Archive for the ‘Salman Azhar’ Category

Chess Chat: Q&A with Aamir Ali Azhar, Data Engineer

April 7, 2019

Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with my friend and former student, Aamir Azhar. I first met an elementary school aged Aamir at my Saturday chess class in Milpitas during the Summer of 2003. Since then I have had the pleasure of watching Aamir mature into a strong chess player and an impressive young man. A recent Duke graduate, Aamir is now a data engineer at Capital One. As you will see from our conversation below, Aamir sports a wisdom beyond his years and will no doubt have many more successes in the near future.

How old were you when you first learned how to play chess? Who taught you?

I was 6 when I learned to play chess (which is considered late in the competitive scholastic chess world). My cousin taught me one evening during a family dinner party. I picked up the rules fairly quickly and started playing more. In addition, my dad used to play quite a bit of chess in his teens, so we started playing together too (after his 20 year hiatus).

How has chess effected your decision making process off the board?

Chess has taught me how to become a meticulous critical thinker, always looking into the future and observing how things unfold several steps ahead. It’s a gift and a curse.

How did your earlier career choices lead you to where you are now?

I took an interest in computer science fairly early in my childhood because both my parents were computer science majors. I pursued it further career-wise, though I was always interested in the arts and humanities since I was a kid. I’ve been writing since I was young, and I continue to write on the side during my engineering day job, hoping to turn it into something bigger down the line.

The Azhar family.

How would you define your chess style?

When I was a kid, playing competitively, I was the overly analytical type. I would examine every possible viable move several moves in advance and spend lots of time trying to find the ideal move. I relied on my intuition heavily to tell me if a move looked good or probable, but I would also deeply analyze and quadruple check the move to make sure it was the best one.

I’m still largely like that, though I’ve grown less patient over time. Now I only double or triple check, and I tend to take a leap of faith with my intuition more frequently when moving.

Does your chess style transfer over into your business decisions as well?

I would say so. Again, I think through each decision several steps into the future, though at the end of the day my intuition makes the final decision.

What has been your worst chess mistake which has given you the biggest lesson?

I think my worst mistake happened when I was competing for the 3rd grade California chess championship. I had an upset against someone 300 rating points above me which led me to the championship match, where I faced the only other person with a perfect score in the last round. During that game, I was winning, and had a clear path to victory, but crippled by a combination of greed and fear, I offered a draw. That draw led me to tie for 1st place in the championship. We played a tiebreaker game and he got to take home the 1st place trophy.

I had a similar experience in 6th grade when I was competing for the California grades 4-6 championship. I was the only one with a perfect score, and going into the last round, I was facing someone with half a point less than me. I played the whole game looking for a draw (as a draw would give me first place). However, this led to me playing too passively that game — My opponent didn’t accept my constant draw requests, played for the win, and I and lost the championship in an upset.

The lesson here is fairly obvious. Play the game, and play to win. All the glitz and glamour are nothing but distractions.

What has been your worst career mistake that has given you the biggest lesson?

I’m still fairly young, so I can’t say I have many horrible career mistakes. However, I do remember after my SWE internship at Google, I was so sure I was to return to Google that I didn’t look into other internship opportunities. I wanted something different, but was too lazy to interview for other companies, so I listed 3-4 teams at Google I wanted to get on for the next summer. I got positive internship feedback, but unfortunately, none of those teams reached out to me.

Since I didn’t want to do the same SWE work I did the last summer at Google, I had to find an internship last minute. I was both picky and didn’t plan correctly. Luckily, I found a good internship, but it taught me a valuable lesson to not get cocky or entitled, and to always plan for different possibilities.

Do you think chess has helped you to become more resilient in life?

Yes, definitely. Being in that competitive of an environment that early on in my life taught me a lot of lessons, and made me into a tougher, more determined person overall. Though it did come with its fair share of insecurities and stress.

What do you hope to achieve professionally during the next couple of years?

I generally am looking for an impactful, interesting way to apply my CS background to answer big questions about society. I hope to further explore tech and data, learn as much as I can, and build up a writing career on the side as well. My dream is to either become a writer or an engineer-journalist (like a writer/reporter who uses in-depth data analytics for their stories). If none of that works, I’ll go back to grad school in the social sciences (like economics). I’m sure I can utilize my CS/data background there as well.

Amir with his father Salman Azhar.

What is the biggest challenge to achieving that goal?

The biggest challenge is really just figuring out where to start, and how to make a plan moving forward. My interests are still a bit abstract, and the path I’m looking to go down isn’t particularly clear or easy. It’s also a matter of meeting the right people and finding the right opportunities.

How would you relate these goals and challenges to the chessboard?

It’s more often that chess teaches me lessons about life, but occasionally life teaches me about chess. For example, right now, I’m giving myself some time and space to explore my interests and experiment with my career. That kind of mentality applies to chess too. Let yourself experiment, let yourself have fun. Don’t rush in trying to figure out all the big questions. My chess style nowadays reflects that. I play a lot more loosely, and I’m more willing to take risks. Not everything has to have a 20-step plan behind it.

Could you please leave us with a favorite piece of chess wisdom to conclude this interview?

My favorite quote, which rings true to me (and is apparent in my previous answers), is by Capablanca.

“You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.” – José Raúl Capablanca

The vast majority of my memories and lessons in playing competitive chess are heartbreaking losses. Very few are wins. I’ll say, and this applies to chess as well as life, embrace the losses. Play your best, try hard, plan appropriately, but accept that at the end of the day, we don’t know what will happen.

Don’t try to plan every single thing out and then get disappointed when they don’t unwind the way you want them to. Embrace the unknown, and when we experience loss, embrace it, learn from it, and even be grateful for it. At the end of the day, experiences will teach us more than thinking and planning ever will. So experience!

Calchess Super States

April 26, 2014

The Calchess Super States is an enormous event that can be confusing for veteran chess parents and downright overwhelming for the newbies. Below is what you need to know to survive the weekend. As the event progresses, return to this blog for unique analysis and articles about the 2014 Calchess Super State Championships.


The Calchess Super States is an enormous event!

The Calchess Super States is an enormous event!


First check and make sure your child is listed here:


Second read this: “Information directly from Judit Sztaray


Third: Be sure to take advantage of free game analysis by TCAMA coaches on site at the 2014 Calchess Super States. For more information on our coaches please visit


Be sure to take advantage of free game analysis by TCAMA coaches.

Be sure to take advantage of free game analysis by TCAMA coaches.



Information directly from Judit Sztaray


The event will take place in Santa Clara Convention Center.

The address is:  5001 Great America Pkwy, Santa Clara, CA 95054. You can park for free in the parking lot located right next to the building. Enter the parking lot from Great America, right after the Hotel Hyatt. I suggest you park on the top of the deck, where there is a direct walkway to the 2nd floor of the Center (where the team rooms are located.)
When you enter the building from the parking deck, you’ll find first the team rooms, and take the escalator down, to get to the 3 main Halls (2 game rooms and the parent’s room.)

If you enter the building from the main entrance, the tournament rooms and registration desk is just ahead, to the right from the entrance.


What to do when we get there?

The first thing you should do is to check your child(ren)’s registration. There will be a sign on the wall saying Check Registration here. No need to go to registration desk prior checking your child(ren)’s name on the posted list.

If you have pre-registered, your name should be on this list. Please check for name, grade and school/team information.

If everything is correct, you are good to go and get ready for the first round.

Should any of the information be incorrect, then, and only then, please see the Registration desk.

Also, if you see any $ sign next to your name, please see Registration desk, because that indicates that you have not made all necessary payments.


If you have NOT pre-registered, please see the Registration desk for on-site registration. Please note the followings:

On-site registrations will be allowed, however, on-site registered player is NOT guaranteed a game in Round 1, and will be defaulted be given a zero point bye for the first round.


Please, remember your section, with the time control, you’ll have an easy time to locate your room with that information.

If you forgot your section, you can always look it up in the Master Alphabetical List.


Tournament rooms:

The tournaments will take place in 3 different rooms. The sections are assigned to rooms based on their TIME CONTROL:


All sections under 800 – both Saturday and Sunday – with G/30 d5 time control will be held in Hall A3. The round times for these sections are: 10am, 12pm, 1:30pm, 3pm, and 4:30pm.


All two-day sections above 800+ with G/75 d5 time control will be held in Hall A2. The round times for these sections are: Saturday 9am, 12pm, 3pm, and Sunday 9am, 12pm, and 3pm.


Gr 7-12 Championship section (1600+) with G/90+30 time control will be held in Great America 3. Round times for this section are: Saturday 9am, 1:30pm, 6pm, and Sunday 9:30am, and 2pm.




Parents’ room is Hall A1, where we have many chairs and tables set up for your convenience. There are bathrooms and concession stand is located in this room. The trophy ceremonies will also take place in this room in the far right corner around the podium.



Team rooms are located in the second floor just left to the escalators. Room numbers 202-207.



Pairings will be posted both inside, and outside of the Tournament rooms, and also there will be a copy posted in the parent’s room as well.

If you have any trouble understanding the pairing sheet, please, see a BayAreaChess Volunteer and ask them to explain.

Every board will need to fill out a Result Slip of their game. Please, explain this to your child so that they come prepared. These rules will be also explained by the TDs inside the tournament rooms, before the rounds.



Trophies, Medals and Ceremonies

Trophy ceremony will be held on Saturday at 6pm for the Saturday 1-day sections, Sunday at 6pm for the Sunday 1-day sections and Sunday at 6:30pm for the 2-day sections. Everyone is entitled to get a medal for their participation, so please, even if you do not get a trophy, make sure you pick up your medal J next to the trophy table. A parent volunteer will be able to help you.



No outside food is allowed in the Convention Center. I know from personal experience as a parent, it is very hard to follow this rule, however, we must ask you to try your best so that we can continue to use this location in the future.

We have contracted two food vendors: Peet’s coffee cart and Concession Stand in Hall A1. Peet’s Cart will be open from 8:30am to 12:30pm and the Concession Stand will be open from 11am to 3pm, both days. I have told them to be prepared and expect a lunch rush of pizzas and kids’ friendly menu items around 11am, just after the 1st round before the 2nd round.


If you registered before March 15th and selected the free T-shirt, or if you have purchased a T-shirt online, please pick up yours at the T-shirt stand located opposite to Hall A-3 in the corner, next to the entrance of the building. Our volunteers, Becky and Leigh, will be waiting for you there.

You can also purchase T-shirts there for $20.


Need help? Have questions?

General rule: if you have any questions or need help, please find anybody wearing either a name-tag, or a Director BayAreaChess T-shirt. They will be able to direct you to the best person answer your questions.

Anything tournament/game related questions, the computer TDs and the Chief TD, Tom Langland, will be answering.

Anything payment, technical, event or site-related, the BayAreaChess staff and volunteers will be able to help you.



If you have any questions before, during or after the tournament, email us to:

You can also reach Judit on 919-265-7560 if you need immediate assistance.



For the Players:

  1. Consult the pairings chart to find out color, opponent, and board number for your game. The posted pairing chart will look something like the one on the right.
Player Color Opponent Board
Azhar, Aamir White vs. Langland, Jorda (999) on board 1
Azhar, Arman Black vs. Langland, Steel (900) on board 2
Langland, Jorda Black vs. Azhar, Aamir (1500) on board 1
Langland, Steel White vs. Azhar, Arman (400) on board 2


  1. Look for your name in the first column. This row with your name tells you the color of your pieces, your opponent’s name, and the board number.
  2. In the example, one player is directed to “See TD” because the section has an odd number of players. If you see this next to your name, please wait next to the computer TD area.
  3. As you enter the player area, please locate your board by the assigned board number.
  4. Once you locate your board, double check your opponent’s name and assigned color of pieces!
  5. Please be in your seat ready to go, at least 10 minutes before the round starts (example: you should be at your board by 8:50am for the 9am round each morning!)
  6. Directors and volunteers will ask all adults to leave the playing room before games begin in every round.
  7. Please comply promptly and efficiently.
  8. Inform your child (player) where you will meet him or her when s/he completes the game.
  9. If you are taking care of a Kindergartner, please remain near, but outside the playing area. We will only allow Kindergartners to leave if there is an adult present to receive him/her.
  10. Non-players in the playing hall must observe pin-drop silence. The slightest noise will prompt removal.
  11. Players, when you are done with your game:
  12. Report your result to the TD and reset the board.
  13. Go to the Scorers’ table and report your result there as well.
  14. Players may only use restrooms in the lobby during their games and non-players are not allowed there. Please go to the restroom a few minutes before every round.
  15. If you need to miss a round, please let the TD know ASAP so you are not dropped.
  16. If you need help at any time, please stop by at the Information Desk. They will attempt to resolve all issues.


Don't forget to sign up for the Fremont Summer Chess Camp at Mission San Jose Elementary School which will feature instruction from GM Susan Polgar.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Fremont Summer Chess Camp at Mission San Jose Elementary School which will feature instruction from GM Susan Polgar!



Calchess Scholastic Super State Championship: Preview 2

March 31, 2014

Throughout its 39 year history, there have been many great leaders who organized the Calchess Scholastic State Championships. Each of them has led with unique talents and in different circumstances. Tonight I present to you my brief interview with one of the best chess promoters in the history of California chess, Salman Azhar.

One of the best chess promoters in the history of California chess, Salman Azhar.

One of the best chess promoters in the history of California chess, Salman Azhar.


(For ease of reading, Salman’s answers to my questions are in bold)

When did you first learn how to move the chess pieces?
I first learned to move the pieces when I was four. My father and brother taught me how to play chess.
Why did you decide to get your boys involved in chess?
My oldest son started to learn chess Weibel and at a class taught by you. He was inspired by you and his other teachers and joined Weibel Chess team and went on to win many state championships for himself and help Weibel keep its winning streak alive in 2004.

Congratulations on Aamir(Salman’s oldest son) being recently accepted to Duke, Berkeley, and other schools. Do you feel chess has helped him in his scholastic career?

Chess has definitely helped him develop his analytic skills and logical thinking. He lost interest in competitive chess some time ago because he was targeted by some parents and coaches due to local chess politics.
Who first convinced you to start organizing tournaments?
Dr. Alan Kirshner hand picked me to run tournaments and was instrumental in my success. I owe much of what I have learned about organizing tournaments to Dr. Kirshner.
Why do you think Alan chose you?
I believe he said I was a, “combination of someone who is thorough and also who can interact with the people in a professional way.” I am honored to be his protege. 
A happy Alan Kirshner standing with Salman Azhar at the 36th Calchess Scholastic State Championship.

A happy Alan Kirshner standing with Salman Azhar at the 36th Calchess Scholastic State Championship.

This will be your seventh consecutive year organizing the Calchess Scholastic State Championships . What have you learned from running this tournament?
<smiling> As Richard Shorman said, “You will know the true nature of people.” I have learned a lot about human psychology and behavior and also developed the courage to do the right thing regardless of personal gain, external threats, financial temptations, and other things that cause many good people to lose your integrity.
Your name has become synonymous with quality tournaments. How has that changed your life?
There are many excellent organizers all over the world and I have a lot to learn. However, I do enjoy people coming up to me in restaurants, grocery stores, business meetings, and other places to express their appreciations. It helps me sleep better at night that I have given something back to the community that has given me so much.
One of your detractors was an individual who used to be your mentor and most vocal supporter. Why do you think that is?
I cannot speculate on someone else’s intentions but I have a lot of respect for him and have learned from him. I hope some day we overcome local adult politics and realize that scholastic chess is about children.
What is your advice to parents who have children who are currently attending Weibel Elementary School?
I don’t like to advise people who don’t ask for advice but I have always welcomed Weibel players and their parents at my tournaments. They should rise above the local chess politics and do what is best for their child(ren).
Why have you decided to rename the Calchess Scholastic State Championships the Calchess Super States?
This is patterned after National Super States indicating that it is a championship sections encompassing all grade levels. Many other states have separate elementary, junior high, and high school champions or Super States where all sections are in the same tournament.
Why do you think that you have become the most popular tournament organizer in the history of California chess?
You are a great danger to my desire to be humble, aren’t you? I see many shortcomings in every tournament I run and perhaps recognize them with humility so that I can improve the next time. This pholosophy has made me get better.
I am honored to be respected by this community and feel that honor is largely due to heeding Dr. Richard Feynman’s advise: “So I have just one wish for you – the good luck to be somewhere where you are free to maintain the kind of integrity I have described, and where you do not feel forced by a need to maintain your position in the organization, or financial support, or so on, to lose your integrity. May you have that freedom.”

What is the funniest moment you have ever experienced while running a chess tournament?

Most of them center around children trying to get out of touch move rule but the funniest was a child whose excuse was that he accidentally picked up the King to dig his nose.
What advice would you give to someone who plans on running their first large chess tournament?
Run small tournaments first and have a person who has run large tournaments watch your back when you run your first one. That his how my mentor and friend, Dr. Alan Kirshner, taught me.
You are also heavily involved in the High-tech industry? How do you think technology will change scholastic chess tournaments? What will a chess tournament look like in 20 years?
Yes, I am. I think computer analysis has already influenced the development of players. I think it is changing interactive teaching as well. Coaches like you are using iPads in their class. All this will help players get stronger much faster. However, I am concerned about taking the fun out of the experience of learning. 
I also think we will also see more online play but nothing can replace the social aspect of coming together physically for a tournament or a class.
For more information on this years tournament, please refer to “Calchess Scholastic Super State Championship: Preview 1.”


Calchess Scholastic Super State Championship: Preview 1

March 26, 2014
Salman Azhar returns to organize the Calchess Scholastic State Championship for a, record setting, seventh straight year!

Salman Azhar returns to organize the Calchess Scholastic State Championship for a record setting seventh straight year!

Without a doubt, the best scholastic chess tournament in Northern California for the past six years has been the Calchess Scholastic State Championship. Every Spring, nearly one thousand school aged chess players compete in a single weekend of matches to determine who the best chess players and school chess teams are in Northern California. In its 2014 incarnation, Salman Azhar ( returns to organize the event for a record setting seventh straight year. For 2014, he has even added a club section for children who participate regular chess groups but do not have a school team to call their own. With the addition of the club section, Salman Azhar believes that this year’s event may be the biggest yet and definitely deserves to be known as the “Calchess Scholastic Super State Championship.”

This year’s tournament has some changes in schedule and structure that I would be remiss if I did not mention. The most apparent change is that the Calchess Junior High State Championships will take place two weeks before the main event in order to allow for Middle School Aged Students to attend the National Junior High School Chess Championships. Another development to be aware of is that all championship sections, excluding kindergarten, will play a two day event in order to allow the higher rated chess players more time to play better chess. However, players of all ages who have lower ratings will only be required to show up for one day of competition. This makes sense because less experienced players tend to play faster and have less time to devote to chess.

This year's k-6 section will be named the "Lonsdale Championship" after the MSJE head coach, Joe Lonsdale.

This year’s k-6 section will be named the “Lonsdale Championship” after the MSJE head coach, Joe Lonsdale.

The Torres Chess and Music Academy will once again be encouraging all of it’s students to participate in this event. For decades, Mission San Jose Elementary School (a Torres Chess and Music Academy program) has been the most dominant school at the State Championship and this year’s k-6 section will be named the “Lonsdale Championship” after the MSJE head coach, Joe Lonsdale.  For more on Joe Lonsdale and Mission San Jose Elementary School’s successes please visit or search past articles on this blog.

Below is the official schedule for the 2014 Calchess Scholastic State Championships. If your child is lucky enough to be a student at a Torres Chess and Music Academy program you can just download the correct application from this page and submit it to your child’s chess coach. I will personally make sure that your child is placed into the correct sections. If you are not affiliated with TCAMA you should visit and apply online.

The 2014 Calchess Super State Championship Schedule is as follows:

For players in grades 6-8 with ratings under 1200:

Sunday April 13 at Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport

For players in grades 6-8 with ratings at or above 1200:

Saturday April 12 and Sunday April 13 at Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport

download application


For players with rating under 800 and Kindergarten:

Sat April 26 for grades 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center

Sun April 27 for Kindergarten at the Santa Clara Convention Center

Sun April 27 Grades 4-6 at the Santa Clara Convention Center

Sun April 27 Grades 9-12 at the Santa Clara Convention Center


download application


For players with ratings at or above 800 excluding Kindergarten and Middle School:

April 26-27 at the Santa Clara Convention Center


download application



For more information on this tournament, please visit


To find out more about the Torres Chess and Music Academy, please visit






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