Photo Harvey Lerman
by Harvey Lerman and Peter Dyson
In many ways the 14th Space Coast Open (April 27-29 Orlando, Florida) was the best ever. Certainly the hotel, the Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront Resort, was first class. The projected first place prize of $1,200 helped lure GM Alex Stripunsky from NY and IM Nikolay Andrianov from Arizona to compete with some of Florida’s best players, including local favorite IM Javad Maharramzade, who is so far undefeated in USCF tournament play since arriving in the U.S. from Azerbaijan. In total,160 participants vied for a $9000 prize fund.
The chess tournament took up the entire first floor conference area of the hotel, spanning the TD’s board room, very large lecture hall and skittles room, and a combination book & equipment concession with free coffee and tea provided. The three lectures – by GM Stripunsky, IM Andrianov, and SM Daniel Ludwig (the top 16 year-old in the U.S.) – were well attended. Even participation in the Blitz, with 17 players, doubled from last year, as some players took full advantage of the packed schedule of festival activities.
However, in another way, this year’s event was bittersweet, marked by the absence of GM Alex Wojtkiewicz, who had played the last five consecutive years, winning first place every time except for 2005 when he tied for first, but lost out on tie-breaks to Florida’s GM Julio Becerra. Last year, late on Sunday evening after Wojo's victory in the 13th Space Coast Open, he was expressing his appreciation to one of the organizers for the tournament, one of his “favorites”. "Don't forget me," he had said, a sadly prophetic farewell comment. With Wojo’s untimely passing less than three months later, it seemed clear – the 14th Space Coast Open must somehow recognize Wojo and his part in the Space Coast Open. Hence the concept of running a memorial and fund raising event was born. The organizers donated one dollar for each paid entry and invited the players to donate additional monies as well. And donate they did, raising a total of $754. These funds will be sent to the Alexander Wojtkiewicz Memorial Fund established by Wojo’s friend and attorney, Elizabeth Karnazes, and will go directly to provide financial support to Wojo’s mother.
Aleksander Wojtkiewicz at the 2006 Space Coast Open
Reminiscing about Wojo in the festival brochure, festival Co-Chairman and local physician Dr. Peter Koretsky wrote “Aleks was a beloved fixture at our Space Coast Opens, adding his own unique brand of color and style to his domination of the tournament. A hard-drinking, chain-smoking Grandmaster, Aleks left us at the zenith of his career, having won his last half dozen US tournaments, including the World Open and the National Open. Despite his chronically disheveled appearance Aleks had an endearing and kind personality. His sheer chess strength was awesome, and he was only improving when he died…. Here at the Space Coast Open we will miss Aleks.”
Moving on to the chess, the Master/Expert section was headed by three titled players, GM Alexander Stripunsky, IM Javad Maharramzade, and IM Nikolay Andrianov. Also entering in this section was former winner (in 1998) Fabio La Rota and Florida's most recent Sr. Master Daniel Ludwig. Then as the first round was about to begin, the ever dangerous Andrew Boekhoff rushed into the Tournament Director's office to enter the event. These six players were expected to lead this 31 player section and the crowd was not disappointed.
In the first round Nikolay showed why the book says that Rook and Bishop will win against Rook even with just Kings, by demonstrating the technique against 12-year old Christopher Heung (2014) who was playing up and thought he was trading down to a drawn ending.
The leaders won their first two games and then started to be paired together. In round three Maharramzade found out just how tough Boekhoff (2350) was even against titled players as he found himself down in an endgame. But as top players are often able to do, Maharramzade also had a lesson to give; and down K and R vs. K and Q he was able to finally convince Boekhoff that the game could only be drawn. Stripunsky beat La Rota (2294) in that round as did Daniel Ludwig (2397) against his US Amateur Team teammate, Eric Rodriguez (2238).
In the fourth round Stripunsky was paired against Ludwig (both at 3-0) and it looked to most observers that Ludwig had the better game. But then came the endgame where these titled players shine, and Ludwig was outplayed, and Stripunsky stood alone at 4-0.
Boekhoff and Maharramzade stayed at his heels with wins, with Boekhoff beating Andrianov to take that IM out of a chance for the top spot.
The last round had Stripunsky (4) vs. Maharramzade (3½) and Boekhoff (3½) vs. Ludwig (3), so all had a chance for a piece of 1st place. But as typically happens in the last round, board one was drawn before everyone sat down; and it was left to board two to decide the final results. But as Ludwig later explained, "I wasn't looking for a draw, but after making a mistake in my first few moves, I had to accept his draw offer." So that ended any expectations of fireworks at this, the 14th Space Coast Open Chess Festival!
Those quick draws shifted the drama to Board 3, where La Rota and Charles Galofre (2188) had a chance to tie for second place with a decisive result, and they didn’t disappoint, with a hard fought game that drew a crowd. It appeared that Galofre had La Rota on the ropes, and La Rota’s position and clock were looking grim in an exciting and materially unbalanced position. But La Rota defended coolly and due to the magic of time delay, the game went past the 5-hour mark before the players agreed a draw, giving Galofre the top U2200, and La Rota a share of second U2400.
Charles Galofre, Andrew Boekhoff, John Salisburg and Fabio LaRota. Photo Harvey Lerman.
In Class A, Brevard student, Timothy Woodard finished 4½-½ to win first place prize and also the Franc Guadalupe Prize given annually at this event to the "best performing" scholastic player in the county. Woodard's performance was 2190, which was 274 points greater than his rating. In Class B, Robert Roszkowiak won with a 4½ score by beating Edward Yin in the last round.
Likewise in Class C, Miguel Fonseca finished with 4½ by beating Jason Kammerdiner who had reentered after a first round loss and would have won the section if he had beaten Fonseca.
There was no stopping Shawn Campbell (1178) in Class D, who was playing up and finished 1½ points ahead of the field with a 5-0 score. In the Under 1200 section Rhys Fernandez won with 4½. Brevard Scholastic students took home trophies for finishing at the top in grades 9-12, 6-8, 4-5, and K-3 in the Under 1200 section.
In the Blitz, Charles Galofre caught up to top rated Fabio La Rota and finished 1st leaving La Rota tied for 2nd.
Hengyi Wu. Photo Harvey Lerman
Three brilliancy prizes, judged by IM Maharramzade, were also awarded. These went to GM Alex Stripunsky for his win against Daniel Ludwig, Charles Galofre for his win against Hengyi Wu (the 12 year old Wu was the upset King of the Master section), and Augusto Venagas for his win against Albert Ho.