2016 Lexington High School graduate and FIDE Master Mika Brattain has accomplished quite a bit in his scholastic career. He has had at least a share of first in a whopping eight Spiegel Cup finals, earning titles in the 8 and Under (2006-2007), 11 and Under (2009), 14 and Under (2012) and HS (every year from 2013-2016) categories. He has graced the cover of Chess Horizons twice as of this issue’s writing, first following his championship finish in 8th-grade Nationals, and second following his spectacular clear first at the Mass Open in 2014. He would add another state title to his name this year, shared with IM David Vigorito and NM Chris Williams. As he heads off to college, I decided I would catch up with the young master.
Nathan Smolensky: When did you first learn to play chess? Who taught you?
Mika Brattain: My dad and I learned to play chess together, from a book we checked out at the library when I was six.
NS: What was your first tournament? Do you remember how you did?
MB: My first tournament was a local “Burger King” tournament. I scored 3.5/4 and got second on tiebreaks. For some reason the tournament was never rated.
NS: What do you like most about chess?
MB: To me, chess is a pure form of competition. It is simply a battle between two minds programmed to defeat one another, and the player that has the stronger mind wins. All other factors such as age, stature, or class are out the window; chess is completely fair and success hinges only on the merit you bring to the board.
NS: Do you have a favorite game that you’ve played?
MB: My favorite game has to be my victory against Alexander Ivanov at the 2014 Massachusetts Open (score below). Not only did winning this game feel like a breakthrough itself, but it also set the stage for me to win the MA Open for the first time, which was definitely a breakthrough tournament.
NS: Have you ever taught anyone the game of chess?
MB: I teach chess to a few kids around Lexington. Even though their parents make them do it, I think they still have fun.
NS: You’re graduating high school. What’s next?
MB: Next is college; I will be begin studying Engineering at The Ohio State University this fall.
NS: Do you plan to continue playing chess? If so, do you have any particular goals in mind?
MB: I will definitely continue to play chess. The chess scene in Ohio is pretty active, and I have just recently played in a very strong tournament (2016 Columbus Open) that actually took place on the Ohio State campus. I also hope to win Denker this year, and eventually I will probably try to finish earning the IM title.
GM Alexander Ivanov 2586
Mika Brattain 2415
83rd Mass Open (4)
05.25.2014 Caro-Kann [B12]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O Bg6 7. c3 Nh6 8. Bf4 Nf5 9. Nbd2 Be7 10. h3 O-O 11. Nb3 Rc8 12. Qd2 Nh4 13. Nxh4 Bxh4 14. Be3 Be7 15. f4 Nb6 16. Na5 Qc7 17. b4 Be4 18. Bd3 Bxd3 19. Qxd3 f5 20. exf6 Rxf6 21. Rae1 Nd7 22. f5 Qg3 23. Qd2 Bd6 24. Bf4 Bxf4 25. Qxf4 Qxc3 26. Qd6 Nf8 27. fxe6 Nxe6 28. Rxf6 Qxe1+ 29. Rf1 Qe3+ 30. Kh1 Nxd4 31. Nxb7 Re8 32. Nc5 Ne2 33. Kh2 Qe5+ 34. Qxe5 Rxe5 35. Rf3 Nd4 36. Ra3 Re7 37. Rd3 Ne6 38. Nb3 Kf8 39. Na5 Rc7 40. a4 a6 41. Rc3 Ke7 42. Rxc6 Rxc6 43. Nxc6+ Kd6 44. Nb8 Nc7 45. Kg3 d4 46. Kf2 Kd5 47. Ke2 Kc4 48. Nc6 Nd5 49. b5 axb5 50. axb5 Nc3+ 51. Kd2 Nxb5 52. Ne5+ Kd5 53. Nf3 Nc7 54. Ne1 Ke4 55. Nd3 Ne6 56. Nf2+ Kf4 57. Nh1 Nc5 58. Ke2 Ne4 59. Kd3 Ke5 60. Kc4 h6 61. g4 g5 62. Kd3 Kd5 63. Ke2 Kc4 64. Ke1 Kc3