The Stan Vaughan Nevada Problem finally reaches the International Level

It had to happen sooner of later and now finally it did. Some kid with a vastly inflated Stan Vaughan rating got into a national or international event, thereby depriving some other kid who had worked hard of a chance to play.
Nicole Niemi competing in the World Youth Championships in Marina d'Or, Spain

Everybody who noticed that one of Stan Vaughan's students was being sent by the United States Chess Federation to the World Youth Championships in Spain on October 25 - November 7 realized a probable disaster in the making. Stan Vaughan, who claims to be a grandmaster, even though, according to those who have played him, he is not even master strength, uses illegal methods to pump up the USCF ratings of his students. He then advertises for more students by claiming that many of his students are top rated US players in their respective age groups.

As long as this problem is confined to Stan Vaughan's tiny Las Vegas group, there would seem to be no major problem. But what if some Stan Vaughan kid pushes out some other kid with a legitimate USCF rating?

America's leading scholastic chess coach, Sunil Weeramantry, wrote a letter more than two years ago in January 1996 asking that a qualifying event be held before sending US representatives abroad to scholastic chess events. Inexplicably, the corrupt and incompetent USCF delegates and policy board rejected Weeramantry's proposal at the Alexandria delegates meeting, the same meeting where Don Schultz was elected USCF president.

In his letter, Weeramantry pointed out that 7 year old Candice Lonardo - USCF ID #21000636, had achieved a rating of 1552 almost entirely by losing games to Stan Vaughan. Her last 10 USCF rated games had been against Stan Vaughan, who was rated 2265. The key is that when playing with a provisional rating, the loser gets a performance rating of 400 points less than the opponent. Thus, every time Candice Lonardo lost to Stan Vaughan, she was given a performance rating of 1865 for that one game. As a result of losing 12 games in a row, 11 to Stan Vaughan and one to Gergory Niemi (2065), the rating of Candice Lonardo had risen from 926 to 1552, making her the highest rated 7-year-old in the United States, all without winning or drawing a single game.

As Weeramantry's letter pointed out, this does not only cheat the kids who earned their ratings by legitimate means, and the coaches who trained those kids. It also hurts the player by preventing her from acquiring an accurate rating and obtaining a true reflection of her playing strength.

Candice Lonardo stopped playing chess not long thereafter and is no longer in the rating lists. However, the scholastic top rating lists have continued to contain a disproportionate number of Stan Vaughan students.

Thus, when it developed that Nicole Niemi of Las Vegas, a member of the Stan Vaughan organization, was being sent as the official US representative to the World Youth Championships in Marina d'Or, Spain, I and no doubt others were concerned. I decided to remain quiet and not say anything about this, so as not to put undue and unfair pressure on an 11-year-old girl.

Unfortunately, our fears have been realized. Nicole Niemi bombed out, finishing nearly dead last with a score of 2-9, winning no games but drawing four. Out of 82 players she finished tied for 80th. At least she knew the legal moves of chess. However, one observer in Spain said, "All I can say is the kid tried hard. Beyond that, I will not comment."

There are 30,000 children in America competing in scholastic chess programs. Many of them are trying and working fantastically hard to improve their chess. Many established masters and grandmasters are earning a living by teaching these children to play. Therefore, it is monstrously unfair for one child to get a chance to compete for the world championship because the adults involved cheated to get her in.

Although 2154 games from the event in Spain were preserved for posterity and the organizers made an effort to save every game, only one game by Nicole Niemi was saved. Thus, we must try to judge her chess strength from that one game. Her opponent was the representative of Slovenia. Here it is:

It can be seen that Nicole Niemi gave up material freely, lost a rook to an obvious bishop fork and then fell into a simple mate. It is true that she probably plays chess better than the average 11 year old girl, but it is important to remember that the US was allowed only one representative and, because Nicole Niemi got in, some other little girl who was probably far stronger at chess and who had worked hard at her game was deprived of a chance to play.

The results (unfortunately not complete) of the World Youth Championships in Spain are available at

The games can be downloaded at

Sam Sloan

[Event "World Championship under-12 girls"]
[Site "Marina d'Or Spain"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Niemi, Nicole"]
[Black "Ahmatovic, M."]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D02"]
[PlyCount "72"]
[Date "1998.10.27"]

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. e3 a6 4. c3 Nf6 5. Bd3 g6 6. Nbd2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8. e4
dxe4 9. Nxe4 Bg4 10. Nxf6+ Bxf6 11. Bh6 Re8 12. h3 Be6 13. Qe2 Bd5 14. Bc4 e5
15. Bxd5 Qxd5 16. c4 Nxd4 17. cxd5 Nxe2+ 18. Kh2 e4 19. Nd2 g5 20. Rfe1 Nd4 21.
Nxe4 Be5+ 22. f4 Bxf4+ 23. Kg1 Be5 24. Rf1 Nc2 25. Rac1 Bd4+ 26. Kh1 Rxe4 27.
Rxc2 c6 28. dxc6 bxc6 29. Rxc6 f6 30. Rc7 Rae8 31. Rg7+ Kh8 32. Rc1 Bxb2 33.
Rcc7 Re1+ 34. Kh2 Be5+ 35. g3 Bxc7 36. Rxc7 R8e2# 0-1
The letter by Sunil Weeramantry is available at

Note: In 1997, Ljupco Steriev qualified for the US junior Closed solely on the basis of rating. He finished 0-9. As white, he managed to lose a Rook AND Queen within 15 moves in one game. After the tournament, the USCF adjusted Steriev's rating downward from nearly 2400 to 1380, because the 2400 rating he had "earned" was obviously quite unrepresentative of his true ability.

Rating History for

                                 LJUPCO STERIEV
                     USCF ID: 12649546   Expires: 30 Apr 1998   State: ILLINOIS 

                            Source          Regular Rtg    Quick Rtg
                        -----------------   -----------   -----------
                         12-97 Supplement     1380                 
                         10-97 Supplement     1380                 
                         08-97 Supplement     2260                 
                         06-97 Supplement     2399                 
                         04-97 Supplement     2397                 
                         02-97 Supplement     2384                 
                         12-96 Supplement     1794                 
                         10-96 Supplement     1337                 
                         08-96 Supplement     1310 p 18            
                         12-95 Supplement     1087 p 13            
                         10-95 Supplement     1010 p 11            
                         06-95 Supplement      877 p 07            

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