Holt, Kleiman and Ramirez Top Mid-America Open
By Steve Immitt   
March 22, 2010
ramirezlead.jpgContinental Chess's Mid-America Open, in its latest incarnation in St. Louis, was beginning to be known as simply "The Ramirez Open," in deference to 21-year-old GM and UTD grad student Alejandro  Ramirez, who first won this event in 2008, a half point ahead of the pack.  Last year, Alejandro shut down any attempts to dislodge him from his throne, by shutting out the 42-player Open Section, with a perfect 5-0 performance.  The namesake could not be taken for granted this year, though, when Ramirez, the top-ranked player by over 200 points, could do no more than repeat the position against Tennessee Master Kenneth Holroyd.


Ken, who played Second Board for the Johns Hopkins chess team in the 1970's, had taken a break from regular tournament chess for nearly 16 years.  He apparently did not forget too much during the hiatus, drawing his 400-point higher-rated opponent in 38 moves in Round 3. Ken's only loss was to Conrad Holt.

After Alejandro defeated FM Jake Kleiman in the penultimate round, the stage was set for the last-round showdown on Board One with the tournament's Number Two seed-- 17-year-old Kansas FM Conrad Holt.  Holt had also ceded a draw in the first round to Benjamin Coraretti, so he would have to take out Ramirez to win the tournament.  Alejandro had to do likewise if he wanted to keep his crown another year. 

For much of their dramatic encounter, Conrad, with the White pieces, appeared to have the upper hand, thanks to his Bishop pair and passed b-pawn.   He tried distracting Ramirez with a free pawn on the other side of the board, but the Grandmaster showed that he does know just when to eat and run.  In the end, neither player could make any inroads, and there seemed to be no winning shots to try, so they called a truce on move 48.

On Board 2, meanwhile, Jake Kleiman took the full point from Scott Ramer, and Ramirez, Holt and Kleiman wound up in a 3-way tie for first, finishing with 4 points and $933 each. 

FM Jake Kleiman

Just last week, in the Continental Chess Western Class Championships in Agoura Hills, California, Ramirez also found himself mired in a tie for first as well, with Southern California IM Andranik Martikozyan. However, he lost out on the title and First Place Bonus Prize by just half a tiebreak point.  In an ironic twist of fate this week, Ramirez eked out the Mid-America First Place Bonus Prize, and added one more year to his legacy, all by just one tiebreak point ahead of Holt.
Mike Lucente won the $640 Under 2300 prize with 3½ points, in clear fourth place and a half point ahead of a seven-way logjam for the 2nd Place Under 2300 prize.
The Mid-America Open, held March 19-21 at the "very chic" Crowne Plaza Hotel in the trendy St. Louis neighborhood of Clayton, had 191 entries, including six re-entries.  The final standings of all eight sections will be posted on the Continental Chess website, www.chesstour.com. See MSA rated results and crosstables here.