Tournament of Champions Final: Altounian vs. Studen
By Jennifer Shahade   
April 9, 2010
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IM Levon Altounian before an Arizona Scorpions US Chess League match
IM Levon Altounian of Arizona and Damir Studen of Georgia will contest the US State Champion of Champions final on 4/11 at 3 PM EST on the Internet Chess Club. The winner gets a ticket into the 2010 US Championships in Saint Louis (May 13-25)

Altounian got to the final by defeating the defending champion, IM Sam Shankland of North California. Sam told CLO that he mouseslipped into the Double King Pawn against Levon (he played 1...e5 instead of 1...e6), which was not a good omen for the rest of the match. "I'm not claiming Black is worse after 1...e5...but I didn't understand the ensuing middlegame." Sam was also complimentary toward Altounian's play, "There's only so much you can do when your opponent plays really well."



The biggest surprise so far in the TOC is that 20-year-old Damir Studen of Georgia advanced all the way to final, despite being only 2233 in a bracket with titled players such as GM Julio Becerra and IM Dean Ippolito.  

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Damir Studen, Photo Jonathan Hilton 2008
In the preliminary event, Damir thought that he was playing a double round robin, "Not until the last few rounds did I realize that I just had to win a few more games to clinch at least second. I focused the most at the end in order to win a few more games which I did." Damir ended with 17.5/21 and then defeated Erik Santarius in the semi-finals. After losing the first game, he came back to win a miniature with White and then won the tiebreak to advance.



Damir told CLO, "I have never had a coach but I play on ICC all the time. I also try to play in all the bigger tournaments in the USA. Two years ago I was the most active player in the country with 135 tournaments played, even more than the legendary Jay Bonin!"
 
Watch the big match-up on the Internet Chess Club and check out the players confirmed for the 2010 US Championship so far.