to little avail. He definitely energized the chess scene here and now, I think in America. Wen you face Sam in the game it's like facing a monster, his gaze combined with his killer moves. In the post-mortem the boy would just go on, and on, and on with lines and variations with lightning speed, simply mindboggling to see how much he sees at the board. We are all happy for Sam, our next American Hope
oscarsan-c oscarsan-c 12/17/2014 07:31
Johan1234. The fact that you started pointing that he is overweight, also stating that has to be more to his life than sitting behind a computer or chessboard is more likely attacking the young grandmaster, and then your wishing him good luck?! in regards of chess thats a bad move. By the way i dont see him overweighted at all, Hikaru Nakamura seems the same weight and his part of the top 10 list. Even you burn fat as crazy at these important chess events some extra carbs will not affect the boy, also his outstanding performance tells me that he has an active life.
johan1234 johan1234 12/17/2014 05:32
as I said, the young man is overweight. I don't need to personally know him to see that very obvious fact. On the contrary to what you say, we can definitely judge by his appearance that he is not getting adequate physical exercise. I wish him the best and I don't want him -at age 13- to have hyperlipidemia or hyperglycemia or all the serious consequences that come with obesity. Your personal attack on me is completely irrelevant. I have two children, neither of whom is a grandmaster nor has any interest in chess, but I can guarantee you that they are both quite physically fit because I make sure there is a balance between their physical and mental activities.
anairo anairo 12/17/2014 02:51
to johan1234: I hope that u know him personally to make this kind of statement. Is just completely arbitrary to assume that he doesn't do any other sport and that's the reason of his appearance. If we have to judge by appearance there is absolutely lots more chances that u be a completely looser patzer that can't stand the extraordinary success of this young boy and the very plausible fact that u will taste not even a small sip of it.
hpaul hpaul 12/17/2014 02:43
"vdpandit", you're not being fair to the author when you accuse him of playing verbal "tricks." There's nothing misleading in saying that "Sevian became the world's youngest Grandmaster." That's what he is. It's of some interest to hear from time to time who is the youngest GM. Next year it's likely to be someone else. The author doesn't claim that Sevian is the youngest GM in history, and I don't think most readers will misunderstand him.

By the way, what a peculiar y-axis on the FIDE rating progress chart. It's marked in intervals of 55 points (!) up to 2285, then one interval of 56 points, before resuming 55 point intervals. I'd like to see the program (and the programmer) that came up with that.
johan1234 johan1234 12/17/2014 09:20
The young man is overweight. There has to be more to his life than sitting behind a computer or chess board. I hope he will take up some type of exercise regimen. Best of luck to him.
vdpandit vdpandit 12/17/2014 09:03
Samuel Sevian is certainly not the youngest in the world to become GM. He is the 6th youngest. The following five players became GM at younger age than Sevian: Sergey Karjakin (UKR)- the youngest, Parimarjan Negi (IND), Magnus Carlsen (NOR), Wei Yi (CHN) and Bu Xiangzhi (CHN). But here there is a catch. The reporter will maintain that as on date Sevian is the youngest in age because others are now grown up since the day they became GM. But such tricks should not be played as they mislead the chess lovers.
cheat3 cheat3 12/17/2014 06:32
Looks like my live rating graph...