Waimea resident is Hawaii chess player of the year


The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix series about a young chess prodigy, Beth Harmon. It parallels the real-life story of American prodigy Bobby Fischer, who fought the great Soviet chess machine almost on his own in the 1960s before winning the World Championship in 1972. The seven-part miniseries is one of the most popular in history. of Netflix, and topped the Nielsen rankings in the past three weeks. Serious chess players the world over are applauding how well he captures the drama of real tournaments and how the manners and movements so accurately describe real grandmasters.

During the pandemic, online chess saw a huge increase in popularity. Hawai’i fielded three teams that competed internationally: an Oahu adult team, an Oahu K-12 school team and a Garden Island team. Fans of Kaua’i chess will be happy to hear that a member of the Kauai team has just been recognized by the Hawaii Chess Federation as “Chess Player of the Year. Hawaii ‘for 2020. The Kauai team ranked well in the Online Chess Teams of the World 2020 Championships with a score of 4.5 out of 7. They only lost to Team A of the ‘University of Oxford and a team from Honolulu, who finished 5-2.

Kauai currently has five team members who play above the 1800 level at fast chess: Chad Badgett, Valor Mexia, Fernando Ramos, Likeke (Li) Aipa and this author. Ratings above 1800 mean each team member ranks above 95% of the members of the world’s largest chess site, Chess.com. For such a small island, it’s a remarkable collection of chess talent. Mexia is a high school student in Kauai. He has gone from board five to board one for the team in the past 6 months. Badgett is an entrepreneur, Ramos is a cook and Aipa is a new engineer at PMRF. As a team captain, I taught at Kauai High for seven years. But this story does not concern me, even though I won the Hawaii Blitz Championship (5 minutes) in September. It’s not even about 16-year-old Kauai prodigy Valor, who just won the Hawaii Rapid Championship (15 minutes) last weekend.

It’s not even Punahou’s 12-year-old student Mark Chen from Honolulu, who became the youngest state champion in Hawaii history in 2020, and who appears in Chess magazine. Life of October before Beth Harmon. This article is about the official “Hawaiian Chess Player of the Year”: Li Aipa from Waimea.

When I first met Likeke, he was only 16 and playing at the 2011 US Open in Orlando, Florida. We participated in a side event, the First National Championship for Chess960, which is like chess except that the first row pieces are shuffled before the game starts. I watched Li’s match with Grandmaster Larry Kaufmann. The other games were over, so a crowd gathered around the game. In a wild position, Li made a movement that made the spectators gasp, as it seemed impossible. GM Kaufmann watched the move in amazement for a minute or two, then quietly and gracefully resigned. The crowd erupted into applause. This moment had all the drama of a Beth Harmon victory in the Netflix series. I knew then that Li would one day become a grand chess master.

After high school, he took a long hiatus from chess tournaments to earn his mechanical engineering degree at UH, but has now joined the Hawaiian chess community, which is stronger than ever.

Li’s performance for the Kaua’i team was the highlight of the season. He played sixteen games for the team and won 15! With zero losses, he yielded only one draw to an opponent from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Most impressive were his powerful 2-0 victories over Oxford University’s top player and another 2-0 over a solid master in Dundee, Scotland. After each match, players reviewed and analyzed matches on Zoom. Li’s games have a special power and beauty. His deep ideas and forceful plans often draw his opponents into positions of dazzling complexity, fraught with danger on both sides. Then, his super-sharp tactical intuition finds the perfect sequence of movements, finishing the game quickly and brilliantly. Li had similar results for two other clubs in Hawaii that he plays for on chess.com.

Nash, Badgett, and Aipa also played for the Hawaii State Team in the 2020 US Cup. Once again, Aipa’s games were the ones that consistently garnered the most commentator attention. match on Twitch.TV channels. He averaged more than 2 of 4 points against master-level players from the Western United States, the best result for any team member. In the final round, Hawaii faced Washington State, which won the event. He played all of them and ended up with a positive score (2-1-1) against the national championship team.

After games, when asked how he did it, Li usually replied, “I just got lucky.” But despite his humble attitude, luck favors those who are well prepared for chess. His phenomenal 15-1-0 score very rarely happens in chess, despite the ease with which Beth Harmon made him appear on the television series. In fact, his result was the best overall score of all players in the 2020 World Chess Team Online Chess Championship tournament. He was chosen as the “Stage Player” by the event organizers afterwards. have finished stage 6 with 11 wins and 1 draw. So far, he’s 4-0 in the new season. As 2020 draws to a close, it’s clear that Li is the great warrior who carries the torch of chess in Hawaii, even among so many rising young stars.

Li enjoys his job at PMRF and lives in the small town of Waimea. The pace of life suits it well, with gentle traffic, abundant nature and wildlife, and traditional culture. He enjoys hiking and exploring and sharing his love for the game of chess. Currently he is helping Dan Abadilla plan and organize chess events for children in Kekaha. He is ready to do “simultaneous exposures”, once COVID calms down, where he will face many adversaries at once, for any school or community group in Kaua’i, just like Beth Harmon has. made in The Queen’s Gambit. The Kaua’i club will provide all the boards and parts. Li is also happy to coach anyone who wants to learn or improve their game of chess. He can be contacted at [email protected]

If you would like to find other chess players or a local club in Kauai, contact [email protected]

Competitive players from Kauai are invited to join the Kauai team on chess.com.


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